From here, in the shadow of the Cascades and just two hours downwind of the city of Portland, one can almost see the smoke rising over the mountains at times. Being removed from the hotbeds of lockdowns or outbreaks or protest actions, one would be forgiven for assuming these rural areas haven’t felt the effects. But even here on the border between Oregon and Washington, the fear easily found its way, far more infectious and pervasive than the virus itself.
This place is called the Columbia Gorge and we saw unfold the same familiar story as nearly everywhere on Earth. Closed were schools, parks, bank lobbies, restaurants, bars, libraries, theaters, gyms, salons, offices, churches, the outdoors. Public services reduced or unavailable, medical services all but gone, replaced with useless video calls. Only “essential” trips permitted, and only to the “essential” stores left open, many with limited capacity and/or mandatory masks and repeated propaganda over the PA system.
Fear pervaded the smallest businesses, with masked employees, closures, phone-only ordering, and wallpapering of distancing markers and signs, even deep in Trump country. Public Service Announcements blare on all media, all day, every day. Local governments made emergency declarations that gave themselves extraordinary powers including seizing property, detaining people at will, or closing anything they wanted.
Even now, going out I nearly feel a fugitive, as if a weekly trip to buy food, supplies, and medicines is committing a terrible wrong against society. A wet, live layer of fear and suspicion drips from everything and everyone. Those of us not masked or distanced are given dirty looks, parents clutch their masked children away from us as we pass, and we get rude or even silent customer service in stores. Unkind words, insults and epithets are uttered publicly. Shame is in abundance. Rational discussion has become scarce. It rapidly descends into hostility and arguing. Comments are flagged and blocked, social accounts get banned. Messages to local officials are ignored or disparaged.
Being disabled and living in poverty, I have only an old PC and a cellular data connection for my window on the world. I almost never visit YouTube and make only limited use of mainstream media or social media, and do not watch TV.
Yet I find myself vastly more informed on the the virus and lockdowns than most of the local community. With each new daily bit of data coming out my initial sense of fear and anxiety went away but was replaced with frustration. If a layperson like me with only a phone can be well-informed, then how can the people running the show be so poorly informed?
Just this week, despite having comparatively few cases, hospitalizations or deaths here, Oregon’s mask-obsessed Governor, Kate Brown, issued a new mandate that several adjoining counties, including one here in the Gorge, will have mandatory mask wearing for indoor public spaces. In Washington County, Chair Kathryn Harrington said “science” is guiding the governor in the order to wear masks. Yet we do not see any science cited in reporting on her media blitz announcing this new mask edict, from sources like Oregon Public Broadcasting, whose coverage supports and repeats whatever the government says and asks as few serious questions as possible. Most other state or regional news coverage has been similarly shameful.
The pervasive, ongoing willful ignorance and voracious consumption of such propaganda is frustrating to witness. Everywhere, folks like us find it difficult to state our position to people because they insist we’re operating on uninformed opinion. Far from it! We come from from a place of verifiable science and facts, and form opinions based on that. Their position is similar to shutting their eyes and claiming that the sky is now orange. How much propaganda would it take to convince the world to call the sky orange? Silly idea, yes, but look at where we are with the virus. Death with no virus test = virus on death certificate. Sky orange.
Seeing the UK’s virus response, it is deeply saddening to see identical or worse experiences compared to some places in the U.S., while also somewhat comforting in that we are not alone in our fight against this false lockdown narrative or in the suffering it’s causing. We can all relate to one another’s experiences. We each feel the pain of whatever new baseless edict is handed down from on high.
Our communities belong to us, and regardless of the country or city we all want basically the same things, even if it’s just to finally see another human being’s smile or sit in the pub with as many friends as we please. To not worry about being traced or tracked or fined for visiting an empty beach. To have our civic leaders, elected officials, or science and medical experts always be honest about what they don’t know, or what solutions they simply don’t have.
It seems a daunting task to overcome the forces perpetuating the false virus narrative, but our voices are growing. With the inception of blogs like this one and newly-formed groups working toward bringing the truth to bear, a gradual awakening is afoot. You can help by coming here and sharing its content, and also by doing your own reporting, sending your own letters to the government or healthcare leaders. Direct action by the largest possible number of people armed with facts will turn the tide.
Even if, like me, all you have is a phone, it’s enough to take action. Gather and disseminate facts, ask the hard questions, demand answers, and do what you can to help our communities and countries return to reality, so we can all live fearless, healthy, happy, and free.