Bubble of Expertise
May 21, 2020
Several years ago in a previous life, I was the commander of a military base. It was a fairly large installation responsible for sensitive missions and hardware. Our chief of security was named George. George had been a specialist for some time and was very good at what he did. He was totally focused on the security of the base. He would have been very happy if we had locked down the entire perimeter and patrolled it with dogs and armed guards. George was so focused that he lived within a bubble that excluded all considerations other than security. I had to explain to George on more than one occasion that we had to allow authorized people to enter and exit our base. We had airplanes to fly, and we had to bend a little on security in order to accomplish our mission.
Dr. Fauci and the other scientists responsible for keeping America safe from COVID19 work in a similar bubble. It is their job to consider worse case scenarios. It is their job to scare the willies out of us such that we maintain a social distance. It is their job to point out that there is a chance, although a small one, that masks may prevent spreading the disease. It is their job to postulate a resurgence of virus cases when we start to return to normal. Dr. Fauci and the other scientists who advise our decision makers are experts in preventing the spread of infective diseases. It is not their job, however, to be reasonable. Their bubble of expertise does not include the economic and sociologic consequences of a prolonged stay-at-home order.
National health includes more than protection from medical conditions. Humans are social animals. A healthy society includes free interaction with others of our species. Being afraid to venture out in public is not healthy. Living in fear of your neighbor is not healthy. Those who propose the requirement to wear a mask in all public places are not concerned about the general health of our society. Even Dr. Fauci concedes that the protection you are afforded by me wearing a mask is extremely small. Nancy Pelosi said that it was more courtesy than protection, but extending the courtesy requires the appearance that the world is a dangerous place. If it is deemed too dangerous for me to go to the store without a mask, maybe I shouldn’t go to the store. If it is deemed too dangerous to fly without a mask, maybe I shouldn’t fly. But if I don’t fly or go to the store, those businesses shut down, and the general health of American society is diminished.
There are “experts” who predict we are heading for an economic depression as deep as we had in the 1930s, and it will take two to five years to recover. Congress is working on another three trillion-dollar stimulus package. This package adds more financial aid to the states as well as another $1200 for personal expenses. I recall the old adage that says, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat today. Teach him to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” Another $1200 government check will pay this month’s rent, but what do we do next month? American workers need jobs. They need to be allowed to go back to work. Huge numbers of unemployed workers do not contribute to a healthy society.
I had to convince George to provide security while we accomplished the mission of the base. He had to venture out from his bubble of expertise and become part of the big picture. It is possible to be reasonably safe from medical threats and to protect ourselves economically and socially. We can do both if we can get past the panic. Three weeks between new cases of the virus is unrealistic. Requiring everyone wear masks in public promotes fear. We need to get America back to work. If our society is to survive, we need to allow communities to function.
Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free-lance columnist for over 20 years.