Wednesday, October 28, 2020

No Hugs Without Masks

I happened upon a lovely moment the other day. At least, it started out lovely before becoming, in modern parlance, teachable.

Whilst walking my dogs, I was greeted by a lovely family up the street. Their daughter, about 5, was playing with another girl around the same age on their front lawn.

The family is well known to me and their children love my dogs, so they came running to say hello. The little girl I did not know hung back somewhat. Her mother lingered by the front steps of the house and we were warmly introduced.

I do not recall the mother’s name but, since I am fairly certain it was not “Sally,” let’s call her Sally.

After the neighbors’ children had said hi to the pooches, they went back to their games and we continued on our way.

As you may know, some dogs are filled with energy and blessed with speed, such that they go zipping about faster than sound. Mine are the other kind. Every blade of grass contains eternal mysteries worthy of sniffing. Every. Single. One.

Consequently, though we had made our departure in conversational terms, we had not traveled more than a few feet when the two little girls were told by their mothers that it was time to say goodbye. The two moppets ran toward one another, arms wide.

“No hugs without masks!” Sally exclaimed, stopping the children in their tracks and crashing their smiles. In an attempt to ameliorate her harsh tone, Sally then cooed, “I know, I know, but we can’t have hugs if we’re not wearing our masks.”

Before analyzing the substance of Sally’s pronouncement, let us please consider the “we” in there. It’s always “we” with such people. We’re all in this together. We’re all on the same team. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

The implication is that there is only one acceptable view or course of action, we all concur, and you’re a damnable splitter if you disagree.

At any given time, but especially as the march of Covid-1984 continues apace, it is uncomfortably true that we are not all on the same side. To take this example, if you believe 5-year-olds should not hug unless they are wearing surgical masks, in the battle over where our culture is heading, you need to lose.

This may sound ominous to those on the other side because, in saying such a thing, they assume I mean what they would mean. They would mean silencing you in the public square, endangering your livelihood, perhaps publishing your address and surrounding your house, maybe even destroying your property or harming your person.

I would never dream of doing any of those things. Indeed, if anyone tried to do such things to you, regardless of your views, I would try to protect you.

There is nothing remarkable about me in this, or any, regard. That is simply how traditional people who believe in personal responsibility and individual liberty think. And the fact that we think like that is how civilization got built in the first place.

Anyway, back to Sally. Even if you believe every dire pronouncement from St. Fauci Himself, or whatever power-drunk bureaucrat is calling the shots in your home prefecture, there is no rationale for placing such restrictions on children playing together outdoors.

This is not especially noteworthy, since we are well past the point where Covid hysteria has become, like “climate change,” a religion for people who don’t believe in God.

What struck me most was the reaction of the mom who is my neighbour. She is as sweet a person as you could ever hope to meet but – how to put this? – she is a woman of a certain sort.

As examples presented without comment: This summer, she decided to write “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in giant, rainbow letters across our Canadian residential street. She has been seen to wear a shirt praising Elizabeth Warren (“Nevertheless, she persisted…”) for days in a row and, since her personal hygiene is above reproach, this implies she owns more than one. Finally, on hearing that, like her, my wife and I hold US citizenship, she pre-emptively declared, “Obama is still MY president!”

(On this last point, I owe her a debt inasmuch as I did not know Americans were empowered to chose our own, personal presidents. Very well, I choose James Polk.)

My neighbor was as startled and disappointed as the children by Sally’s declaration. Now, along with her Obama-blessing and Warren-whooping, my neighbor’s reaction to Covid culture has been exactly as you’d expect. She is up to date on the latest restrictions and rules, she takes social distance and quarantine extremely seriously, and she is ALL about safety.

But what Sally said seemed a mask too far. Not wanting to be contentious or contradict Sally directly, she used her words and expressed her feelings and even slipped in the incontestable We: “Aww, that makes me so sad. We love our hugs!”

Nevertheless, Sally persisted, and the kids bid a contactless farewell.

I wondered, as my overfed dogs and I made our glacial way up the street, whether I had just witnessed a pivotal moment in my neighbor’s thinking; a seismic shift or great awakening, like the birth of a star.

Almost certainly not. She will continue as she has done, as will I, as will you. But I was heartened to see that, even among those whom I consider to be deeply wrong about all this, there is daylight.

As both a Canadian and a Protestant, I have never been much of a hugger. But in defiance of this madness, with arms outstretched and no mask in sight, I am open for business.

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




Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Corona Virtue

Early on in this madness, I found myself in a drug store. By way of reference to the calendar of expert advice, this was when we were told, even admonished, not to wear masks. 

As I and others went about our shopping sans science burkas, there was a young woman in her 20s or 30s wearing a mask, going huffily up and down each aisle.

She must have had access to some dark web of corona compliance because, as pertains to masking and its attendant impatience with those who disobey, she was ahead of the game.

In any case, it seemed clear we had disappointed and/or enraged her and above her mask, her pleading, angry eyes sought out someone, anyone, to ask her about it. Perhaps you know the look.

Ordinarily, such a woman might be wearing "problem glasses" but possibly the mask caused them to fog and so she left them in the Prius. 

You know the type, so I shall not spend more words in her description. Please permit me, however, to dilate on a related matter.

There has been, perhaps intentionally, some muddying of the definition of the term "Karen." In some quarters, she is mistaken for someone who does as she pleases, assuming the rules do not apply to her. 

As an early adopter of the term, I rise to clarify its meaning. Karen (who can be male or female in this enlightened age) believes we live a world made of rules. Moreover, she believes she has been ordained, by the Almighty or the HOA, to enforce them.

Those who have twisted the definition are somewhat correct, inasmuch as while Karen goes about minding everyone else's business, she often excuses herself from the same constraints. 

As a local example, the Karens in my neighborhood will allow their dogs to run off-leash in areas where it is clearly prohibited, including on other people's property, yet call the authorities if they suspect someone else's dog is unlicensed. 

But it is the burning need to bring enforcement upon others that is Karen's defining characteristic. This is why she wants to speak to a manager. Her needs somehow have not been met, and they never will be. There is a poetic sadness behind that haircut.

Our drug store heroine was, by way of appearance and vintage, a tad young and slight for Karenhood. As of this writing, I do not know if there is an agreed-upon term for a millennial Karen (Dakota?).

She was, nonetheless, agitated by our divergence from the world as she would have it and seemed eager, if not frantic, to do something about it.

There is a symbiotic relationship between this psychology and government power, especially of late. Localities across North America have been striving to cancel Halloween in the name of “safety.”

In my own neck of the woods, having perhaps determined they do not have the legal authority or enforcement power to cancel Halloween outright, they have instead “suggested” children not go out this year.

Local message boards are rife with frets of "kids stacked up" in schools, at close quarters and breathing.

As someone said, kids can basically mainline Covid-19 and they’ll be fine. The little blighters are not very good at spreading it, either. These are undisputed findings from the alphabet soup of approved sources – WHO, CDC, et al.

No matter, there is panic to be had and rules to be created.

One might diagnose Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy if folks were genuinely afraid. But so many appear to be enjoying this too much. It is a dark, mirthless joy, born of controlling and condemning people. 

You can vilify others for what, until the day before yesterday, was perfectly normal behavior. There are government snitch lines dedicated to reporting on them. For Karen, this is Christmas (or whatever secular winter event she observes). 

Implicit in this flurry of convictions is one's moral superiority. This is the essence of Corona Virtue. 

Show what a superb mother and splendid citizen you are by worrying aloud about non-existent threats. Simultaneously, allow yourself indulgences as needed. 

This is why environmentalists fly private, even as they admonish you for flying coach. It is also why Karen herself will go maskless, as will her Patron Saint Fauci (may he preserve us from all non-conformists and independent thinkers, now and at the hour of our sniffles). 

It has been some months since my fear of the disease was surpassed by my terror at the authoritarian culture it has occasioned. 

The percentage of the population at risk of death from Coronavirus is infinitesimal and identifiable. Corona Virtue, however, threatens us all.

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


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Defund the Tone Police


The Tone Police are out in force. Were they tipped off? Asking for a thought criminal.

If you are a normal person, with normal views of the world as it obviously is, you understand what it is to live in this time of ours, when the most basic truths must be inverted.

For example, if you consider it incontestable that men cannot get pregnant, you understand.

You know that in the Current Year, if you’re allowed to say it, it probably isn’t true.

It stands to reason that you are also familiar with the degrees of coercion applied to make you repeat things that you and everyone within earshot, including and especially those pressuring you, know to be nonsense.

It begins with appeals to civility, politeness, and good citizenship. This is Good Tone Cop.

You want to be accepting, don’t you? You don’t want to be rude, do you? We’re all in this together, are we not?

This is how decent, otherwise sane people find themselves repeating madness about gender, excusing away crime, and wearing masks while driving alone.

Good Tone Cop often affects an uptalking, minatory tone; asking nicely, but letting you know that if you refuse to comply, you won’t like what happens next.

And what comes next is Bad Tone Cop. This character is all about dox and destroy. He (or often, she) lacks all sense of proportion and will never, ever let it go.

But unlike the dogged detective protagonist of so many movies and comics, Bad Tone Cop is not the good guy.

Cancel Culture is Bad Tone Cop’s lockup. But Bad Tone Cop has more violent and aggressive means and is eager to use them. BTC has superb research capabilities, can easily find your home address, and would like nothing more than to round up a posse and come on over.

In all their incarnations, the Tone Police are fond of disqualifying labels, rendering those with dissenting views as illegitimate.

Be warned that you will almost certainly be called some or several names from their “istophobe” arsenal.

You may also be called toxic, hateful, even unhelpful. Learn to live with it. Moreover, if whatever you are doing even slightly corrodes our current culture of lockstep conformity and absurd, deathly obsessions, bloody well good for you.

Fortunately, most of us have developed antibodies, both to being called racist and to paying much attention when hearing the insult hurled at others.

Right up until the moment their teeth are bared and their truncheons come out, the Tone Police will appeal to your sense of comity, asking you to compromise with what you know to be incandescently stupid and/or outright evil.

A good analogy I have heard is that if one person wants to build a bridge over a river, and another person does not, it is not a sensible compromise to build the bridge halfway. The truth is not always somewhere in the middle, as people are fond of saying.

Sometimes, uncomfortable as it may be, someone is right and someone is wrong.

For me, the issue that has prompted me to take crayon in hand and write again is this global health panic and its crippling effect on liberty. The masking, monitoring, and restricting of people by power-drunk politicians and their conformist allies in the general public must be stopped or, I believe, our freedom will slip away forever.

The sight of actual police assaulting formerly free citizens for non-compliance makes me feel that a line has been crossed. If you have read this far, you likely feel it, too.

I am not willing to build the bridge halfway by compromising for another few months. You see, I am old enough to remember “15 days to flatten the curve.”

Perhaps you have seen, or experienced, some or several of the degrees of tone policing brought to bear on dissenters lately. At the initial, benign, Good Tone Cop level, you are inconsiderate, impolite, and anti-science. As we progress to Bad Tone Cop, you may find your online presence restricted or erased, your livelihood imperiled, and actual police may come to your home and arrest you.

The enforcement starts with words, with tone, with appeals to the better angels of your nature to go along because we are all such dear, dear friends.

While I hope to see you all in Heaven, the nettlesome truth remains that we do not all want the same things, and we are not all in this together.

Consequently, while I wish you good health and I pray that I am wrong, there is one phrase of this tumultuous year adaptable to my meaning:

Defund the Tone Police.

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Please Help Yourselves to this Tripe


If you are anything like me, you have friendships based entirely on quotes from The Simpsons.

In my case, I don’t even like some of these people, and they probably have little use for me but, in an uncertain world, it is comforting to find souls who speak in the same abstractions.

For example, if I said to any of them, “Thank you, I DO enjoy working at the bowling alley,” they would know at once that my wife is expecting.

Surveying the landscape of sudden experts in surgical masks, the utterance from which I would want them to tickle coherence is: “Apparently my crazy friend here hasn't heard of the food chain.”

For readers who are less than fluent in Simpsonese, please allow me elucidate.

It comes from the episode aptly titled Lisa the Vegetarian, wherein Lisa Simpson, Springfield’s answer to a question nobody asked, decides to forego eating meat.

In response, her school shows the students a propaganda film from the Meat Council, gloriously titled Meat and You: Partners in Freedom.

It is a magnificent piece of nonsense, ably narrated by Troy McClure, referring to those who eschew meat as Grade A morons, euphemizing slaughtered cows as graduates of Bovine University, and displaying the aforementioned food chain, which shows humans eating, among other things, squirrels, camels, and (ahem) bats.

Lisa’s classmates, who previously had evinced no interest in or knowledge of the subject, suddenly become smug specialists.

As the film concludes, Lisa complains, “They can’t seriously expect us to swallow that tripe!” Her school principal immediately invites the students to the front of the room, saying, “Now, as a special treat courtesy of our friends at the Meat Council, please help yourselves to this tripe.”

The children rush forward to gorge themselves on the repulsive display of cow stomachs. As they do so, Lisa pleads, “Don't you realize you've just been brainwashed by corporate propaganda?” Her classmates respond:

JANEY: Apparently my crazy friend here hasn't heard of the food chain.

HAM: Yeah, Lisa's a grade A moron.

RALPH WIGGUM: When I grow up, I'm going to go to Bovine University!

From disinterested know-nothings to intolerant know-it-alls in the space of a filmstrip.; that’s how fast it happens. And that is why The Simpsons is the most trenchant social satire in television history.

It’s a risky thing, questioning someone else’s intelligence. Besides that it’s rude and they might be bigger than you, you also never know what they have seen. The most intelligent people I have ever known – including at least three bona fide geniuses – would never dream of speaking about other people in that way.

Relatedly, they would never refer to themselves as smart. Perhaps it is because they are just clever enough to see that the ocean of knowledge is vast and the ship of their mind is tiny.

I thought of this, and the food chain and Bovine University, as I repeatedly encountered the most recent disqualifying moniker for those with unapproved opinions: Anti-masker.

The label follows the tradition of “covidiot,” “climate denier,” and various iterations of “istophobe,” which at a stroke are intended to remove a person, along with their questions and views, from the realm of legitimacy.

The anti-masker sobriquet is often accompanied by accusations of stupidity which, coming from people who plainly fancy themselves intelligent, are oddly unoriginal. Some variation of “fell out of the stupid tree” or “the stupid lives loudly” or “why is this so hard to understand???” is commonly found.

(Relatedly, people who unironically preface their remarks with “Last time I checked” cannot be taken seriously. The science is settled.)

Like Lisa’s classmates, the people I have seen deploying the anti-masker term as though it were a rhetorical finishing move as devastating as Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ DDT had not, until very recently, shown any interest or erudition in the field of medical science.

The are actors, artists, musicians, what-have-you, and some are quite advanced in their fields. This is not by any means an appeal to expert authority (something toward which we should call cast a jaundiced eye nowadays). Everyone has a right to their opinion on any topic and it is absurd to suggest that only the Chief of Complicated Surgery at the Invasicare Clinic has any place to speak about Covid-19.

What strikes me about those un-personing others as “anti-maskers” is that not only have they absorbed just one viewpoint within the dynamic and complex environment in which we find ourselves, but they have simultaneously foreclosed the possibility than other views, and the people who hold them, hold any value whatsoever.

The topic of masks, which scientifically and aesthetically reflects much of the Covid debate writ large, is far from closed. Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control issued yet another clarifying statement, saying they have never claimed masks are to be worn for the protection of the wearer. Yet the CDC’s Director recently held up his own mask in an appearance before Congress, insisting it could be as or more effective than a vaccine in protecting him from Covid-19.

So, who is the anti-masker here?

My own literacy in the hard sciences in about on par with Ralph Wiggum, so my objection to masks is a matter of principle. Masks are what they look like: symbols of conformity, control, and subjugation.

If it were evident that ubiquitous masks were saving lives, or had saved even one life, I and other “anti-masker” mouth-breathers would be happy to hear it. But that is not where we are, even at the CDC, which, beyond the apparent disconnect between its Director and PR department, recently found that 84 percent of Covid-infected persons always (70 percent) or often (14 percent) wore masks.

In any case, none of that would rationalize hale and healthy young people wearing masks as they walk alone in the sunshine. They oughta have “Bovine University” printed across the mouth.

And that brings us to what is most horrifying about our current moment. Advocates of masks and lockdowns and the arbitrary 6-foot metric of “social distance” are addicted to power and impervious to reason.

They talk of “keeping everyone safe” as though it were still March and we had yet to identify the witheringly small percentage of the population that is truly at risk. We are told to hunker down and mask up “for a little while” as though we have not already been doing this for seven months.

The epistemological disconnect is terrifying to behold.

That is why I, as just one little anti-masker, am speaking out in my feeble way. I don’t want to lose friends and irritate people – which has happened and will continue apace once I post this piece – but I truly believe this is it.

If we do not stand up now for the freedom we inherited, we will lose it forever. And not long after that, we will forget we ever had it.

We have come too far and the stakes are too high to continue pretending we all want the same things and we are all in this together. We do not and we are not.

But as always, I would rather light a candle than curse the darkness. As I become more unpopular than I was already (a considerable achievement), when a mask-free face smiles at me in the street, whether than person has heard of the food chain or not, I see a new friend.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Who's Afraid of Covid-19?


Please be honest: Are you still afraid of Covid-19?

Like you, I heard the horror stories back in March, and saw the footage from China, ostensibly of dead bodies in the streets, portending what was coming for us.

Looking at those images now, they seem peculiar, almost staged. In any case, they are nowhere near what we experienced anywhere in the West.

Yet here we are, under a heavier hand of restrictions and rules than was in place back then.

The common shorthand is to say governments like to keep us in a state of fear. As I look around, I see plenty of quarrelling, accusations and power-grabs, but precious little fear.

So I ask again – are you scared of Covid-19?

I am not; at least, no moreso than I am of any other ailment, contagious or otherwise, that has the power to do me in. Surveying my family history, I am considerably more leery of heart disease and cancer than of the Coronavirus.

What most definitely does scare me is the creeping loss of our freedom, with the unblinking acquiescence of much of the population.

As I type, sub-national governments of every party across North America are discussing in public and private whether and how they can cancel Halloween. Having shut down Easter and summer and ruined school, Halloween is up next on the steady march that will erase Christmas and New Year’s, too.

This is madness. Even the most lockstep Faucist does not believe trick-or-treating children are at risk from Covid-19. The numbers simply are not there, and that is not in dispute.

So why cancel Halloween? Is it because children going from house to house may infect older or vulnerable people? In what world would the answer be anything but to keep those people away from the door?

The answer is: in this world; in a world where hollow leaders, elected and unelected, who have nothing else within them and can think of no other course but to increase their power over other people, hold the reins.

Covid-19 has given them their chance; it has revealed what was always there.

These are people who cannot countenance a world in which things are neither mandatory nor forbidden, simply permitted.

As one clever fellow quipped on the Internet: At this point, I would feel safer if the Coronavirus held a press conference telling us how it is going to protect us from the government.

In formerly free nations, including my native and well-behaved Canada, internment camps are being erected for infected or uncooperative citizens. In England and Australia, police stake out homes, at times entering by force to arrest people not only for quarantine violations, but for speaking out against government policy. 

If your chief fear is still a disease with a recovery rate north of 99 percent, please allow me to suggest you alter your gaze. 

But I do not believe that is what you fear most. Even if, against type, you are an ardent masker who has read this far, my suspicion is that you are doing what you feel you should, what you are now used to and, more than disease itself, you fear doing what you should not. 

We are creatures of habit, and what we do today becomes rote by tomorrow. As tomorrow and tomorrow creeps to the last syllable of recorded time, how often do we stop and ask ourselves why we are doing the things we do?

Oftentimes, people assert that you would feel differently if you or someone you knew were affected by the disease. As it happens, I have at least one friend whose death was attributed to Covid-19. Things being as they are, however, I do not believe the death report for a hot minute. Further, that friend, while a sweet person, was rather old and distanced from my daily life. 

Perhaps it is the same with you. Some cousin or acquaintance or schoolmate you'd forgotten has battled or succumbed to Covid-19. Return to those images from China in the early days. We have not seen bodies in the streets, and most of us must stretch for the disease to touch us at all. 

So again, why are we doing this? What do you truly fear?

At the administrative heights, those commanding masks and restrictions are not necessarily evil people. But often they are weak, and would not know how to stop even if they wanted to.

Conscious evil does exist and when, say, Bill Gates blithely remarks that reducing human population growth is a good thing, in a tone that suggests every good person agrees, the mask slips, so to speak. 

Indeed, when I look at the faces of Bill and Melinda Gates, I see demonic confusion; in George Soros, I see Satanic calculation. 

But these are billionaires and world-beaters, so high above the lives of regular people they may as well be Greek gods.

It is different for your grocery store mask-shamer. She is not a member of the Tri-Lateral Commission, or the Bilderbergs, or even the Stone Cutters. She is a regular person, going about her day, but in thrall to the luxurious human appetite for control.

It is not my intention to insult her, or drive us further apart than we already are. I keep the prayer of the Pharisee much in mind: While the desire for control over other people is not my primary fault, I have plenty of others (Google keeps a copious but incomplete list). 

Natural Liberty, as espoused by Adam Smith, posits that if you do as you please and I do the same, so long as we do not infringe upon each other, all will be well (I paraphrase).

The insidiousness of control-addicts is to torture and pervert the logic of this principle such that there is no action of yours that does not infringe upon them, while excusing any actions of theirs that pester you. 

For example, if you use a plastic straw, you are destroying the planet for their children; if you do not wear a mask, you are killing grandma and are impolite besides. 

In reverse, please allow a personal anecdote. We had neighbors who installed a hellish, halogen spotlight on the side of their home, shining into every window of ours. Worse, it was on an erratic sensor, so its beam, which could pierce the noon sun, would strike us without warning at all hours. For readers of a certain vintage, think Kramer and the Kenny Rogers sign. 

After weeks of polite requests that they remedy the situation, the wife of the couple shrieked at us that they had CHILDREN and had to keep them safe.

There was zero logic to the claim that they had to illuminate the interior of our home to protect their teenagers on a 10-foot space of driveway in a neighborhood that makes Mayberry look like Mogadishu.

But it shows how far people will extend their own liberty at your expense, while curtailing yours (and, not for nothing, that most would rather die roaring than apologize for a simple mistake). 

In the midst of all this, two things give me hope.

First, I am nowhere near the only person sounding this alarm. Many who are larger, louder, and more articulate than I are saying much the same.

I differ, in some cases, with their prescriptions; for example, I do not see how the cause of liberty is advanced by getting in an argument with the frightened, minimum-wage worker whose job it is to ensure I have a mask before entering a store.

But I am keeping a list of companies and politicians complicit in this rhubarb. If and when this is over, they will never receive my business or support again.

Second and perhaps most important, the momentum is entirely on our side, at least in terms of recruitment. While more and more people come to see restrictions as capricious and unnecessary, no freedom-minded person marches off to join the Karenwaffe.

We may yet be in the minority, but traffic is one-way.

As I look around and to the future, I do have fear, but I consider it an opportunity to show courage. On the advice of a splendid Welshman (as if there were any other kind), I will not go gentle into that good night.

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