One day last week I went on my daily run, which takes me down a long street where many people walk their dogs and get exercise. As I approached a lady who was trailing behind a cute little dog, I asked if I could pet him. The lady turned on me with a look of terror in her eyes.  With hands waving frantically in front of her, she blurted out: “No! Get back! Keep your distance!”

If I had said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you,” her reaction might have been understandable.  But I just wanted to say hello to her dog. The six-foot leash between her and me seemed to be lost on her.

Another woman at Walmart the week before had a similar reaction.  She actually yelled, “Back off!” at me when my cart came to within five-feet-eleven inches of her while standing in the checkout line.

Is it just me, or is something wrong here? I thought America was the land of the free and the home of the brave. But our country has been turned into a kind of prison of the paranoid.  And it’s all because of a piece of microscopic organic matter that is being abetted by insincere political and social operatives who “never let a crisis go to waste.”

The Tyranny of It All

In the early-2000s I visited Cuba on a humanitarian trip.  While there I saw some of the most shocking perversions of culture I have ever witnessed in my years of extensive travels.

In a full week of crisscrossing the island I noticed billboards everywhere.  However, not a single one of them advertised an actual product or service. (Cuba is not a free market society.)  All the billboards were owned by the government.  They were elements of the communist propaganda machine.  This machine lies like a wet blanket over the entire nation.

Each billboard was either an advertisement for Castro’s revolución or a direct attack on America – nothing in between. The messaging was very clear.  One message was that the American economic embargo was a military-style “blockade” of their entire island.   President Bush was also the devil (I actually saw a billboard with him wearing horns).  Another message was that America is an imperialist power ready to swoop down and invade our island at any moment.  There was nothing of truth in them.

Even more frightening were the initials CDR painted on walls in every neighborhood throughout the country. I asked my hosts what the initials stood for.  They told me it was the acronym for Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. This is a euphemism for the well-established network of communist informants and snitches.  These are people who were paid to spy on their neighbors throughout the entire island.

Tyranny of the Coronavirus

Every socialist paradise that has ever existed on planet earth has used some form of spying in “defense of the revolution,” and for good reason. Most people do not voluntarily live under tyranny. Tyranny has to be imposed on the unwilling and then enforced by the powerful.  Usually this occurs after the powerful have taken away the people’s ability to defend themselves.

This all brings me back to the current Coronavirus malaise. I do not live in fear of the virus as the lady walking the dog does. If I live in fear of anything, it is fear of tyranny.

The mayor of Los Angeles told his constituents – without the slightest hint of irony – that “snitches will be rewarded” for spying on and reporting “social-distancing violations” by their neighbors.  When I heard this I immediately thought of Castro’s neighborhood spy committees. The mayor of New York City also set up a hotline for his citizens to take and send pictures of people standing too close together.  This was so he can send the police to investigate those heinous crimes. Again I thought of the Cuban police state.

There is a difference between the dog-owner’s wild reaction and my fear of America turning into Cuba: fear of tyranny is reality-based. We’ve seen this monster before.

The Propaganda Machine

It’s no coincidence, either, how much of the modern media resembles Castro’s ever-present billboards. TV and cable networks are modern electronic billboards.  Most of them do the dirty work of shilling for the coalition of tyrannical politicos attempting to capitalize on a crisis in order to impose their doctrines on a free people.

It’s not really a matter of the people accepting their doctrines. It’s a matter of acquiescence, submission to orders, and compliance to the will of a party that manipulates through monikers like “settled science” and the sheer repetition of its anti-human doctrines. In their logic, if you repeat a lie long enough it becomes a truth. That America is a heinous, evil, imperialist nation is a vile lie.  But it’s a lie that has been repeated so often by the American media (and the educational establishment) that many Americans also believe it.

Negative media messaging has reached a point of almost total saturation in American culture.  Were it not for a smattering of “alternative” news organizations that feed us unbiased information about current events, we would have no hope of knowing with accuracy anything that is done by our government. Responsible citizenship in America today requires an immense effort to remain informed. Otherwise, democracy dies in darkness, as the Washington Post’s motto tells us (again, without a hint of irony).

Lies, Manipulations, and Recovery

“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure,” goes the old saying. Many rational people are now coming to the conclusion that the numbers just don’t line up. The initial predictions for US coronavirus deaths started out in the millions. When this proved to be an obscene overestimation and was called out as partisan hype, the estimates magically went down to 200,000-plus.

Then, when the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (that the White House Coronavirus Taskforce had been relying on for all of its statistics) drastically revised its death estimates downward by half at the beginning of April, I permanently awoke from the illusion that the coronavirus numbers had any relation to reality. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more recently did a similar drastic revision downward to half of what we were told.

It’s now even clearer that the numbers can’t be trusted. The CDC official guidelines indicate that hospitals and medical examiners do not have to report confirmed cases of COVID-19 deaths. People who die with the disease are now being registered as having died from the disease. The numbers are being used to cause panic, and in the end, we’ve discovered that the Coronavirus death rate may be no worse than the seasonal flu rate.

Open-Don’t Open

The incessant death mantra also provides a disincentive for re-opening our society from the lock-downs of our states. I know of no decent person wanting to re-open society who is advocating a reckless return to normalcy. Every advocate of re-opening counsels prudence in the face of the viral reality.

At the same time, however, common sense dictates that the “risk of death” is a double-edged sword. Why are other, very real deaths caused by the effects of the lockdown (domestic violence, drugs, suicides) not counted in the death equation?

And why is it that those who are so concerned about the deaths of innocent people by the virus are generally the same ones who advocate the deaths of innocent babies by abortion? Their crocodile tears in favor of coronavirus patients are unconvincing.

Lying with numbers is disingenuous and manipulative. An entire country has been manipulated by a spirit of fear, which allows a terrible experiment in rigid social control to continue. It’s really time to stop the fear-mongering and put on our armor of American courage once again.

Christ Our Truth Sets Us Free

What Cuban dictator Fidel Castro forgot was that you can’t kill the truth or the spirit of freedom in the hearts of men. I’m not sure many of the media and political class in America get that either. Countless tyrants throughout history have tried to enslave the truth and to lock down whole societies under their iron fists. Many have been successful – for a time.

But Jesus Christ has conquered them all. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whose truth emerges from His mouth like a mighty double-edged sword (Revelation 19:16). Human beings have an insatiable desire to live in freedom and to know the truth. Our country was founded on these realities.  But people often surrender those deeper aspirations for uneasy compromises for their safety or for some nebulous benefit held out to them like a delectable apple in the Garden of Eden.

That is what seems to be happening to American society. Only time will tell if this fear-based lock-down of our society by petty tyrants is a short-term inconvenience or an actual trend toward socialist evils penetrating more deeply into the fabric of our national life.

The Role of Courage in National Revival  

Going forward, America would do well with a civics and religious refresher course. The Founding Fathers put their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” on the line to establish this country as a free, independent state based upon a common belief in God and the sovereignty of His laws. That is courage. It’s American courage.

St. Paul, centuries earlier, told Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). That is Christian courage, deeper, more powerful, and abiding yet.

These are the guiding principles of a free people. We cannot get our country back on track and our society healthy again without a good dose of the courage that comes from the founding spirit of our nation combined with the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit of Christ, sovereign Lord of our nation.

Whether or not we will have the courage of our convictions to fight the spirit of fear pervading our society right now – well, that’s up to us. Perhaps it just starts by not being afraid to let a friendly neighbor pet your dog from a reasonable “social distance”.

This article was originally published in Catholic Stand.