After all, here’s just a starter list of things that were either banned or restricted this holiday season: Christmas family gatherings; Christmas concerts; Christmas tree lighting ceremonies; Christmas parties; Christmas worship services; Christmas sing-alongs; Christmas season sporting events; Christmas shopping trips; and even Christmas visits with Santa.
More broadly, nearly every conceivable social activity, aside from popping out to a grocery store to stave off starvation (or, possibly, suicide) for another week, was either banned or severely restricted this year for millions of us.
Don’t like it? Don’t worry, said the experts: If you’re feeling a mite lonely after nine months of house arrest in Papillon-like solitary confinement, just throw a rollicking Christmas “social” event in which you stare, all alone, at a computer screen on a Zoom call, as the most ruthless, repressive, imperialist regime on earth monitors everything you say, and then instantly disables your account if you dare to criticize it. (Soon, no doubt, it won’t only be the Chinese government doing the monitoring and disabling, but our own—supposing it hasn’t merged with the CCP by then).
House arrest for nine months, careers and dreams imploding all around you, relieved only by the odd Zoom call, isn’t exactly my idea of fun—or anyone else’s. Yet you’d never guess that listening to anyone with political power this year (aside from the few remaining non-useless Republicans).
For months, these strange, power-mad robots have evinced zero indication they have any clue what it might feel like to be an actual human (with mouths to feed) suddenly placed under house arrest, forbidden from earning a living, stopped from pursuing activities which support his sense of identity, cut off from most (or all) social contact, fed reams of misinformation he knows is misinformation, and severed from a huge source of meaning in human life—namely, culture.
I’m not here arguing against the measures themselves (I will some other time). I am pointing out the inhuman indifference shown by the Lockdown Leviathans to the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and familial costs those measures have imposed, and continue to impose, upon their suffering subjects.
There is simply no sign they care.
Above, I used the word “subjects.” I used it because although these thugs were all elected, they rule like ancient Asian potentates. No force checks or balances them. Certainly, no one’s heard a single word from any federal law enforcement official about the Incorporation Doctrine, or any federal plan to bring these thugs to heel.
I find that odd.
Back in the 1950s, when the segregationist governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, tried to block black students from schools, President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act and sent in the 101st Airborne. Just like that, Faubus came to heel. Eisenhower secured those students’ fundamental rights.
But now, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo kills off thousands of American citizens, and California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti deprive millions of American citizens of their most basic liberties, nothing happens. A space alien visiting America for a few weeks this holiday season would never imagine that America had something called a “Constitution,” and that it sets limits on how governments, state or federal, may treat citizens. He’d be shocked to learn otherwise.
But let me get back to culture. It is a vital source of meaning in human life. Cut humans off from culture—including important social/connecting rituals, like all those I mentioned above—and you inevitably begin draining their lives of meaning. Drain enough of that meaning away, and you wind up with despondent, purposeless human beings struggling to feel any sense of context for, or meaning or worth in, their lives. Their bone-deep existential anguish leads them to try to numb it through drugs, alcohol, or suicide.
A child could understand that. But there’s no sign the Lockdown Leviathans understand it, or care—not even when this sensible assumption passes into the realm of rock solid empirical evidence, which it now has done (see here, here, and here).
And so, you wonder just how many tears, say, Cuomo and his comrades in gubernatorial malfeasance have shed over the souls devastated—or the lives killed off—by their incompetence and control freakery this year. And then, you conclude it’s probably zero—with “probably” being generous.
Presuming the talk of secession and national divorce subsides; presuming political calm emerges soon; there will be a lot to restore in the coming years. Between the riots and the lockdowns, the hard costs must be in the hundreds of millions. Buildings, businesses, inventories, houses, public monuments, educational careers, savings accounts . . . it’s a lot.
But just as important—in some ways, even more important—will be the task of restoring culture, which is to say, restoring all the important sources of meaning for human life arrested or erased this year. Restoring our Christmas rituals will be one important part, but all the other communal rituals must return, too: the shared civic ceremonies and sporting events, the shared sacrifices, the shared stories and songs, the concerts and theatrical performances, the social clubs and worship services and funerals, the big family dinners, the weekly visits to the grandparents, the book club, the group prayers, the symphonies and parades and weekly date night for husbands and wives—all the natural rhythms of life, and all their infusions of transcendent purpose, worth, and meaning into human life. It all must come back.
And it all must come back, because trying to save lives by demolishing all the things which make our lives feel worth living in the first place, doesn’t really get us ahead. We want to live, yes, but we also want to live lives of meaning, purpose, connection, and contentment.
Sure, there are risks to that. But so what? There’s no point otherwise. That’s what the Lockdown Leviathans don’t get.