Photo by Timothy Sanders/Shutterstock.com
In a classic episode of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone entitled “The Old Man in the Cave,” a small town has survived a nuclear holocaust for ten years while most of humanity is extinct. They have received sound advice from their leader who receives recommendations from an unseen “Old Man” in a cave.
One day, some soldiers show up claiming to be restoring order. They join with members of the town in insisting that some canned food and bottled water that the “Old Man” had insisted was radioactive be opened to everyone to enjoy. The town’s leader protests strongly, pointing out that they have not been misled by the “Old Man” in the past, but he is overridden. During this debate, the town’s people and the soldiers discover that the “Old Man” is a computer that has been providing advice. They set about destroying the computer, then consuming the food and water, and finally celebrating their liberation.
The following day everyone but the town’s leader is dead.
I found myself thinking about this episode when I watched pictures of right-wing protesters insisting that their states be reopened for business and that the restrictions imposed upon all of us as a result of the plague called COVID-19, be lifted or significantly reduced. Trump, never someone to avoid stirring up a hornet’s nest, entered this fray insisting that his supporters “liberate” their states from the (Democratic) tyrants.
I came up with a solution that I floated on Facebook. The response was so overwhelming that I decided to compose this column.
Hiding behind the mask of so-called “libertarianism,” elements of the right-wing are insisting that government has gone too far. Yes, they acknowledge, we are in a pandemic, but it is really not that bad. After all, I’m not sick or dying, they squawk. Release us from the burdens of the restrictions on social distancing and re-open our states for business and intimate gatherings.
Public health experts and scientists have repeatedly responded that we are not out of the woods. There is a significant danger that even after the “flattening” of the curve, there can be a round two if this reopening is not handled carefully. Further, scientists are discovering that COVID-19 has more dangerous effects than were first thought, i.e., it is not just a bad flu; organ damage can accompany it.
For elements of the right-wing, and specifically the anti-science protesters we have seen on many streets, none of this matters. Open everything up, they insist.
So, here’s the compromise that I propose. It’s rather straightforward.
An affidavit should be developed by every level of government and all healthcare providers that reads as follows: “I, _____, hereby agree that in ignoring social distancing and the other recommendations issued in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, I shall waive all rights and obligations for medical care and treatment for myself and any family member living with me over the age of 18 should I/they become ill as a result of COVID-19. I shall treat the symptoms at home through any form of self-medication available and shall not endanger any family member under the age of 18, any first responder, and/or any medical personnel. Further, should I infect anyone not covered by this agreement through my refusal to abide by government direction regarding COVID-19, I accept criminal liability on my part.”
And that’s it. If the right-wing believes that government is interfering in their ability to do what they wish; if they believe that this pandemic is overstated; if they believe that social distancing infringes on their Constitutional rights, then we should release them from this burden and also release the rest of society from the responsibility to look out for them.
In watching these Trumpist, anti-science protesters parade I found myself thinking about doctors and nurses that I know on the front lines, as well as those who I watch every night on the news. I thought about the first responders who are obligated to show up when illness strikes. And then I thought about how many of them have come down with the virus, and in many cases, died.
Leaving aside the neofascist element in the room which is suggesting that COVID-19 should be actively spread to government, Jews, and people of color, there are other Trumpist protesters who have decided that scientific guidance is of little value, particularly when it comes up against their gut feelings (to borrow from Trump). They believe, much like the people in Rod Serling’s scenario, that they know better than science (the “Old Man in the Cave”) and that they should trust their own judgement.
While my immediate feelings about what should happen to the right-wing anti-science protesters who paraded around cannot be put in writing, I will suggest that society should not be put at risk by those trapped in delusions. Let them pay the dear and steep price for their prideful ignorance and complacency.
Hopefully, in our case, we can stop the Trumpist protesters from destroying the Old Man in the Cave (science) and, thereby, prevent further tragedies. Z
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com, former president of TransAfrica Forum, and long-time labor activist and writer.