"Amnesty" is not the Solution to Disastrous Policy Decisions
And "gloating" is not the motivation for calling them out
“I’m so sorry you got hurt. How could I have known it would hurt you when I hit you with that bat?”
“I appreciate your apology, but it will be hard to stay friends knowing you’re capable of something like that.”
“Like what? I didn’t know the bat would hurt you. How could I have known?”
“Because physics, physiology, common sense – Oh, and I screamed, ‘Don’t hit me, that’s going to hurt!’ right before you did it and, ‘That hurt!’ right after.”
“Well, I’ve never read a study that concludes that hitting people with baseball bats will hurt them. In fact, I was told it was necessary to keep us all safe and that anyone who refuses is selfish.”
“And you believed that? That’s crazy!”
“Well, obviously, I don’t anymore. Duh.”
“But why did you believe it then?”
“Because I didn’t know.”
“Are you going to hit me again?”
“No way … unless, of course, it will keep everyone safe.”
That about sums up the conversation for me.
I write today in response to Emily Oster’s most recent Atlantic article entitled, “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty: We need to forgive one another for what we did and said when we were in the dark about COVID.”
The piece starts with a lively anecdote by Emily in which her family is hiking outdoors in cloth masks, and her son screams at another small child for getting too close to him.
These precautions were totally misguided,” she said, “
But the thing is: We didn’t know.”
Two things right off the bat: They weren’t ‘precautions’ because the Precautionary Principle requires us to weigh the costs of implementing any ‘precaution’ with the same critical eye as not. We didn’t do that.
And, of course, we absolutely did know.
That’s just the first paragraph in Emily’s pseudo-conciliatory piece, which is littered with precisely the same kind of gaslighting, self-interested double-speak that landed us here.
I feel compelled to break it down because, clearly, this is a conversation that we must have. Emily implies that the people who were right all along are holding up the healing by not offering the perpetrators forgiveness.
She fails to mention that no one who inflicted the harm has asked for it.
(“But I didn’t know, so you should forgive me!” does not count.)
“Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic.”
We were never facing a grabbag of completely disorienting situations and unknowable outcomes. Our positions were clear and fully aligned with this list of things we knew by or before March 2020:
COVID has a clear risk-stratification skewing dramatically toward the elderly
COVID is not nearly as deadly as once feared
Panic, stigmatization, mandates, and politicization are anathema to public health
We have immune systems, and natural immunity exists
Missing school hurts kids, especially disadvantaged ones
Isolation of anyone is cruel and harmful
The media profits off fear-mongering
Health is not just about disease avoidance
Masks don’t work + faces are important
Forcing people to die alone is inhumane
Lockdowns are human rights violations
Informed consent is essential
Bodily autonomy is paramount
Shutting down manufacturing causes supply chain disruptions
Supply chain disruptions threaten economic stability
Science doesn’t advance by “following”
Panicked people don’t make rational decisions
Acknowledging the truths above would’ve been enough to keep probably 90% of the harm from occurring. But not only were they ignored, they were suppressed, despite rational people screaming them from the rooftops. Perhaps Emily could imagine our surprise at hearing her now say that she didn’t know.
“In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty element of luck. And similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing.”
Luck was not a factor. Just a dash of common sense was sufficient for most, and the lion’s share of the wrongs perpetrated were absolutely moral failings, not least of all because one could not promote the prevailing narrative without obfuscating the truth.
A team led by Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and including D.A. Henderson, the man credited with eradicating smallpox, wrote the following in 2006:
“Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”
For whatever reason, to whatever end, the powers that be implemented policies that ran counter to everything we knew about public, mental, social, developmental, and immunological health, as well as virology, epidemiology, and pandemic management.
And we knew it.
The conversation ends here until there’s agreement on this point.
Emily’s diagnosis of the problem is: “
The people who got it right, for whatever reason, may want to gloat … Treating pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people wracked up more points than others is preventing us from moving forward.”
Are you kidding, Emily? The backlash to this article was not a result of some trivial scorekeeping fixation. These policies hurt people. They killed people.
And it’s misleading to even talk about “choices” because, in most cases, we didn’t have any (at least not legally). Masks were mandated. Testing was mandated. Vaccines were mandated. Travel was restricted. These “choices” were imposed upon people.
And the worst part is that we absolutely knew better.
And we’re not going to allow people to claim they didn’t.
Not because of “points” but because we don’t want it to happen again.
The reduction of our resistance to” scorecards” and “gloating” is as laughable as it is offensive.
We’ve been fighting for our lives and livelihoods for three years, begging influential people to see what was right in front of their faces, and 99% opted out.
So, no, it is not “gloating” that holds us back … it’s the lies that got us here and the unwillingness of those who told them to relent.
You can’t blame “fog of war” when you walk around with a fog machine mounted to your back. Likewise, “We were in the dark!” loses plausibility when you block everyone’s access to the light switch.
The reason I refuse to accept calls for “amnesty” is not because I am vengeful.
It’s because granting “amnesty” leaves the people who have already been crushed by the weight of these decisions vulnerable still.
Here is our best shot at some semblance of stability in the short term :
Acknowledgment – We won’t get anywhere until the people who affected these catastrophic errors acknowledge their harm. This isn’t about “being right” – it’s a matter of human decency. Admitting a mistake - especially one that hurt people - goes a long way toward healing. The longer people refuse to admit their errors, the more the harm will continue to compound.
Accounting – We need to know what decisions were made and by whom. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial this is to moving forward. We cannot solve problems if we don’t know who or what caused them. And it should be understood that anyone who resists this process does not have problem-solving as their primary motivation.
Accountability – The people who made those decisions need to be held accountable. Leadership is not just about the right to make decisions – it’s about taking responsibility for those decisions. If an elderly person died alone at your direction, you are disqualified. If children were denied schooling, safeguards, and social interactions under your watch, you’ve already had your interview and failed. People who were hurt don’t want those who caused the disaster in charge of the recovery efforts. The judgment of these ‘leaders’ has been tested and found lacking.
New Leadership/Representatives – The people who orchestrated and carried out these policies should step down/be removed and replaced, ideally with people who, throughout the hysteria, kept a cool head and proposed viable solutions. Without new leadership, we can expect the same results next time.
Safeguards – We need policies that check the powers that allowed this to happen. Endless emergency declarations and science funding mechanisms that hold researchers’ careers hostage to a prescribed narrative, for example, both need to be eliminated.
Commitment – The clean-up required here is immense and may take generations of repair. We must commit to checking out every second and third-order effect and correcting it to stay on course.
Emily’s conclusion is that, “…
we need to learn from our mistakes and let them go.”
That’s not going to happen — at least not until the people who made the mistake are open to learning. And the learning process requires humility and honesty. No one owes anyone forgiveness, and pretending like harm was afflicted equally from both sides is gaslighting.
Trust in public health, government, and institutions has been gutted – quite justifiably. As they currently function, they are devoid of integrity.
Our children won’t fully heal without the reassurance that their world and the adults they depend on are stable and no longer overcome by hysteria.
If they really want society to recover from the last two going on three nightmarish years, Emily et al are going to have to dig a little deeper. Pleas for forgiveness ring hollow when there’s no acknowledgment of error. “But we didn’t know!” is just more of the same self-interested trope we’ve been spoon-fed for years.
Because we did know.
And we have receipts.
And we’re going to keep showing them for as long as it takes to begin the actual recovery.
Because while Emily may want forgiveness, what we want is for this to never, ever happen again.
Of all the people who should be ripping into Emily for this, you should be doing it the most. Your paper being 'removed' from Medium was one of the first shots fired in the war to defend the covid narrative.
You weren't lucky, you did the work.
I wasn't lucky, I went to the official covid sites that showed official covid data and saw that it undermined the official covid narrative. The Diamond Princess was a near-perfect laboratory for covid study. Antibody tests done in April 2020 showing the virus was already FAR more widespread than we knew (because the virus was HERE earlier than we knew!) -- all of this stuff was completely ignored and in some cases viciously attacked.
Emily doesn't get to declare covid amnesty. We do.
Edit: Added a link in my latest article linking to this one. Incredibly well done!
Very well said. My children were impacted in the worst ways by the policies that Ms. Oster and her ilk pushed. HIgh school and college kids lost formative years and experiences they will NEVER GET BACK. The stress of always being one test away from missing 2 weeks of your life is unfathomable to adults, right? Because students were the ones who that affected the most. I just won’t be able to forget what was done to kids.
Further, my 87 year old father was sick with cancer in the hospital and his wife of 62 years wasn’t allowed in. Who does this? Who thinks this is ok? At least he got to go home and die in his own bed holding my mother’s hand and not alone in a hospital. I’m crying as I write this because I find Ms. Oster’s writing so offensive.
And to boot, my kids couldn’t make the trip to the funeral of their grandfather because of stupid travel restrictions put in place by that tyrant Sununu….or they would have to quarantine for 14 days. But their cousins in other states could make the trip to Florida no problem.
All of what went on during the last (almost) 3 years was worse for our family because we knew from the get go what was up. We looked at the data and saw who was at risk. We saw through the nonsense and just couldn’t believe people fell for it!
We had to get exemptions for work and school in order to not be forced with an injection we neither needed nor wanted.
The fact that I and my family (including my 16 year old at the time) could see through it, anyone could if they had their eyes open. The nonsense that people believed was incomprehensible. I still struggle to understand how people believed any of it.
Will I forgive? Yes. My faith says that I need to forgive. It will take time. BUT, I will not forget. I want people to admit to their failures and some to be held accountable for their crimes (Birx, Fauci, Collins, Biden…the list is long). Because anything short of accountability, and this happens again. And in the not too distant future either.