Photo by Tom Webster
No one is coming.
A simple phrase, but one that is rich with meaning. Three of those meanings weighed on my mind this morning while I took my morning constitutional around Boston Common.
My friend Jen Iannolo has an entire manifesto built around the phrase, No One Is Coming. Jens use of the phrase is empowering exhilarating, even. We do not wait for our future. We create our future. To realize that no one is coming to help you achieve your dreams is to kick you in the ass to go get what you want however you can with the resources available to you (and you always have more resources than you think.) In its use as an empowerment mantra, it doesnt mean that you are alone in this world. But it does mean that the CEO, COO, and CMO of the entity that will engineer the future you want is you, because no one else is coming.
Its also a very common phrase in movies and TV. Often, no one is coming means the coast is clear! Frequently, it portends a sense of false security. Cmon, Frank theres no one out there. Lets make our move! is the last thing Frank hears before he becomes Body #2 on Law & Order. This second connotation of no one is coming is very worrisome to me, because we are seeing it play out right now, with human lives, amongst elements of the US population who are chafing against social distancing and business shutdowns and what they see as a draconian infringement upon their civil liberties.
Where I live, in Boston, we are right in the middle of a terrible surge of COVID-19. The recent news that 147 out of 396 people tested positive at a local homeless shelter was concerning. The revelation that they were all asymptomatic is terrifying. Its terrifying to me because we all, no matter how smart, rely on empirical evidence. Its easy to poke fun at Florida beachgoers, or the people protesting COVID-related policies on the steps of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas and other places around the country with their misspelled signs, gleefully photographed for us by a media that doesnt exactly trip over itself to paint these people sympathetically. But these protesters, like poor Frank, think that the coast is clear because the facts on the ground suggest that no one is coming. No one they know is sick, and the sickest thing in America right now is our economy.
But you cant know that no one is coming. 400 homeless people at the Pine Street Inn thought no one was coming because none of them were visibly sick. The difference: testing. This is what concerns me about some of my smartest friends who say things like: Im pretty sure Ive already had it to justify their re-entry into society and the opening of their businesses. They cant know it because they werent tested. And they cant know if they are carrying it because it can be asymptomatic and it is virulent and contagious for a very long time. Many of these smart people I know also equate COVID-19 to the flu, which is another false equivalency. Unlike the flu, we are all getting COVID-19 at once.
In last Sundays Boston Globe, there were 15 pages of obituaries.
The flu doesnt do that.
And consider this Massachusetts is pretty sick right now. We are right behind NY/NJ and closing in on 40,000 cases with a 4% mortality rate. This is happening now. But we started isolation and closing down businesses four weeks ago. Imagine what our state would look like if we had not taken these measures?
Soon, I fear, we wont have to imagine. There are absolutely parts of the country that are experiencing this crisis differently to how we are seeing it in Boston. One of these two things will be true: that will continue, and these areas wont be affected by the virus, or that they, like their urban-dwelling fellow citizens in our densely-packed coastal population centers, will still get it, eventually. The future, wrote William Gibson, is already here its just unevenly distributed.
If more sparsely populated areas of the country dont, in fact, get sick, it will be hard for those spared by this crisis to acknowledge anything other than what their eyes can see that they lived their lives without restriction and didnt get sick. There will be no thought that it might, in fact, have been the draconian, liberties-infringing actions of cities like New York City and Boston that sharply blunted the spread of the virus. Well never know, so well just believe what we see.
But if those parts of the country are wrong about this, if accelerating a return to normalcy brings this highly contagious pathogen to places that have not been staying at home and wearing masks and closing businesses, let me assure youno one is coming.
And this is the third and most sinister connotation of this phrase that has me deeply troubled. The groups protesting business closures and isolation are a small minority, but eventually, as the economic toll of this disease mounts, these cries will become more strident and the protests more numerous. Underlying them is a sharp libertarian streak the government has no right to infringe on our personal liberties. I have a few smart libertarian friends, and they speak articulately of the tightrope government has to walk to avoid becoming worse than the problem. I get that. Libertarianism isnt anarchy, though. Libertarians do believe in minimal intrusion from the government. Now, I might posit that slowing global pandemic warrants at least minimal intrusion, but lets set that aside. I am sympathetic to the libertarian argument here, and when the story of this crisis is written, years from now, there will no doubt be chapters about the cities and states that went too far. But heres my question for the protesters seeking a return to normalcy:
Whats the libertarian plan, here? Is there one? What is the plan to restore your familys economic prospects that doesnt potentially deprive other families of their life, liberty, or their pursuit of happiness, which last I checked were also inalienable rights? This question may seem harsh and harshly posed. But the pointedness of the question is due to the awful truth of what we saw last week at a Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There was a report of one sick person there on March 25th. By April 15th, there were 644 cases and the plant was closed, eliminating the citys fourth-largest employer and a noticeable chunk of our nations pork supply. The people who went to work, even perhaps knowing that they were sick, went because they were a missed paycheck from ruin, and no one is coming. Today they are sick and home and still, no one is coming.
What I would respectfully ask re-openers to consider is that Massachusetts, today devoid of both its great marathon and our beloved Red Sox on this Patriots Day, is not different, but first. And part of being first is noticing what the stats say, and dont say, about the hidden impacts of this disease that other, less-affected areas havent had to consider. Here are a few unintended consequences of COVID-19 here in Mass., all reported by the Boston Globe: reports of child abuse cases, domestic violence cases, and heart attacks are all down significantly since we started sheltering in place here. This sounds like good news. It is not. In the cases of abuse and assault, many of these cases are first spotted in public, as victims bearing the marks of that abuse can be seen by co-workers and friends. Now? They are home, locked down potentially with their abusers, and unseen. No one is coming for them. In the case of the decline in heart attacks, there are reports of people experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack (which can present as indigestion) who didnt call an ambulance because they didnt want to risk getting sicker or even dying with COVID-19. We have no idea what is happening with people who live alone. No one is coming.
If Boston and NYC and Sioux Falls are not different, but first then this is what awaits many of the areas of the country that can least afford the disruption that COVID-19 has caused us. I grew up in a part of Maine that has a strong libertarian streak, and count many friends in that part of the world. When the response to COVID-19 or indeed any public policy doesnt seem to affect your corner of the world, I can understand the urge to cry out to a meddlesome government, leave us alone!
But what if, in the blink of an eye, you are?
- Libertarian Free Will and the Kalam, Revisited | Jonathan MS Pearce - Patheos - August 17th, 2020
- Floating Cities and Sea-Level Rise - an unsinkable idea - Anthropoce - August 17th, 2020
- When Joe Biden Tried To Paint Clarence Thomas as a Crazy Libertarian - Reason - July 31st, 2020
- Libertarian Assembly candidate calls for line item veto to rein in spending, elimination of property taxes and more to get rid of 'tyranny' and bloat... - July 31st, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | The last days of the tech emperors? - Minneapolis Star Tribune - July 31st, 2020
- Buchanan and Anarchism | Mises Wire - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette - July 31st, 2020
- Trump Wanted To 'Throw Massie Out of Republican Party!' but the Libertarian-Leaning Congressman Just Won His Primary Anyway - Reason - June 24th, 2020
- Google's warning against the Federalist is why libertarians will lose fight over Big Tech - Washington Examiner - June 24th, 2020
- Texas-based conservative group funding 'green' PAC in MT - KTVH - June 24th, 2020
- Non-mask wearing fools - The Real Nurse Jackie - McKnight's Long Term Care News - June 24th, 2020
- Morelle with big lead over Wilt but absentee votes still to be tallied - WXXI News - June 24th, 2020
- Lockdown easing analysis: Boris Johnson's libertarian instincts returned... and he went further than anyone really expected - Evening Standard - June 24th, 2020
- How a fringe sect from the 1980s influenced No 10's attitude to racism - The Guardian - June 24th, 2020
- Radley Balko on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the Libertarian Case for Criminal Justice Reform - Reason - June 17th, 2020
- While pro-marijuana parties thrive, other minor parties struggle - Southernminn.com - June 17th, 2020
- Letters: 'It is suggested that Boris's Libertarian beliefs were the reasons for delayed Lockdown' - The Northern Echo - June 17th, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | At the center of that Supreme Court ruling were people - Minneapolis Star Tribune - June 17th, 2020
- The other Jo, wants your 2020 vote, if youre fed up with the two-party system or if youre not - WIZM NEWS - June 17th, 2020
- 'Where Are Libertarians on Police Reform?' Right Where We've Always Been. - Reason - June 13th, 2020
- Protests: Meet the Romney-Gary Johnson-Bloomberg voter embracing Black Lives Matter - Vox.com - June 13th, 2020
- What the Pandemic Revealed - Niskanen Center - June 13th, 2020
- Santa Cruz Shooting Suspect Preached Libertarian Ideals, Was Pushed Over the Edge By Police Actions Against Protesters, Friends Say - SFist - June 13th, 2020
- Libertarian Think Tank Praises Pelosis Call to Remove Confederate Statues from Capitol: Slavery is The Least Libertarian Thing Imaginable - Mediaite - June 13th, 2020
- How Not To Build a Transpartisan Coalition for Police Reform - Reason - June 13th, 2020
- Primary Election ballots are in the mail | YourHub - The Know - June 13th, 2020
- Scared for their jobs, Iowa Republicans are gaming the democratic process - The Gazette - June 13th, 2020
- 61 Quick Facts and Observations on Socialism, Jesus, and Wealth | Jon Miltimore - Foundation for Economic Education - June 13th, 2020
- Nelson lead up to 23 votes over Tarkanian - The Record-Courier - June 13th, 2020
- Amash decides against Libertarian campaign for president | TheHill - The Hill - May 19th, 2020
- Libertarian Group Sues Ohio Again On Behalf Of Closed Gyms - WOSU - May 14th, 2020
- The Libertarian Party Critique of Justin Amash - Reason - May 14th, 2020
- Third Parties Unlikely to Wreak Havoc in 2020 Election - New York Magazine - May 14th, 2020
- Modest meat reforms would help Americans stay fed during the pandemic - The Maine Wire - May 14th, 2020
- Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections | TheHill - The Hill - May 14th, 2020
- Drop off or in person, 8 p.m. is deadline to cast your vote in the primary election - North Platte Telegraph - May 14th, 2020
- Another ludicrous Thought of the Day from the BBC: The Bishop of Manchester assures us that we have libertarian free will - stopthefud - May 14th, 2020
- Live Blog: Nebraska 2020 Primary Election Results | netnebraska.org - NET Nebraska - May 14th, 2020
- Will COVID-19 block third-party ballot access? - The Aggie - May 14th, 2020
- Michigan Rep. Justin Amash on Why Hed Run for President as a Libertarian and the Culture of the GOP - TIME - May 9th, 2020
- Governments Have Screwed Up Mask Purchase and Distribution. Maybe Everyone Should Be a Libertarian in a Pandemic. - Reason - May 9th, 2020
- We Need Economists, Civil Libertarians, and Epidemiologists in the COVID-19 Discussion - Reason - May 9th, 2020
- Is the Chinese Communist Party Really Trying To Take Over the World? - The National Interest - May 9th, 2020
- 600K primary election ballots are in the mail to Montana voters - Missoula Current - May 9th, 2020
- The Coronavirus Might Force Minor Parties Off the 2020 Ballot - New York Magazine - April 21st, 2020
- Who should be included in the libertarian canon - UConn Daily Campus - April 21st, 2020
- The Government Has a Lot More Emergency Powers Than Libertarians Like, but It Still Can't Control Everything - Cato Institute - April 21st, 2020
- Opinion | A new populist revolution is here. Don't buy in. - The Daily Northwestern - April 21st, 2020
- COVID-19 is killing minor parties' ability to get candidates on the ballot in Minnesota - MinnPost - April 21st, 2020
- Why You Should Be a Socialist and a Marxist - Jacobin magazine - April 21st, 2020
- Mark Cuban To Run For President? Billionaire Dallas Mavericks Owner Does Not Rule Out 2020 White House Bid - International Business Times - April 21st, 2020
- Berkeley institution Top Dog is on the ropes. But they still wont take federal aid. - SFGate - April 21st, 2020
- Briefs filed in case over whether NM will move to vote-by-mail primaries during coronavirus emergency - New Mexico Political Report - April 9th, 2020
- Construction Accidents and Personal Injuries, Everything You Ought To Know - The Libertarian Republic - March 24th, 2020
- 'Tiger King' is the weird docu-series distraction we can use right now - WICZ - March 24th, 2020
- As Science And Business Go To War With Each Other, President Trump Pours Fuel On The Fire - Forbes - March 24th, 2020
- Vermin Supreme's quest to win hearts, minds and the Libertarian primaries - The Spectator USA - March 22nd, 2020
- Where the 2020 Libertarian candidates stand on Jewish issues? - The Times of Israel - March 22nd, 2020
- COVID-19 and . . . 2024? - National Review - March 22nd, 2020
- Rand Paul Proves He Is Too Good For Us, As He Upsets the Right People - The Liberator Online - March 22nd, 2020
- Tiger King is the weird docu-series distraction we can use right now - Q13 News Seattle - March 22nd, 2020
- Campaign Beat: The Pandemic, The Primary And Third Parties - MTPR - March 22nd, 2020
- The Right to Assemble Not Erased By Government Emergency Libertarians to Continue Meeting in Keene Sundays at 5pm - Free Keene - March 22nd, 2020
- Just Send the Checks - Reason - March 22nd, 2020
- Opinion | Rufus Woods, Art of Community: Now is the time to sacrifice for elders and the vulnerable - wenatcheeworld.com - March 22nd, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | Amid the outbreak, Minnesota's minor political parties will struggle to get on the ballot - Minneapolis Star Tribune - March 22nd, 2020
- The small-government case for giving everyone a big check - The Week Magazine - March 22nd, 2020
- Armstrong: Liberty in the midst of a pandemic - Complete Colorado - March 22nd, 2020
- At war, Britons can be trusted to do the right thing - Telegraph.co.uk - March 22nd, 2020
- Rand Paul looms as wild card in surveillance fight | TheHill - The Hill - March 8th, 2020
- Our Standards on Civility are Trash - The Libertarian Republic - March 8th, 2020
- Freelancers Shouldn't Betray Other Gig Workers By Allying with Anti-Union Opponents of AB5 - Common Dreams - March 8th, 2020
- Schiff says Democrats are negotiating to include more privacy protections in key surveillance bill | TheHill - The Hill - March 5th, 2020
- Senate passes $8.3 billion coronavirus bill, sending it to Trump | TheHill - The Hill - March 5th, 2020
- Civility and pleas to be heard mark debate among 18 marginal candidates - The Fulcrum - March 5th, 2020
- Talking about a revolution - The Economist - March 5th, 2020
- Plenty of contested races on the ballot this year - Norfolk Daily News - March 5th, 2020
- CA Voters Asked To Approve $17B In School Construction Bonds; Much Of It Unneeded (Opinion) - Patch.com - February 3rd, 2020
- Ahead of polls, New Zealand's opposition party rules out deal with kingmaker Peters - Midwest Communication - February 3rd, 2020
- Will SCOTUS Hearing on Ballot Position Apply to Minor Political Parties? - The Libertarian Republic - February 3rd, 2020
- Fire Wipes Out OC Nonprofit That Helps People Get Back Into The Workforce - LAist - February 3rd, 2020