Arbitrary rules, safety theater, and covid culture

Dominos offers contactless pizza delivery here. Actually, it's the only option you have where I live.

I guess people are afraid the delivery guy is going to cough the moment you open the door or speak spit at you or whatever. A few more weeks of this fear of human contact where advertising capitalizes on the fact that you won't have any human interaction as the selling point, and people will be breaking down the doors of massage therapists and psychiatrists, desperate for human contact. Either that, or managers will find out they don't need all the employees they used to because people don't want to interact with other dirty disease-ridden humans, but prefer exchanges where no humans are present.

The TV ads tout that once your pizza comes out of the oven, the only hands that touch it are yours. If you're in a Seinfeld episode, I get why that's appealing. So, anyway, you have to leave instructions on how they should deliver the pizza since there's no human contact. My friend and I joked about elaborate things such as "honk three times, put in back of van, turn around, do the hokey pokey" and whatever else.

We also tried to leave a tip but that was a fail. The pizza delivery guy didn't see it or chose not to take it.

But let's think about this.

The people at the shop at least touch the box and the bag. It goes in some guy's car. He touches the bag to pull out the box. Then he puts a little cardboard "stand" on the ground (because we can't have the food touch the ground), and then he has to set the main box on the mini cardboard box stand. He leaves. We go out, touch the box, and put it on the counter.

Sure, we never came into contact with the person, but so? Human beings come in contact with everything. It's why, and how, we have immune systems.

"Julie, it's about viral droplet exposure!"

So that's why cities and states closed down everything but "essential" businesses like liquor and grocery stores, and funneled people into greater contact in fewer places? Sure.

So that, and many other things, got me to thinking about some crazy things that I'm seeing during this pandemic. This post will be, if nothing else, a reminder to myself in the years to come of what went down.

1. Safety theater is a placebo.

A placebo is something that is harmless and ineffective physiologically, only made effective by the psychological benefit it provides the person receiving it. It's only a solution when you decide in your mind (consciously or unconsciously) that it is a solution.

The answer to the great and mighty cry of "do something" from the general populace is most often met not by problem-solving action, but by do-something action. As long as there's activity, a majority of the people will believe something is being solved. They are comforted by action because it suggests someone somewhere must be in control of something.

It's sort of like when I open the cheese drawer in the fridge.

The cat starts running crazy circles around the table, whether or not he gets any cheese. At some point, he'll forget about the cheese drawer because he's so caught up in running circles. The opened drawer should be solved by cheese, but running circles is part of the rigamarole he created, and it distracts him enough to think the open drawer is solved by running circles.

Or it's like a flight attendant telling everyone to get into crash positions as you nosedive into terrain. Your head between your knees ain't gonna do much, but I guess it's calming just to have someone tell you what to do and to obey because it feels like you're trying and someone more knowledgeable than you told you to.

"That new rule/law doesn't do anything that would help the situation."

"Well at least they're trying!!!!"

We screech at our politicians if they don't do something when, sometimes, the best thing they could do is not do anything. [See Colgan Air Flight 3407 and the resulting laws that actually exacerbated the kind of situation that caused the crash.] Some of our crappiest laws--victim laws, I call them--and regulations come out of tragedies that we can't accept as one-offs and the cost of doing business as mortals, but instead demand laws to "protect" us from a tragedy like it in the future. We are not suffering from a lack of laws, but too many stupid ones. And much of it is to blame on citizens "demanding action!" instead of demanding only action that would fix a real problem if one actually exists.

So politicians comply. They need the votes. They do stuff.

Just do something so it looks like you're taking it seriously. At least you could say you tried. It doesn't matter if it makes a situation better or solves any problem, as long as it outwardly looks like you're addressing the problem. You can throw the Karens a bone to chew on for a while as they thumbs-up and love your pointless action all over social media, until they get bored and start demanding to know why you don't enforce it to their liking. Word to the wise: the Karens are never satiated. They always have more rules up their sleeves.

This is safety theater. You don't actually make people safer. You might alter or slow the course but don't necessarily change the ultimate outcome. I'm pretty tired with the people who kowtow into creating it and the people who are fooled or placated by it.

Safety theater is like security theater. You put all kinds of rules and crap in place to lend the appearance that you are making things more secure so people feel more secure. But they really aren't.

You know, like the TSA.

They'll confiscate everything under the sun but when a friend accidently has a airplane-shaped sharp letter opener in his bag, they don't confiscate that because it's not a knife. It's a letter opener. They pull it out of the bag, marvel at how cool it is, and say he's good to go. True story.

Right now, under the guise of safety, we are basically putting a layer of arbitrary distances (3 feet! 6 feet! 13 feet!), homemade masks that aren't being worn correctly, plastic, latex, and chemicals between us and other people and objects. And worse, we're encouraging it to the nth degree whether it makes sense in every situation or not.

"This is the solution to that one problem, but it's easier just to toss the blanket it on and require it for all problems."

The ND Health Department, which has done a very good job I will say, seems to have upped their social media posts based on CDC guidelines. I became frustrated with the increased push to use masks and cleaning chemicals and responded as such to a post advocating how to disinfect your home.

"They're the experts so just relax and let them tell us what to do."

I can't believe these people are even in an allegedly free nation. Unless your kitchen sink is a major source of typhus, I don't think you need to be dousing your house in bleach, Lysol, and whatever other chemicals you get your hands on, multiple times a day. You don't need to be the woman complaining she can't find enough bleach to wash her groceries in.

Our environment is drowning in plastic and toxic chemicals, and so, apparently, is our psyche.

Let's look at a couple of areas of safety theater that have stood out to me.

Your mail has always been a dirty pig.

Your mail has always been very dirty, and there have always been bacteria and viruses that could do you harm.

For all of those people using complex methods to keep packages and mail "quarantined" for three days, a) did you question the three days time range and where that came from, and b) did you do that before?

If our mail and groceries and such are so dirty due to human contact so that people are disinfecting them before bringing them into the house, why would the government shut down the seated portions of a restaurant but allow carry out? Aren't they the experts? Do you leave your take-out food outside for three days? Do you dish it up in the garage so the containers never come in the house? When you consider how you hold, wash, transfer, carry, set, and repeat everything that comes into your house, you start to see what a fractal it is.

Does any of that seem logical to you, particularly in light of the extremely low mortality rate of this particular coronavirus?

I worked in a USPS sorting facility back in the day. I know that mail is dirty. I wore leather gloves because your hands would be hamburger after the staples, paper cuts, cardboard cuts, and whatever else if you didn't. (If you see blood spots on your mail, someone wasn't wearing gloves. Just telling you the truth.) The gloves would be black after two days of sorting packages and mail. We'd inhale the dust and whatever else that wafted off of the mail. If you didn't get all weird with your mail before this pandemic, why do it now? The mail you receive has always been exposed to viruses and bacteria, people, the strange crap people send through the mail, dirt, fecal bacteria (it's everywhere, folks), drug residue--the whole nine yards.

You probably shouldn't (ever) lick your newly arrived mail, but being in fear of it now because of a coronavirus, when it's been pretty filthy all along -- that's bizarre.

If you think we should do away with paper mail like people seem to want to do with paper money, simply because it is "dirty," there is a freedom aspect to those analog items. Even basic research can show numerous First Amendment battles over the mail, enough to point out the importance of protecting it. Social media companies restrict or won't allow content they deem unnecessary or untruthful on their platforms. Your ability to share and access information is restricted by their Orwellian truth brigade. Your email is controlled by an ISP or a corporate provider, scanning it for advertising purposes. How convenient that fears of "dirty" things might make these limited and speech-restricted platforms seem more palatable.

"I will accept your speech limitations to avoid coming into contact with viruses and bacteria," said no founding father ever.

Masks are mostly great for robbery.

There are two points I'm going to make here, regarding masks: what is the for-sure value of the general public wearing a mask, and how do we respond to those who don't wear them?

A local reporter asked the governor a question the other day, during the daily press conference, that went like this "Now that we know masks are effective, is there any reason, governor, you aren't requiring them?"

A little hint for those of you who missed it: this is a bad question to come from a journalist.

It is loaded with assumptions at the front end. We don't know that masks are effective in general, en masse, or how we're asking them to be used, nor do we know if they are always useful or possibly harmful to some or all people. There are plenty of studies on all sides, enough to show that the question is unanswered.

The reporter's question itself is assumptive and should've been rephrased by the governor before going on to explain (as he did) why he didn't require them because he was trying to allow people the liberty of making choices with their own free will.

God forbid we aren't allowed to question the tax on the tea, journalist dude.

"You don't wear a mask? You should. It's the smart thing to do," one person said to me on Facebook. Ironically, he was someone I knew from high school, someone from the popular crowd who used to treat me and my family like crap. It is directly his ilk that made me distinctly prone to refusing to go along with the crowd. And also, his brother mooned our entire school bus when I was in eighth grade, so I don't think I'm going to take him questioning my smarts too seriously.

Is he right? Is wearing masks the smart thing? Why? What makes it so? Is there undeniable evidence that it is? Smart based on which theory: flatten the curve and extend the pandemic, or build herd immunity? Different goals have different actions that seem smart.

If for a month of yesterdays we weren't supposed to wear masks, but today we are supposed to, why is it suddenly the smart thing after the fiat? Would the emperor without clothes please stand up and admit that assumptions, correlations, and wild guesses to fulfill the Great American Do-Something Mandate is what's behind this?

Masks could help. They might not stop this particular virus' small particles. They might reduce asymptomatic spread, and they might not. Some masks are better than others. Masks can have a deterimental effect to the wearer. Masks could be unhealthy. Masks stop large droplets. Masks concentrate viral particles. Masks allow viral particles through.

Again, for every article or study or doctor advocating for masks, I can find one against. Some say it's better for you or those around you, some say they don't make much difference, some say they aren't good for the wearer to keep breathing in concentrated particles collected on the mask, some say they keep asymptomatic people from spreading it via droplets. Some health conditions require avoidance of any kind of face coverings.

Ironic, isn't it, that we're all juggling life to meet everyone else's respiratory health issues?

Basically, pardon me for breathing from and exhaling into your air on this shared planet.

If you wear one, better wear it snug across the face, cover the nose, and stop dinking around with it.

Hand washing? Effective. Not sneezing or coughing in someone's face? Good call. Masks? Well, maybe, it depends, we're not sure. If you were prone to going out when you're sick and coughing and sneezing, wear a mask I guess.

Good hygiene (and our sanitation engineering and workers) have done more for longevitity than anything. Mask wearing, particularly masks made out of materials with low efficacy and by people who wear them wrong or touch their face to adjust them (because they are uncomfortable!), is questionable.

Here's what boggles my mind: for a month or more, the CDC has said "you don't need to wear masks" and then, when they randomly change their mind, suddenly yesterday's no is today's absolutely yes.

What changed?


We had an old barn with a loft full of old hay, some that had been there more than 50 years. My siblings and I, along with dad, decided to clean it all out. We spent the day in dust, dirt, mold, mouse droppings (Hanta virus, y'all), and who knows what else. I had on a tight-fitting nose-wire respirator-type mask. I don't get viral sickness much, but I do get sinus infections and the gunk we stirred up was sure to do the trick.

At the end of the day, we had dirt lines all over our face and neck. I took my mask off, and what should I find but my nose and mouth area black with dirt and mud. Both the outside and inside of the mask were filthy, streaked with mud. The mask had concentrated (and probably attracted) the garbage I was hoping to avoid, causing me not only to breathe it in, but have it trapped and held in place around my nose and mouth so I continued to breath in a cumulative amount with no diffusion of fresh air. In a few days, I had the worst sinus infection I've had to date. I don't think anyone else did.

That's with dirt particles, particles we can see, i.e. large. We're talking about viral particles, tiny. Effective? I don't know. I got sicker with the mask.

A local grocery store recently said everyone would be required to wear one to shop there (though they have since indicated otherwise, apparently). Not only do I find that impossible to enforce and questionably useful, do we really think think bandanas and T-shirts are going to do anything? We have literally gotten to where just visually seeing something, anything, across the nose and mouth (or, as I've noticed, below the nose but over the mouth a.k.a. chin mask) is fine.

It's a required costume. For theater. Even if a proper mask worn the proper way in optimal settings was proven effective in these studies, that's not what people are wearing, nor how they wear them.

They touch their face, they fiddle with their mask, the take it off touching the front and back, putting it in their pocket, or touching other things. You possibly create a concentrated collection of viral particles for people to touch. Nice work.

You can avoid sneezing and coughing on someone without strapping a homemade cotton dandy over your face by staying home if you're sick, or shoving your face in your elbow or into your shirt. If it's talking spittle you're worried about, you can breath through your nose (which is healthier for all involved), stay back, not talk excessively, or wear a mask. Your choice. Make your own choice. Let me make mine.

But that leads to the second aspect: how we treat those who choose not to wear a mask.

It was the glory nostalgic days of just two weeks ago where I was a grandma-killer because I wanted things to open up more so people could back to work. Now, I guess, I'm also slaying grandpa because I won't wear a mask. When the glove edict comes down, who will I be responsible for killing? I had no idea 2020 would make me responsible for so much death.

I've had people patronizingly explain the concept of wearing a mask. "It's not to protect you, but to protect others," as if I didn't understand that assertion after weeks of repetitive safety mantras being drilled into my head everywhere I turned.

What a perfect catch-22! The mask magically can't keep you from getting it, but it can keep you from giving it! The virus can't exit the mask, but it can come in! We put the responsibility for health on healthy people yet again [See: Health insurance premiums].

"If you don't wear a mask and you're asymptomatic and people get the virus and get sick and die, it's your fault," I have basically heard.


It's not my fault.

It's the fault of the Communist Chinese government and the nature of viruses and our biology and a modern world where we are all traveling a lot. I'm not coughing on someone, licking their hand, injecting them, spitting on them with great fervor, or holding them down in a vat of Big Rona. I'm simply living my life with normal hygiene and self-control and I reject the idea that being a non-mask wearer levies fault on me. I reject the idea that to be a good citizen I must lose my job, suckle at the government teat and wait for my bailout money, hide in my home, avoid anything Big Brother said isn't essential, load a tracking app on my phone, trust an elected leader to set his/her people free, and now, after all of that compliance, put on some kind of Pandemic Hajib because I want to let people know I "care" about them.

I absolutely reject that premise.

Perhaps if the whole mask thing hadn't been framed in such a shame-ridden way, I wouldn't have even given them a second thought. If socially coercive tactics and peer pressure hadn't been enlisted to shame or guilt people into various behaviors, I might not have reacted so strongly. But they were, and I'm glad I'm giving it a second thought. So this emergency comes along and the sledgehammer starts coming down in work, income, stress media headlines, isolation, restriction--and it's sold as "we're all in this together so let's all be heros and do our part" and we comply. And now, we have the mask piece where if you don't wear one, it's suggested you don't care.

Are you kidding me right now? You pile load after load on people, and then toss on this mental mindscrew?

And this is another reason why I hate the mask edicts: we have more and more at-a-glance visual points in which we can judge someone as to how much they care about people, if they're a good citizen during the crisis, if they're knowledgeable about the right things from the right sources.

If you think I don't care about you because I'm not wearing a mask, that's bull. I have lost income. I have stayed home. I have abided by rules. I have put the abhorrent viral tracking app on my phone because I want North Dakota people and leadership to have buy-in and a win. I have cared, and I won't let you shame me into thinking I don't care about people.

But if you choose to see me as a heartless uncaring person, fine. I will still not wear a mask. And since you're six feet away from me (right?), your angry glare is hard to see.

The incredible illogical 1/2 reduced magical power of a mask: The mask magically can't keep you from getting it, but it can keep you from giving it.

The onus of wearing a mask should be on the one wanting the benefit of it, the one needing the security of it, and not on those who are not sick and don't want to wear it. It should be on the one afraid of being without it, or the one who believes it is the right path to whatever goal they have.

It's becoming a bit weary, this blanket approach to "safe, healthy living" as if each person didn't have unique physiological characteristics. We are following a kind of lowest common denominator approach to public health, where people who are healthy (whether by genetics, by lifestyle choices, or both) are being pushed to change and restrict their life based on the sickest baseline instead of asking those most susceptible to make the changes.

In fact, I'll push that further and say that the view of blaming those of us who don't want to wear masks is all about lowest common denominator of not just health, but of living.

We find the lowest common level to live in which no one offends, hurts, or in any way upsets anyone, and that's where we sit. I would encourage you to go read Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" and stop thinking you have to restrict people down to some kind of acceptable low-level equilibrium of safety and fairness. At some point, you must let people live free lives within reason, and accept that life is a risk and the things that make you susceptible are yours to bear, not mine. I might be willing to help you because I care but you can't demand we all be brought low.

We've been told that you have to do these things out of "love" for your fellow humans, those, I guess, who are fearful if they see me walk around without a mask. Out of love, I've stayed home, stayed away, bought gift cards from local businesses to help them out -- don't you play that card on me. Lots of people have lost their livlihoods (some permanently) out of "love" for those who weren't so loving in demanding that they do so. We've absolutely changed so much of how we live out of "love" for our fellow humans. We have to find ways to have a society where we understand that all kinds of fear levels are present without catering to the most fearful.

You can't expect others to eat your seven course meal of fear.

I've already seen some people suggesting that if you don't wear a mask and others get sick you should be held accountable. I would encourage those types of people to take up citizenship here:

Why does the mask thing bug me so much? After grumpily complying with social distancing, restricted movement, "essential" errands only, and all of the rest, why did I draw a line in the sand with masks?

The mask thing, which seems like no big deal to some, is the bridge too far for me. It is my line in the sand. I'm following all of the other rules despite thinking much of it is over the top. Push me too far, and I will stop following any of them.

Because it goes back to the shame piece: you equated wearing a mask with caring. Not with unquestionable facts. Not with freedom to choose in the midst of restrictions. Not at a time that made sense. "The CDC now says to, and if you cared, you would." That's how it was presented.

And that leads to my next point:

2. Your rules are arbitrary.

This whole pandemic has been filled with bloated and wrong estimations, policy based on guesses, and tons of arbitrary rules. North Dakota has mostly been spared much of that, but the culture elsewhere (which becomes the culture here, thanks to the internet) has not.

We have a pandemic of fear, and of arbitrary rules.

Arbitrary rules aren't questioned because "experts" said to do it. People can't even figure out percentages and rates, read conflicting information and make their own decision knowing there's an unknown or non-absolute, so I guess they will take any line handed down from "someone in charge." And then they fret about who will enforce the arbitrary rules.

I will follow rules unless they seem stupid and you can't reasonably explain why they aren't. I'm pretty sure I'd have done very badly in the military. I would encourage people to read Stanley Milgram's "The Perils of Obedience" as to why obeying rules simply because of where the originated, without question, is a terrible idea. We'll talk more about this later.

Directional arrows at the grocery store are closing in on this category. States not allowing people to go on a solitary bike ride. Forced mask wearing. Why? What is the data? Does it have any proven effect? Is this just to cover some politician's butt so they can't be said to have not taken something seriously?

As Mike Rowe illustrated a few years ago (and in recent follow-up thoughts), "safety first" is not necessarily a great way to go through life. Rowe talked about "the dangers of confusing compliance with real safety." We make rules that aren't necessarily proven to work in all situations, may be arbitrary in some situations, and may be stupid and even dangerous in other situations. Some are simply theater from the get go. Then we insist on compliance and view the lack of compliance as unsafe or, as in this pandemic, wanting to kill grandma.

This push-back against safety fixation is not a call to do dumb YOLO stunts, but instead, a call to not live in fear and find false safety in systems and programs that aren't any more safe, but are merely restrictive.

Consider this: the most promise a person can say about social distancing or mask safety is that it might keep surges of infection from popping up. This doesn't account for growing evidence of people already having the anti-bodies. This doesn't account for herd immunity goals. This doesn't account for empty hospitals furloughing staff and starving of income, very much ready for patients. It's an idea, one that never says you won't ever get the virus, nor does it say you will never die from it. It's about continued slowing. That's the safety feature: you might not get it today, but you might in October. It's not safer. It's later.

Don't confuse compliance with actual safety.

3. "Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives" is crap.

I've no doubt we'll have significant numbers of people who will emerge from this pandemic equating being around other humans as deadly. Extrapolate, if you will, what church, community, school, and all of the things that make us human will look like if you have large numbers who think that fellowship = death?

Together Apart. False.

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives. False.

Why are they false?

Logically, you aren't together if you're apart. I get the poetic aspect, but no. We are not together when we are apart. We are together in that we're in the same situation (except that's not true, either, as some lost their jobs and income and others got a five week paid vacation in their fancy house). We are together in that 98-99% of us will come out the other side with quite a memory and possible immunity. But no, we are not truly together.

We know from reports on increased child abuse, domestic violence, at-home deaths (because people didn't go for non-covid medical care), and suicide that staying home doesn't keep you safe and alive. Heck, if you do something "at home," you might still get in trouble with the law as some police used drones to access "hard to reach" areas to see if people aren't properly social distancing in places like...private backyards.

Both of these slogans, and others, are opened ended, and they are being forcefully embedded in people's minds. They'll still be there when the fake empathy pandemic caring commercials stop running. You shouldn't sloganize ideas that change culture and society so flippantly.

We have effectively brainwashed people to believe that being around and close to other human beings--an essential part on being a healthy person physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually--means death. We've told people that being behind a screen can pass for connection. That we won't shake hands or hug again.

Again, in North Dakota, I've been blessed. We haven't had to "shelter in place." I have been out for drives and gone for walks and seen people in the parks. Most businesses remained open to some extent. We have had a governor who made mental health, and those resources, a priority during press conferences.

But seeing how other cities and states were, and the impact it had on people, is horrifying.

What's worse is this incessant sloganizing has created robots parroting the words and thoughts back to friends and family. Hey, you want to be a propganda machine? Commissar would like you to do that for your fellow humans.

Anyone telling you to stay home to be safe and save others lives has made you the warden of your own prison.

4. No, this should not be the "new" normal.

I'm not the only one concerned about the habits we're being encouraged to form, or the intrusions on how we do life becoming accepted intrusions.

Civil-rights groups are tolerating these measures—emergency times call for emergency measures—but are also urging a swift return to normal when the virus ebbs. We need "to make sure that, when we've made it past this crisis, our country isn’t transformed into a place we don’t want to live," warns the American Civil Liberties Union’s Jay Stanley. "Any extraordinary measures used to manage a specific crisis must not become permanent fixtures in the landscape of government intrusions into daily life," declares the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group. These are real worries, since, as the foundation notes, "life-saving programs such as these, and their intrusions on digital liberties, [tend] to outlive their urgency."

You might say I ought to settle down, that all of this contactless delivery, continued human distancing and avoidance, partially covering of the face, staying in your chemically disinfected house, and the subtle call to obey the experts without questions could be dismissed because it is "temporary" and for extraordinary times.

I think you're wrong.

It is not just an internet meme or the slogan of crazies that when you give an inch of freedom away for whatever reason you think is justified, you have to fight a foot to get it back when the reason is gone. Government and corporate powers love power. Their encroachments, in the hands of the wrong leaders, become new ground they claim and old ground you lost.

We are hearing politicians and celebrities blatantly or subtly pushing this as the "new normal" in press conferences or painfully patronizing videos from celebrity mansions, and, most importantly, you can see it in the comments on social media from people in your community. They heard it, they absorbed it, they made it part of themselves and believe it, and now they are regurgitating it. The message is as infectious as the virus.

This is the new normal, they say. That is, we changed what is normal so why are you fighting it?

We weirdly created a group-submissive while individually-separated "covid culture" society. I guess if you separate people long enough, they'll jump at any chance to be in a group, even if it's just group-think from afar.

I recently read an article which, in describing the creepy "Together At Home" celebrity-worship fest, made some on-point observations:

When out for a walk with a friend recently, I pointed out how many young guys were out on their bikes in groups. It was almost like a Spielberg movie. I rarely saw that before, and I wondered if, when their whole existence (esp. school) was now behind a screen, they finally realized and craved the benefits of being with others outside. I surely hope this was the case, that people weren't buying the mantra, innately aware that you can't truly connect behind a screen or alone. I know I am not impressed with life behind a screen. It's not a substitute, no matter what people keep telling you.

Covid Culture is a massive, unhealthy fail. Virtual meetings where half of the time is wasted on tech issues, or "eating out" in your car with your food all but delivered in a Hazmat suit, snitching on neighbors, celebrities in mansions telling you to chill when you aren't sure you can make rent -- it's all bogus.

This is not a new normal. It's a broken anti-human temporary time. Call it what it is so your brain can process the glitch. Be eager for things to return to where human beings thrive.

5. You Can Question Authority Without Being A Bad Person

The futility of doing something that seems illogical or lacking in convincing reasoning as to why it is necessary, based on actual facts or generally conclusive data, angers me.

Telling people like me to simply "obey the experts" or "obey the government" won't work. You have to explain the reasons behind what you're asking to do so I can, frankly, determine if I think they're worth considering.

Even if I disagree with your conclusion, if I at least see the reasoning and how you got there, I may still obey the leader based on if I trust that leader or if I see that two different conclusions may still get us to the same goal in the long run. Questioning and disagreeing doesn't always mean disobedience, though it might. Questioning and refusing to comply can be done respectfully and resolutely; it isn't antifa breaking a store window.

So when do I refuse to obey?

When I believe it is wrong, when it is against an important principle, when it sets a dangerous precedent, or when it is, though maybe small in the scheme of things, the only way I have in my current power to push back against something that is becoming too powerful in a dangerous way. It is the last one that confuses people, but is often the most passionate. I'm not powerful, but I'll exercise what I have 100%.

You can draw a line and question obedience without being a bad person or some kind of anarchist. There is more to the picture than the two extremes of subservience and anarchy.

Read about the Milgram experiment, which delved into what people would do to others because an authority figure asked them to obey. Or go read about the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment on what happens when seemingly good and normal people get some power.

Those studies show that you can get good people to do bad things quite easily if you are in authority over them, and that good people you previously trusted who get power can suddenly become bad people.

We joke about the Karens, but there are people out and about, watching you, calling the police on you, snitching on you, quietly hoping you get a fine or get arrested. We already knew of this propensity from cancel culture, something we've all gotten so used to that we, myself included, don't even realize we're doing. During the pandemic, that tendency was horrifically given punitive power.

So why not obey unquestioningly? Why question authority*?

First, I'm responsible to others and to God for what I do and don't do. I don't get to hide behind "he told me to do it and I was just obeying." We have free will, we have free agency, we are not programmed, and so we are responsible. As I pointed out, I have followed the guidelines all along, but I won't now wear a mask. I read various studies. I read opinions. I considered. I decided.

Second, not making a habit of questioning what you are told to do makes you susceptible to being led far down a path to a place you'd never believe you'd get to, back when you started. Each footstep led to the next. Atrocity often comes at a gradual pace, one accepted idea and one minor action after another. You have to be able to question, proceed, question, proceed, question, STOP. You have a mind! Use it! Decide for yourself! And then, hold the line.

Third, read our country's history. It's a fine (and strained) balance of resisting authority, questioning laws, and uniting even in strong disagreement. The freedom we have under our Constitution has always been a messy struggle, because it should be. The only thing that isn't a struggle is an absolute dictatorship. Freedom has a cost, and it isn't just veterans. Each of us, as free citizens, have to regularly consider what restrictions are coming down the pipe and which ones we'll struggle back against. Whatever realm you're in, in whatever way, you must do what you must do. Maybe that's knowing your legal rights when confronted by law enforcement. Maybe that's running for office. Maybe it's refusing to wear a mask despite strong social pressure. Maybe it's speaking up online even when people mock or challenge your ideas or sources or stance.

I don't know; you'll have to know for yourself. Pray about it. Then live your decision; pressure your government if they won't allow you to live in that way.

We all have a different nature, a different level of risk, a different set of fears, a different view of how we think life goes. You want to wear your mask and stay ten feet away, you do that. That's fine. But my approach to life isn't less valid, only different. Let me live it. Neither of us will live a day beyond God's appointed time.

*This is something I've come to realize Christians have great difficulty with, because there is a misunderstanding about respecting God-given authority and dealing with abusive or misplaced authority simply because we think authority is about who is in control when it is supposed to be about servant leadership.


  1. Best thing I've read all day, and a good antidote to the facebook of today.

    Karen. But not a Karen. Just me.


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