11 May 2021

Straightjackets and Guardrails

My podcast player went haywire, perhaps with the intervention of God, and I found myself listening to a very old discussion rather than my morning devotional. I would reference the source, but it is an old idea and I only heard a glancing reference to it.

The story goes that a municipality notices that much money is spent on ambulances reporting to deaths and injuries at the bottom of a high cliff from which many people fall.  An "out-of-the-box" thinker suggests that a guardrail or fence be put at the top of the cliff to prevent such falls in the first place and that the reduced cost of ambulance service would more than pay for the preventative.  I always considered this a lesson in prevention and economics, but the discussion to which I accidently listened was not so narrow in moral scope.

A broad concept, of which such things as socialism and neighborhoods were a part, was being discussed.  At its very heart, the people on the unintended podcast episode were talking about *safety* and the price of it. From the amiable discussion, everyone was convinced of safety's supernal importance and that no cost was too high for maximum safety.

The word "safety" has been bandied about much.  I recall President Trump saying on more than one occasion that this was a big part of a President's job, to ensure the safety of the nation. President Biden would likely attribute his enhanced desire for more safety, far more than Donald professed, to his presidential win. Like the discussion to which I was listening, there is no longer any argument about the centrality of safety in our lives, only the depth of expense society is willing to spend to aquire even more of it.

I have worked in hospitals and prisons, where straightjackets are sometimes used. In every case, the justification for putting a person in a straightjacket is "for their own safety".  It was a bit of a euphemism in prison, because it surely appeared that it was to control behavior and make others that had to deal with the straight-jacketed person feel more comfortable - it had little to do with the protection of the wearer and everything to do with the reducing the fear of others.

In the early stages of our current "public health" scare, society accepted what was touted as a few weeks of lockdown to get hospital services past the "surge" that might overwhelm them. That was more than a year ago and the stated justifications for continued restrictions have altered slightly, but they are still centered on a few societal fears that have swollen far beyond what is healthy or reasonable. Like the straightjacket, the people of our society are heavily constrained "for their own safety" just as the prisoners I knew. I don't really feel safer, nor do many others, and I never really asked for such a depth of safety, especially at the cost that so many have had to pay. We were promised that the "magic" vaccine would end the crisis, but it has not. There is a very real concern that the effective straightjacket placed on us by our well-meaning officials will never be removed because we will all be "safer" with this "new normal".  The continuation of this "public health" emergency has more to do with stoking the fear of the ignorant for power and gain than it does for the "safety" that our leaders seem to think is their job to provide.

Our nation's founding document, the Declaration of Independence, only mentions "safety" once. Our founding fathers rebelled against the smothering tyranny of a king over far fewer grievances and far lower taxes that we now toil under. Those men fought kings for the liberty that God had given them, where we ignore our God and plead with our leaders to enslave us afresh, all in the hope of a little "safety". We should put more faith in a God that wants our liberty rather than governments rife with corrupt people who scheme to profit from our fears.  Jehovah over Pfizer.

I would not be surprised if that old story about the guardrail across the cliff was created by an enterprising fence salesman.