America at a Crossroads: Freedom vs. Fear

By Jefferey Jaxen

Only days ago President Trump made two landmark announcements: First, he took long-awaited action against Big Tech social media giants who have devolved from soft, creeping censorship to heavy-handed open authoritarian suppression of opinion divergent from the establishment narrative. Journalists, doctors, nurses, parents and even Trump himself have all been targeted for ‘wrongspeak’ by Big Tech’s uninvited muzzle. 

Thursday, Trump signed an executive order seeking to end Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law passed by Congress in 1996 which gave sweeping legal immunity social media companies and other online sites against an avalanche of lawsuits.

Trump then followed up on the ‘Revoke 230’ move to announce, three weeks ahead of his own self-imposed deadline, the severance of all US ties with the World Health Organization (WHO). The move now leaves Bill Gates as the top funder of the WHO, through his Gates Foundation and GAVI organizations. In other words, this surely signals zero chance the WHO will ever see answers to global health problems beyond injectable product lines.   

Analysis and focus of both Trump’s moves were quickly acknowledged, then cast aside, by widespread riots and civil unrest, which continues to unfold and escalate in most major American cities.

America as we once knew it is in critical condition. Beyond the actual fires which burn in cities across America at this moment, fires symbolic of societal breakdown have broken out demanding attention both here and around the world.

Authorities’ coronavirus response has served a silver platter of stressors: rising household debt, increased social isolation, unemployment and loneliness – all key risk factors for suicide. 

Before the world heard of the common cold COVID-19 variant, Harvard Medical School researchers warned of soaring suicide rates among teenagers – the highest recored in nearly two decades.

A study of stress, anxiety, and depression levels in the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain found that young people showed higher levels of stress than older individuals – the authors predicted symptoms to increase as the confinement continued. 

Much the same was found in China as researchers found more than half of respondents rated the psychological impact of the country’s lockdown as moderate-to-severe and about one-third reported moderate-to-severe anxiety. 

From Japan to the United States, suicide hotlines are ringing off the hook.  Modeling from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre has predicted a potential 25-50% increase in the number of people taking their lives in Australia over the next five years. On May 19, over 600 physicians wrote a letter to Trump urging the end the shutdown at a national level. They warned:

“The millions of casualties of a continued shutdown will be hiding in plain sight, but they will be called alcoholism, homelessness, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. In youths it will be called financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse.”

Don’t forget about unemployment. This week added to the more than 40 million unemployment claims in America, though the media showed hesitancy to make this an ongoing national story.  

A 2011 meta analysis of 42 studies conducted in 15 countries on the relationship between unemployment and all-cause mortality found that unemployment increased the risk of dying by 63%. 

Called “deaths of despair”—a term given for mortality under the life-strain conditions of high unemployment—this alarming term should be a media talking point as jobless rates have surged. Yet it’s nowhere to be found amid a litany of corporate news doom-sayers glorifying lockdowns and partial state openings, while promoting job-killing “new normal” rules and restrictions.  Many in government health are still singing the praises of shutdowns, but mismanagement stemming from poor leadership is coming to light. New York City nursing homes are getting slapped with violations for covering up deaths. 

Against the backdrop of governor Cuomo’s now-infamous March 25 nursing home order, the true human cost has been shocking. As nursing home death rates soared in New York City, New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, began fudging the death statistics to conceal the consequences, reports the NY Post

What’s officially being reported as around six thousands deaths is being discovered to be more like almost double – six times the number of nursing-home fatalities of higher populated states Florida or California.

While some states drag their feet on coronavirus nursing home reporting, a review of public records by ABC News show at least 15 states recently issued executive orders or new legal provisions to shield nursing homes from legal action related to the pandemic. 

As this story unfolds, we are seeing a polarization of families and communities recoiling against the caregiving facilities they entrusted with their loved ones. Despite the hand work and dedication of many nursing home employees throughout this unimagined set of circumstances, the poorly bestowed guidelines and mismanagement by officials will leave an indelible blemish on the future.  

According to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we should have fully opened up America. But we didn’t. Their data has now revealed that the fatality rate of the coronavirus across all age groups, symptomatic as well as asymptomatic, is around 0.26 percent. 

A historic chain of events has put the country in a vulnerable position economically and societally. Beyond the multifaceted issues spawned by the coronavirus, the country is experiencing massive waves of protests and unrest. This adds further pressure to already strained communities. 

How we decide individually and collectively to move forward from this moment will forever shape the direction of this country.