Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Safety Fourth, Freedom First

“Stay safe!”

This is how people who have never missed a meal are telling each other goodbye nowadays.

People who have never been near a war, who have never heard a shot fired in anger (perhaps until the tumult of this hideous summer), are now going about masked in conformity and draped in self-congratulation, hailing one another as intrepid survivors.

On some level, they have a point.

You are going to die. Perhaps it will not be for many years; conversely, you may slump over lifeless before you finish reading this sentence…this sentence I am typing now…period!

You made it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we are never safe.

“Safety first” is one of those anodyne expressions people mutter, assuming universal agreement, even as it is obscenely wrong.

The magnificent society we have inherited, the capital of which we are rapidly burning, is based on two concepts, neither of which is “safety.”

They are, in order, free speech and private property.

Within free speech is encapsulated the concept of liberty itself. Whatever amalgam of matter and spirit you consider yourself to be, if you are unable to express yourself, what freedom do you possess?

Speech is the child of thought, inwardly conditioned and refined before being released into the world. When outward expression is blocked, the inability to speak inhibits thought itself.

America’s Founders knew this and, wherever you find yourself in the current upheaval, you know it, too.

This is not a political issue. As with so many things, freedom of speech is not right because it is a law; it was made a law because it is right.

Private property has a “get off my lawn” vibe, but it simply means something to call your own.

Your home, your family, and your life’s work qualify as things for which you are responsible, and the best of which you strive to present as part of that symphony of interests we call society.

There are places and resources we all share but, without personal territory to which to retreat and refine, all of life reverts to the tragic commons.

Significantly, that which is ostensibly owned by the people is nothing of the kind. It is financed by them, whether they wish to or not, but the control and de facto ownership of such resources is effected by those who have climbed the greasy pole of politics and bureaucracy (in my financial incarnation, I was bemused at the muddled argot by which the “privatization” of a previously public utility was the only way in which the public could have any meaningful ownership of it).

There is one more crucial element of our still-free society that outranks the social and soul-distancing “safety” we hear so much about: Purpose.

This is not so easily defined as it differs for every person, and it requires the synthesis of many people to discern the purpose of a nation. But in the latter case, a handy shorthand would be the things we have in common; the truths we hold to be self-evident, if you will.

Until recently, we could at least pretend to agree that America is a noble if imperfect nation, worthy of preservation. In 2020, traditional Americans maintain this view, but an opposing faction loudly and ubiquitously proclaims its opposition.

I suspect this second group, despite their myriad complaints, holds no informed opinion on America one way or the other. They simply desire power over their fellow human beings. Ironic that this cohort seeks to cancel some of history’s greatest men for owning slaves.

They boast they are speaking “truth to power” when their real aim is power over truth. Such people are ready allies, and often one and the same, with the creeping totalitarians you never wished to know, but who will not leave you be.

Those who, in the name of safety, daily find new ways to control your life – a checkpoint on the road, an edict that you wear a mask in the bathtub, whatever – will never stop. This is because they know no higher ideal. Safety, control, and compliance are their Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Can you blame them? If people have no concept of freedom, no aspiration to or prospect of property, and no defined purpose either for themselves or their nation, what remains?

The fetishization of safety is a shortcut to power and balm for the amputations where America’s ideals ought to be. This need not be our future.

Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark assessed it neatly: “Death is not the worst of evils.”

To adapt the other portion of Stark’s declaration, made famous by the good people of New Hampshire:

Live free, then die.

Theo Caldwell wanted to be left alone. Contact him at

Friday, August 7, 2020

COVID-19 is the New "Climate Change"

Hands up if you suspect the Venn Diagram of people who demand you wear a mask and people who won’t let you use a plastic straw is a single circle.

You have seen this before: Some scarcity or crisis arises, and with it come people who insist the only intelligent, humane response is to do exactly as they say.

Anyone who disagrees or hesitates to comply is, ipso facto, an idiot who hates planet Earth.

I rise on behalf of the idiots to propose that we take the condemnations as read and consider the pattern.

For a time, we had a name for those who, with impressive confidence and a dearth of humility, suppose every issue requires their intervention and authority.

It is unfortunate to see people who know better feign identity politics outrage at the term “Karen” and attempt to place it beyond the pale as a sexist and racist slur (the “K-word”?).

To be a Karen has nothing to do with race, and indeed Karens need not be female.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, for example, is a straight-up Karen, as is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Likewise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore are Climate Karens.

Perhaps the mightiest Karen of all is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent three terms going about the five boroughs minding everyone else’s business.

Karens are those for whom nothing can simply be permitted; everything must be mandatory or forbidden.

They are the wokescolds, the tone police, and, in their latest incarnation, they are the “wear the damn mask” bandits.

For such people, the stakes are low but the dudgeon is always high.

Caldwell’s Law, which I believe I just invented, states that the more politicized a crisis becomes, the less dangerous the crisis truly is.

This is why you see celebrities taking private jets to climate conferences so they can debate whether you and your family should be allowed to fly to Disney World.

None of them truly believes we are one SUV away from seeing birds burst into flames in midair. If they did, they would behave accordingly.

Similarly, this is why you see Dr. Anthony Fauci, who avers we must all wear masks and never shake hands again, peel off his own mask whilst sitting directly beside people at a Major League Baseball game.

For these people, the threat that defines them is not real. The only real thing is power.

I care deeply about our planet, and so do you. Pollution and waste trouble us. And yet you and I both know we are many years past when we were told there would be no more glaciers, polar bears, or Klondike Bars.

Moreover, we have lived long enough to see that the vaunted models of what would happen to the Earth’s temperature never came close to the truth. We don’t want to fight about it, but we have eyes.

By the same token, we don’t want to see anyone get sick and die, particularly if there is something we can do to prevent it.

And yet, we see that our initial fears about the mortality rate of COVID-19 were exaggerated and, as with climate models, predictions of death totals were wildly overstated.

We have also achieved a solid understanding of who is most at risk: the elderly, and those confined to hospitals and nursing homes. Younger people and those outdoors, with a witheringly small number of exceptions, risk no worse than a passing, flu-like illness.

But even as these facts range further from dispute, calls for control of the population, closing schools indefinitely, and shuttering society become more forceful and shrill.

Caldwell’s Law strikes again. As an intensely politicized issue of which no one maintains a genuine fear, the COVID-19 hysteria is climate change redux, only now it is literally on your face.

By the time something occurs to me, I find millions of people already thought of it. Much has been said of that moment when regular people – defined here as those who simply want to go about their lives, with no agenda to control the lives of others – have had enough. It strikes me that such a moment may have arrived.

Having grown tired of being insulted, threatened, and bossed around, I wonder if we are done. We were good sports for awhile, but have we missed enough weddings and funerals, birthdays and graduations, that we are ready to take back our lives?

Theo Caldwell wanted to be left alone. Contact him at


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Push Back on the "New Normal"

This will not end until we make it end.


Like many of you, I was a good sport when this health scare started. I even wrote and recorded a dopey song in support of the effort.


Snow was on the ground then and, like Coleridge’s Winter, we wore on our smiling faces a dream of Spring.


But, as many have noted, “Flatten the curve” quickly became “Communism.”


The analogy is imperfect, since what we are experiencing is not strictly political, or even cultural, but the point is clear.


The first time I encountered the phrase “New Normal” in this context, I bristled. Perhaps you did, too. It was early days then, and we were being asked to take precautions to keep ourselves healthy in order to prevent hospitals from being overrun.


It was a simple request, straightforward in its logic. A comfortable generation like ours, relative strangers to true suffering and digitally deprived of much of the human contact of ages past, eagerly embraced the opportunity to help.


But then someone, in print or in person, let slip that the supposedly short-term strangeness we were enduring would be the “New Normal.”


Whoever that person was for me, or for you, I doubt they were part of some Fauci-worshipping cabal, accidentally revealing The Master Plan.


Even so, they were not wrong. Perhaps they understood the human need for conformity, or were adapting Newtonian laws – objects in lockdown tend to stay in lockdown – but here we are.


Recall, also, that in those days we were benighted as to the nature of the disease and feared the mortality rate could be as high as 3 or 4 percent. Since then, we have found the death rate to be a witheringly small fraction of that number, while making progress in understanding and treatment.


And yet, some of the brightest among us are bike-riding in masks and advocating keeping schools closed indefinitely, even as the near-zero risk to children and people outdoors are among the many valuable things we have learned.


These are not logical acts, and it took some effort to get us here. It will take more effort to get us out. This is why I say we must push back now.


Push, I say – not strike or hit. Besides that we have seen quite enough anger and violence lately, we are dealing with something that does not respond to force.


Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has demanded control – first of one’s self, and then of others. This appetite is insatiable. And it is this primal desire that prompts one to don a flimsy surgical mask in the sunshine, and then insist others do so as well.


We all contain this hardwiring, though it is more pronounced in some than others. Moreover, we all aspire to some higher good and we yearn for the warm, hearth-like glow that comes from being part of the group.


Perhaps you have seen, as I have, decent people, who have heretofore expressed little to no religious fervor, suddenly posting their solemn commitments to mask-wearing all over social media. You may also have encountered the more aggressive, profanity-laced admonitions that you wear one, too.


This is our controlling and collectivist impulse in its most observable form. I would only add that the occasional spasms of rage you may also have seen, where those questioned or chided for not wearing masks have blown a gasket, are related. The same nerve is being touched – the need for control.


But it is the former group – the mask-wearers and enforcers (masks being a proxy for the entire shutdown mindset, you understand) – that has the power and momentum. Indeed, as the logic of their case weakens, their reach seems to expand, providing further proof that they are impervious to anger and epistemology.


How, then, does this end? Can you imagine a day when your neighborhood birder, out with her binoculars, mask, and social distance tape measure, eschews the latter two and admits all is well?


If a vaccine were developed, have you any doubt that in today’s climate, proof of inoculation will be required for travel, work, or even the most basic of daily activities?


Certainly not, so what to do?


The answer is a firm but loving No. Some force must act upon this motion to stop it. In our permissive age, we keep No stored way up high, like Galliano at the back of the bar (because really, how often does someone order a Harvey Wallbanger?), but the time has come.


The No can take many forms – withholding dollars, votes, and support from businesses and politicians that perpetuate this cycle – or simply refusing to accept the conversational premises of a friend or family member who insists we all must get used to the “New Normal.”


The No should be as kind as possible – push, do not hit – and it should be accompanied by a better option. Remember that those opposed, while they are behaving differently from you, are no worse. They long to be included and on the side of goodness. Literally or figuratively, invite them to sit by your hearth instead.


There is an opportunity cost to all this, and peace will be disturbed.


I do not want to write columns or engage in public debate. I simply want to be a good neighbor, walk my dog, and show God’s love to people I find objectionable. Those are the things I believe I was put on this planet to do.


To paraphrase Lenin, however, while I may not be interested in the “New Normal,” the “New Normal” is interested in me.


When people I like and respect, young and in glowing health, say they have stopped attending church in order to minimize their contact with other people, something must be said.


I believe this current situation – on a cultural, political, and human level – is, as abolitionist James Russell Lowell said of his own generation, that “Once to every man and nation” moment to decide.


If we do not push back now, this will indeed be our “New Normal.” Generations yet unborn will never know a day when they can simply go about in freedom, unmasked, unchipped, without proof of inoculation against some illness that was moderated years before.


As we have seen, fear, anger, and lust for power are within us. But, as the only good man who ever lived said, so too is the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us choose well.


Theo Caldwell just wanted to be left alone. Contact him at