Archive for December, 2021

The United States is never void of ideological issues that cause a division amongst the population. That is the great thing about America – the melting pot of different ideas, beliefs, and opinions. However, there really has only been one issue – the issue and institution of slavery – that has caused such a division that prompted a war…a war that nearly tore the country apart. Could we be on the cusp of another civil war fueled by another “slavery”…the issue and “institution of covid”?

The following is not intended to advocate for any ideological stance or position, political party or belief, race, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. Nor is it intended to minimize or trivialize the events of the past or the repercussions caused by the institution of slavery to anyone or anything. Additionally, it is not my intent to diminish, disregard, or minimize the impact that the Covid virus has had on the United States and the world, more importantly to those individuals and families who have lost lives and loved ones as a result of the virus.

This is simply an observation and assertion of how an issue can be used to promote or further a particular ideological, economic, or political agenda or perspective. It is also to show the parallels between time periods and in our nation’s history and the issues that impact it.

I wish this was not the case but, given the cultural and political current climate in our country, I have no doubt that much of what is written here will be taken out of context and seen as insensitive, potentially even racist, or totally insensitive to the institution of slavery and to the fallout that has caused so much division and issue over the past 140+ years. In no way shape or form is that the intent or the purpose.

If you, the reader, have a tendency to fly off the handle or go into an ideological rage or rant spurred by CNN, Fox News, or any other media outlet or source, this may not be for you. Please stop here. It is not a slight, by any stretch as there are things that absolutely set me off. It is unfortunate, however, as the information contained is a heads up to a dead man’s curve that lies is in the road ahead for our country of we don’t take evasive action.

Before we begin, it is important to establish norms, a common framework, and understandings. To do that, I want to provide some definition of terms and concepts. Otherwise, the possibility of viewing this information scene through an intended lens increases exponentially.

From his 1991 Journal of Economic Perspectives article “ Institutions”, paraphrasing Mr. Douglass North, Institutions are ‘the rules of the game in a society, or, more formally, are the humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic and social interaction.’ Additionally, we can also juxtapose North’s definition with my own definition of institution as ”the introduction of a system, thought process, rule, or policy that is intended to influence action and further and/or establish a political, ideological, economic, or social agenda, platform, or combination thereof.” Using these definitions as a lens that we will call the “institutional lens” by which to view the assertion and comparison will seek to remove, as much as can be, the personal and ideological perspectives around the issues and allow the institutional similarities, using the definition above, to be realized.

Back in 2019, I did a video blog post and wrote about the new civil war in America. It is linked here – https://youtu.be/3u5ubXqBobl . Ideology and beliefs are always at the core of a civil war. Just as the American civil war was the culmination and deadly finale of a century’s worth of brewing division over an issue – slavery, the deadly impact on the economic, social, political, and psychological health of a still rather young nation, the war threatened the future outcome of the greatest experiment ever attempted…the United States of America. The eerie similarities of today’s national climate fueled and impacted by the many sides of the covid virus to the most tumultuous time in American history is uncanny…and real.

I will be diving into the issue here more in the future through analysis. However, I wanted to go ahead and put down some points by which to expand, consider further, and look at again once out in the light.

The following is the beginning and serves as the basic framework as it provides very basic and general points for the overall assertion. It is a work in progress due to the very nature of the comparison as these continue to unfold. The end of the story has not yet been written.

Again, the United States is never void of ideological issues that cause a division amongst the population. That is the great thing about America – the melting pot of different ideas, beliefs, and opinions. However, there really has only been one issue – the issue and institution of slavery – that has caused such a division that prompted a war…a war that nearly tore the country apart. Could we be on the cusp of another civil war fueled by another “slavery”…the issue and “institution of covid”?

The work in progress is below and is a true working document. Rarely does one work on a thesis and assertion that is such a potential ideological powder keg as this in the open and for public consumption. My hope and desire is that readers do not see this as a political or ideological stance but as an objective observation and analysis of two U.S. institutions and their similarities.

Divided Over The Issue: We are a country divided and have been for quite some time. The ideological divide has been growing wider and wider, being spurred by many forces, agendas, and outlets. Covid, as was slavery, is simply a mechanism and tool.

Ideological : For this, I will use a designator that is a bit easier to understand and classify. Blue states and cities (run by Democrat governors, legislatures, and/or mayors) obsessed with covid, use the issue to justify actions, as do Red states (run by Republican governors, legislatures, and/or mayors). One uses covid to promote more governmental intervention and control while the other uses it to tout a position of freedom, personal choice/responsibility, and limited government. To at least 50% of Americans, (even though I cannot get absolute truthful empirical data, I would argue that percentage is more than 50% but admitting it for many on the left would be like admitting they are wrong or have abandoned a perspective they have been holding on to) the latter is much more preferable than the former. However, both Red & Blue states, cities, and legislatures use covid as a political vehicle to push and further an agenda.

States Rights Vs Federal Policies: The political, and frankly the Constitutional, battle between the states and the federal government, facilitated by the 10th Amendment, raged from the early 1800’s through the 1860’s around the issue and institution of slavery. Similar battles have been raging as a result of the federally backed and pushed lockdowns, mask and vaccine mandates, etc… Predominantly Red states are pushing back against the federal/ecxecutive orders and agency edicts from OSHA, the CDC, etc…while Blue states and cities are embracing and implementing the restrictions to the chagrin of some and elation of others. Following Lincoln’s election and his Emancipation Proclamation after the Battle of Antietam essentially freeing the slaves via executive announcement and the Reconstruction amendments to the US Constitution (13th – outlawing slavery, 14th – granting citizenship, and 15th – granting voting rights regardless of race) which were conditional on reinstatement of the southern states to the Union, thus making any act condoning the institution of slavery unconstitutional and illegal, states continued to battle the federal government by instituting Jim Crow laws of poll taxes, literacy laws, etc…. The current “Jim Crow” policies and pushbacks have two sides. One side are those implemented by the states and cities in defiance of the federal covid mandates while the other side are policies and regulations implemented by states and municipalities forcing compliance to the covid restrictions.

In a similar role are private businesses and companies that are either requiring covid restriction compliance (vaccines, masks, etc…) or not requiring them with both sides using the institution of covid to make not only an ideological but a political statement. Some also claim to be making a Constitutional statement. This, of course, is a topic that absolutely needs its own posting and discussion as there are many sides and layers to that argument. Nevertheless, when put side by side, the reactions by the actors at the federal, state, and local levels to both institutions – slavery and covid – the parallels cannot be ignored. In fact, when looked at through the institutional lens defined earlier, this should also be cause for alarm given the outcome and horrible “resolution” attributed to the earlier divisional actors of the mid 19th century.

Economic: The institution of slavery was a primary driver of the southern economy. And, despite the in-humaneness and absolute disregard for human dignity, rights, and freedom, it was a business decision. Even, capitalistic, in a sense – a profit driven use of scarce resources at the lowest possible cost of production (labor). Again, while it cannot be disconnected from the human aspect as the scarce resource being utilized was labor at the expense of human dignity and freedom, it was still a business decision. On the other side, the North is not absolved from promoting the institution because the northern factories that utilized the product of the south, cotton, never once slowed the production cycles in opposition to the issue (institutional slavery). Mouths denounced it while hands produced goods facilitated by it. Now, the government and its actors are using the covid issue to drive its economic endeavors and goals…on both side of the isle.

Free And Slave States: There was a clear and distinct in the early 1800’s between free and slave states. The distinction today is very similar. The “slave” states today are those placing restrictions on the people, business, institutions etc…The free states tout limited restrictions and anti-mandate rhetoric that facilitate personal responsibility and freedoms. The “free states”, however, are not absolved from using the issue to drive the conservative, free market, limited government stance. Both the Blue and the Red see the issue as a means to an end…ends that are diametrically opposed to each other.

People: Free and Slaves. As was done at the beginning of the post, I want to provide a definition for the term, slavery. While there are many variations of the definition of slavery, at the core of all of them are the restriction of freedom and essentially “ownership” of one to another. Mariam-Webster provides this definition: “: a situation or practice in which people are entrapped (as by debt) and exploited.” The slaves are those whose freedoms have been taken away by the institution of covid. For some, it is imposed upon them by the government. For others, the slavery is self-imposed, fueled by fear that is a fire stoked by the gasoline of a media machine that seems to want nothing other than to scare the masses into submission and to socialistic and authoritarian, even draconian and insidious, edicts and doctrines as well as into “inaction” of their own accord and thoughts. Unlike the civil war of the mid 1800’s, there are covid slaves across the country. We are also seeing infringements on the civil liberties and freedoms of citizens who are choosing not to comply with covid restrictions and policies. Jobs are being lost and people are being forced to comply or be fired. Economic freedom is a staple and pillar of a free market, a free nation. It is a foundational principle of the mixed economic and capitalistic system of the US. With economic freedom being defined as the individual citizen’s right to earn, spend, and invest as they choose, the governmental policies as well as those of some companies are forcing employees to choose between work and unemployment. While that is a level of freedom, the freedom not to comply, it does not necessarily coincide with the spirit of economic freedom. Similar to the Jim Crow policies of the southern states, civil liberties seem to be under attack. Again, we must view the former through the institutional lens as the obviousness of discrimination based on race (not determined by choice) vs discrimination based on one’s decision of whether or not to comply (100% determined by choice) is not lost here, some would argue there is a distinguishable similarity between the two as a similar option was afforded to those being discriminated against due to race as they could have made the choice to live in an area of the country whose policies were more favorable as opposed to challenging the policies of the states and localities that were less favorable to them.

Of course, there are so many aspects of that line of thinking that are 100% true as every situation has choices associated with it. And, every choice has repercussions…some being good and some being not so good. Yes, slaves could have made the choice to resist either in West Africa or when in the Colonies. Some did, I am sure. The repercussions could very well have been and that were inflicted on them were severe harm, sometimes resulting in death. The choice to comply was the better of the two, even though neither were optimal. The same could be said of those averse to governmental mandates related to Covid. Yes, those against the vaccine mandates and other policies could choose not to comply and/or move to another location. Some have moved and relocated businesses. Some, who made the choice to leave employers that mandated vaccines have found other jobs or even started their own businesses. For others, however, the means were or are not available for them to relocate or change jobs. Thus, a choice was/is to be made. Comply or resist. Despite the desire to resist, the repercussions could and have resulted in people losing their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods. This could and has resulted in devastating outcomes. So, the choice to comply was made considering the repercussions, that not complying would be worse than the compliance. Yes, we all are free to decide. Even those who live in authoritarian countries and cultures have the freedom to choose. No matter where one lives or has lived from a geographic or time period standpoint, the freedom to choose is always there and has always been there…as are and have been the repercussions. The assertion here is not meant to ignite a war of perspectives but to show how similar these “institutions” actually are to one another.

Social: the institution of slavery created a pro and anti-slavery social order which pitted each group against the other because of their ideological perspective. The same has and is happening with regards to the handling and response to the covid virus and its variants. The masked vs the unmasked. The vaccinated vs the anti-vaxxers. The lockdown proponents vs the freedom marketeers. Those who adhere to covid polices are looked down upon and scoffed at while those who choose not to adhere to the covid policies are blamed for the spread of the virus and the cause of why the country is not back to “normal”.

Media: I would absolutely be remiss by not addressing the role the media played in both the development of the public sentiment during the 1800’s and its role today. Some would argue there is no comparison as today’s 24 hour news cycle demands a level of “infotainment” and audience appealing, otherwise it is show or media personality cancelation time. With that being said, one must consider the technological capabilities and context of the time periods being compared. Otherwise, it would be impossible to compare historical eras and event. Given the breakneck speed at which technology is changing today, it is difficult to compare one week to the next. Yes, there is a hint of hyperbole. But, not much. The media, the press, the advocacy groups, and the free marketplace of opinions were as formidable and as influential in developing, swaying, and influencing public opinion in early 1800’s and the years leading up to the Civil War as they are today. Content creators, news/information outlets, influences, etc…across all communication mediums know this. Something I tell my students often: If you control the message, you control everything. It is a reality that we, the public, must rely on them, the media and informational sources in order for happenings and news outside of our incredibly narrow scope of knowledge that is based on our first-hand interaction and experience. It is the goal and purpose of institutional advocates or opponents to influence the masses to their point of view. This was true in the 1800’s, in the 1700’s, in early Rome, in 400 BC, in 1941,in 1860, in 1960, and in 2021.

While this thought process and comparison will absolutely ignite all kinds of firey retaliations, backlash, and the like, if we take an honest and objective look at the two issues through the institutional lens defined earlier and what their impact on the country was and is through the actions, reactions, stances, etc…of the people and of the government, it is impossible, from an intellectual standpoint, to ignore their similarities and outright parallels. Of course, common sense is not so common anymore and intellectual courage and objectivity is about as scarce as a $1.00 gallon of gas. The $1.00 gallon of gas and the lack of common sense and intellectual courage are subjects that will have to wait. Until next time…keep it real.

Jeff Searcy is a servant warrior, husband, dad, political philosopher, strategist, consultant, writer, speaker, host of Servant Warrior™ Radio, critical thinker, educator, coach, US Marine no longer on active duty, and a sinner saved by unbelievable Grace. www.Jeffsearcy.net .