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A Pandemic Of Fear

America is sick, but with a virus that has persisted throughout all of human history. It is deadly and highly contagious, spreading through the eyes and ears, and infecting the brain. Symptoms include extreme anxiety, intense delusions, chronic depression and mental fatigue. This is a pandemic that is social in nature, a pandemic of fear. What makes it worse is that there are those who weaponize it for their own demagoguery. Once upon a time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation that "There is nothing to fear but fear itself", but it would seem that we have fallen prey to it anyway. This is clearly being demonstrated today, with the rise of illiberal ideas that challenge the basic foundations of freedom by exploiting the fears of a vulnerable nation and through a campaign of misinformation.

With anxiety from the coronavirus pandemic gripping the nation, radicals have already taken it as an opportunity to launch a full scale assault on the concept of a free and open society. There have been calls for closed borders, a moratorium on all immigration, travel bans, diplomatic isolation, government surveillance, a suspension of civil liberties and economic autarky, not in response to a public health emergency, but as a preventive measure to keep America from returning to normalcy. The project of the political fringes is to undo the hard won freedoms that generations of Americans have fought for, and to install their own perverted view of the good society. They will argue that it is for national security, to ensure our economic self-sufficiency, to keep Americans healthy and free from the problems of the world, but not only is it a lie, it is a lie based on unfounded assumptions.

Having closed borders, placing a moratorium on immigration and instituting a travel ban would not stop a pandemic, terrorism or whatever else demagogues use to justify their tyrannical beliefs. We cannot realistically control everything that goes through our borders, and halting legal immigration, and thus the screening process, only means people will cross the border illegally. A travel ban is equally nonsensical outside an emergency because much of our economy is reliant upon mobility, and as it relates to pandemics, a virus does not recognize national borders and will spread domestically. There is also the notion that only making things in America, an economic term called autarky, would be beneficial since our dependency on China for manufactured goods has made us vulnerable. When China falls, we fall. However, this logic does not realize that the issue is not where things are made, but the monopolization of manufacturing by one country. Rather, nations should diversify their trading partners, minimizing the likelihood of a catastrophe halting production. Lastly, the suspension of civil liberties and expansion of state surveillance as recently proposed by the Justice Department cannot be trusted. As seen after the September 11th terror attack, the supposedly temporary infringement on our freedoms and the change to our daily lives never ceased, and it cannot be expected that it would in this case either. This isolationist pipedream of closing America off from the world is motivated primarily by xenophobia, prejudice and a desire to make America into an authoritarian state that it was never meant to be.

The utilization of fear as a weapon against a free society is perhaps the biggest threat we face. Not only does it detract from the productive ways that we can realistically solve public health crises, but it puts our very freedom at stake. A republic requires constant vigilance in order to remain peaceful, happy, open and free. In the face of pandemics such as the coronavirus, we must be ever watchful against those who would propagate their ideas, selling tyranny as salvation, by exploiting the insecurity of the present moment. Turning our nation into a prison will not help, and it is not worth our freedom either. 

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