All We Like Sheep . . .

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6, NIV)

The original context of that passage from Isaiah is, of course, a commentary on our foolishness and gullibility to turn from the Savior and follow our own paths. Interestingly, however, sheep typically do not wander (i.e., go astray) alone. They do so as a group. Indeed, there is an expression associated with these animals that says, “Get one to go and they will all go.” In other words, if one sheep moves, the entire flock follows.[1]

It is unfortunate, but I have repeatedly witnessed this same behavior among many of my fellow citizens. Most notably, during this recent coronavirus pandemic. Now, before anyone gets their ire up, let me say right now, I do not think we as a nation should have done nothing to stem the tide of infections. We should have. Indeed, we did. What I am saying is that too many people so willingly (yes, like sheep – sorry) followed the rest of the flock into isolation, into shutdown, and some into complete lockdown, without question or thought about the personal liberties guaranteed in our Constitution.

While I am an attorney, I am certainly not a constitutional scholar. I do know enough, however, to have strong concerns about the constitutionality of many of the measures at both federal and state levels.  I have strong concerns about our First Amendment right to assemble peaceably.   I have strong concerns about our First Amendment right to freely exercise religion. I have strong concerns about our Fifth Amendment right against being “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

It is true that the Supreme Court has already spoken about these issues with regard to select quarantining of individuals. The difference, though, was that these individuals were actually infected with a communicable disease so their presence in society in fact presented a health risk. What we are currently requiring people to do is not even close. We are requiring healthy, able-bodied people to isolate themselves. Because they might get sick from other people. Or is it that they might be sick, so they could potentially make other people sick? Never mind. Don’t bother asking, just follow the bleats.

I know some have no issue with any (or all) of the executive order mandates issued by their state’s governors. Many are happy to follow them. Their rationale? These minor, temporary inconveniences are for our own good and for the good of others. Besides, do you really need to do _________ [fill in the blank]? The answer may be, “No.” But that’s not the point. The point is, our governors, by fiat, declared who could run their business and who could not. Some declared, by fiat, that you could not gather at your chosen place of worship. Some even declared, by fiat, what type of goods the people in their state could buy (from the same stores that were declared, by fiat, to be “essential”). Nope, nothing arbitrary or capricious there.

While these actions do not rise to the level of a need for any type of violent insurrection, it should at least trouble us as Americans. And not just some, but the vast majority of us. Sadly, to me, it seems to not be the case. Indeed, those who dare question any of these fiats (even though they are, for now, adhering) are deemed “fools,” “ignorant,” “mean-spirited,” “uncaring,” “selfish,” just to name a few of the epithets I’ve seen on social media. Why? Simply because they don’t unquestioningly follow the bleats.

What I also find disturbing is so many people’s unquestioned, complete, and total deference to the so-called “experts.” You know, those who told us at the beginning of the year that we should not be concerned with the coronavirus (Oops!). That is, until we should be concerned because it was going sicken our citizenry to the point of overwhelming our hospitals (Oops!). The experts who predicted both Florida and New Orleans were going to be the next New York (Oops!) The experts who predicted that South Dakota would also become a “hot spot” and need up to 10,000 beds because its governor did not (and has not) promulgated any type of stay-at-home order (Oops!). The experts who told everyone that masks were unnecessary, until they were (sorry, are) necessary (Oops!).

Look, I understand these people are smart. But guess what? They are not infallible. They are not omniscient. They do not have all the answers. And they most certainly are not beyond question. Most importantly, they are not elected officials and are thus, in my opinion, the worst source from which to make policy. Why? Because they will ALWAYS err on the side of being overly cautious. It’s easy to be wrong in a “good” way. It takes courage to make and stand by decisions that may, in the end, have negative consequences.

What really surprises me, though, is the absolute disdain and anger I’ve seen some people express if someone even dare question the so-called experts – especially when those expressing their disdain consider themselves learned people, too. After all, how dare the unwashed, uneducated, uninformed (clearly!) commoners ever question the persons behind the podium – or their defenders. What’s even worse is when people have the audacity to not agree with every guideline promulgated from on-high by these so-called experts.

I honestly don’t know anyone who thinks the so-called experts are completely wrong or are purposefully deceiving us (well, maybe I do know a few). Anyway, I certainly do not think these so-called experts are completely wrong. But I don’t put my entire faith in them. I have yet to have a so-called expert (or anyone else for that matter) provide me with a cogent explanation as to why New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan were impacted significantly more than Arizona, my state of residence. After all, Arizona had one of the very first reported cases of coronavirus within the US (January 26, 2020), yet our governor didn’t issue a stay-at-home order until March 30, 2020. And here we are in early May, getting ready to slowly open the state’s economy back up.

I have yet to have a so-called expert explain to me why Sweden, who took a different approach than every other industrialized nation in world, presently stands (as of the date of this publishing)[2] at about 2,438 confirmed coronavirus cases per million, while here in the US we stand at 3,816, the UK stands at 2,962, Spain at 5,494, Italy at 3,547, the Netherlands at 2,438, Switzerland at 3,481, and Germany at 2,008. Moreover, Sweden presently stands at 301 coronavirus-related deaths per million, while here in the US we stand at 226, the UK stands at 443, Spain at 558, Italy at 491, the Netherlands at 309, Switzerland at 209, and yet Germany is at a paltry 87.

I have yet to have a so-called expert explain to me why it is that South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, whose governors did not issue any sort of stay-at-home order at all, but just encouraged social distancing, have (as of the date of this publishing) 3,215, 1,759, 3,555, 3,321 cases per million, respectively, as compared to 16,999 in New York, 14,981 in New Jersey, 8,654 in Connecticut, 10,545 in Massachusetts, 4,525 in Michigan, and 1,397 in Arizona. And when it comes to deaths per million, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa stand at 34, 41, 43, and 77 deaths per million, respectively, while New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Arizona stand at 1,323, 965, 759, 647, 427, and 61, respectively.

I certainly don’t know what the answer is, and neither (apparently) does anyone else. But rather than even consider whether approaches other than partial or complete lockdowns may be (or may have been) feasible, adherents to the bleats either rationalize or they deride questioners as ignorant, uninformed and, in some instances, uncaring and dangerous.

Dan Heath, in his most recently published book, “Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen,” includes a quote about models (a term we are hearing a lot about lately) from Donella Meadows, a biophysicist and systems dynamics pioneer. The quote goes as follows:

“Get your model out there where it can be shot at. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own . . .. The thing to do, when you don’t know, is not to bluff and not to freeze, but to learn. The way you learn is by experiment . . . by trial and error, error, error.”

Presently, for reasons that are beyond me, there seems to be no appetite for even allowing others to challenge assumptions. There seems to be no desire to even allow for the possibility of error, let alone error, error, error.

Why is this? I honestly do not know. It seems to me to simply be the unyielding desire of the herd to follow the bleats.

 

 

[1] An Introduction to Sheep Behavior, http://livestocktrail.illinois.edu/sheepnet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=1

[2] The data source for all numbers herein is: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus.

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