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Voices / Letters from readers

Calm down, tame your fear, and think clearly about COVID-19

RE: “The one green state” [Viewpoint, Aug. 5]:

I am grateful for MacLean Gander’s piece, since it encapsulates the raw hysteria gripping the U.S., engulfing even our once reasonable, thoughtful oasis of Vermont.

As a member of the board of directors of Vermont Independent Media, surely Mr. Gander is aware of the power of word choice. So when he writes, “The science is clear: the virus is incredibly skillful at spreading itself,” that there is “a wildfire of Rona sweeping the nation,” and that Vermont is “an island under siege,” he knows he is using rhetorical flourishes to drive home the one overriding point of his essay: fear.

I would like to point out a few hopeful facts in the hope that we may return to some semblance of reason, the pillar of the Enlightenment, which was the philosophical foundation of the genesis of this republic.

First: The science is indeed clear: the coronavirus is a virus. Therefore, it is not human. It is not capable of reason or craft. Thus, calling it “skillful” is anthropomorphizing it into human form, as if it is consciously “out to get us.”

Mr. Gander’s essay is not unique in this regard. I have also seen and heard the virus described as “crafty,” “vicious,” “a monster” (as quoted in the piece), and as having “an ugly head,” to enumerate just a few of the legion of such inappropriate descriptions.

Second: The virus is not a “wildfire.” It, again, is a virus. It travels through the human community, replicates, and moves on to the next host. It does not turn the environment into a charred, barren landscape.

We have other, real, sources of wildfires to be concerned about. Please do not cheapen them.

Third: The virus is not a military organization. It does not plan and sustain “sieges.”

Finally, to contradict the theme of the piece — that “anytime we may think there might be some element of hope... new data comes [sic] along to prove that hope wrong.”

If one examines the emerging data, one can easily verify that COVID-19 is not a death sentence for the vast majority of the populace, especially school-aged children. Dr. Reinhard Berner, of the University Hospital in Dresden, told a press conference, “Children may even act as a brake on infection,” [Reuters, July 13].

It is a certainty that people in fear do not think clearly. I am asking The Commons and its readership to please calm down. Tame your fear. Think clearly. Ask who is structuring the narrative and why. Maintain a healthy skepticism of what you are reading and hearing. Do your research, get informed rather than inflamed, and come to your own conclusions.

Tyler Austin
Westminster

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Originally published in The Commons issue #574 (Wednesday, August 12, 2020). This story appeared on page B3.

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