law, musings, psychology

I don’t think curfews are the best idea…

Even though I never left the house yesterday, it turned out to be a somewhat action packed day. Bill bought himself a butterscotch yellow Fender Telecaster electric guitar. I was kind of active on social media, even wishing for marijuana at one point. To be truthful, I have only had exposure to cannabis for recreational purposes a few times. My first time getting stoned occurred on my 43rd birthday, when we visited Haarlem, a town close to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I tried it a couple more times before we came back to Germany. I enjoyed the experience, and since COVID-19 is a stressful thing, I think I would enjoy having some pot again right now. But I don’t want it badly enough to go looking for it.

Then I read an article in The New York Times about the curfews that are being imposed in different cities around the world. After reading the article, I determined that I don’t think the curfews are a good idea. I’ll get to why in just a moment. First, as you must have already guessed, I read the comments. I noticed many people commenting probably didn’t bother reading the article. That’s not surprising, since after a few freebies per month, The New York Times puts up a paywall. Most people don’t seem to think that journalists should be paid for their work, so they refuse to pay for a subscription. But they still read the headlines and opine, and sometimes they make uninformed comments.

I responded to one person’s comment. What I wrote wasn’t stupid, derisive, or disrespectful. But then some yahoo comes along and laughs at me, then writes, “C’mon dude. That’s your rationale?” Then he wrote more to someone else, indicating that they should be grateful for curfews and lockdowns, since that will “fix” the COVID-19 situation.

My response to the random yahoo was that, actually, my comment came from content in the article. I asked him if he’d read it. Then I commented that I’m not a “dude”. About twenty minutes later, I found myself inexplicably pissed off… and before anyone decides to tell me I’m too sensitive, I know I should ignore the comments. But I’ve been pent up for weeks now. Germany has had a “lite lockdown” going on since November, and things have been significantly stricter recently. It’s wearing on my nerves. And sometimes, I just feel the need to lash out a bit. I try to keep my lashing out to my blog, which most people only read if they’re actually interested, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Anyway, against my better judgment, I followed up my comment with another asking the random yahoo why he feels it’s necessary to laugh at comments from people he doesn’t even know. Granted, a lot of people went to the “Google School of Public Health” and pop off their theories based on what they’ve read in the news and their own opinions. It’s always funny to me when someone asks a stranger for their credentials in a comment section, asking where they got their MD or PhD in epidemiology. How do they know the person they’re demanding credentials from isn’t actually qualified?

In my case, I legitimately do have a master’s degree in public health. I did not concentrate in epidemiology; my focus was health administration and policy. But I did used to work as a graduate assistant for the Bureau of Epidemiology in South Carolina. In that job, I did learn a thing or two about disease tracking and transmission. I also took courses in epidemiology and health promotion.

I also have a master’s degree in macro social work, so I know something about social problems, community development, and crisis intervention. I earned both degrees in 2002. They were awarded by fully accredited programs at the University of South Carolina. As I was reading the article about the curfews, it occurred to me that if I had actually pursued the path I was on when I met Bill, this COVID-19 situation could be a treasure trove of relevant work for someone like me. The average person doesn’t know this about me, though. I’m just a “dude” who posts something they think is “stupid”.

So why do I think the curfews are kind of a bad idea? For one thing, it’s because the COVID-19 virus spreads more when people are indoors. And the virus doesn’t care if you are indoors with your family. If one of them picks up the virus while out and about and brings it home, chances are good that everyone in the house is going to get sick. For more on that reality, here’s another New York Times article about a family in Los Angeles who share a tiny one bedroom apartment. Grandma got sick first, so she locked herself in the one bedroom, while everybody else slept in the living room. Sure enough, they all got sick too. Most people aren’t going to practice social distancing and masking in their own homes. If we’re lucky, they’re washing their hands, but that’s not a given, either.

Of course, if someone does get COVID-19, it makes sense for people to quarantine at home. But it’s a lot easier to social distance when people have the freedom to go outside, which is a lot bigger than inside spaces are. And since businesses are closed down in a lot of places anyway, particularly in places where there’s a curfew, it’s not like most people are congregating at a dance club or a bar. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to take a walk or a drive if they need to, even if it’s after 6pm? The curfew article cited one case of a woman walking her boyfriend, doggy style, and complete with a leash, with him on all fours, in Sherbrooke, a city in Quebec. Yes, they were stopped by the police and fined about $3100, which is absolutely insane. It would have been okay for her to walk a real dog, but not her boyfriend, who is much less likely to take a dump on the sidewalk. I think $3100 is an excessive fine, too, particularly when so many people can’t work.

Another reason I don’t think curfews are a good idea is because people who are locked down are more likely to be bored, depressed, drunk, or high on something. People don’t like being told what to do, even if it’s for their own good. But forcing people to adhere to a curfew could deprive them of the ability to get out of the house when someone becomes abusive. Even people who get along well might have trouble dealing with being stuck in the same house with someone for weeks on end. Imagine dealing with a violent drunk or someone who has an anger issue. An incident that might have resulted in a tongue lashing under normal circumstances might turn into something more violent or even deadly under the stress of a curfew.

Many people get frustrated and angry when they are confined, and they might turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve the stress, which will likely only make things worse. Yes, the argument could be made that leaving the house for one’s own personal safety could be considered an “essential reason”. But people who are stuck in abusive situations may still find it more difficult to leave under curfew conditions, even if they’re being threatened.

And finally, I think a lot of people already distrust the government. People are highly pissed off at government officials of all stripes. I have been reading about how public health officials, who normally don’t get too much hatred lobbed at them under regular circumstances, are being vilified in their communities. Some of them have been threatened with bodily harm or even death. Curfews make sense in situations where there’s rioting and civil unrest. But most people would prefer to be allowed to live as they see fit. Being forced inside for their “own good” may inflame people who are already highly pissed off and uncooperative. That could lead to hidden abuse behind closed doors, or it could lead to uprisings that land a lot of people in legal trouble or hospitals. And jailhouses and hospitals are not good places to be, particularly during a pandemic.

Personally, I haven’t had a problem staying home. Bill and I get along very well. He doesn’t have a violent bone in his body, despite his long military career. We have a fenced in backyard, two balconies, and plenty of space. If either of us got sick, it would not be a problem for one of us to move into the guest room in the basement. Bill can work at home as much as he needs to, and he makes enough money that we don’t have to worry about expenses… at least for now. But I’d venture to guess that most people aren’t as fortunate as we are, and this situation is causing real hardships for many people.

I imagine how I’d feel being forced into a curfew with my family of origin. My father was an alcoholic with PTSD who lashed out when he was under too much stress. When he was alive and we still lived together, we fought a lot. There were times when he occasionally got violent. I sure wouldn’t want to have to be locked down with him, if only because we didn’t always get along under normal circumstances. He could be a control freak, which didn’t sit well with my admittedly occasionally difficult personality.

There are people out there with even worse problems than alcoholism. I worry for those who are in those situations, particularly if there are children involved. People wonder how long they’re going to be expected to adhere to these oppressive new rules. I know I’ve been wondering. Sometimes, it makes me very depressed to think about it… enough that I wonder if I’d rather just find a way to check out early. I mean, Bill would miss me and so would the dogs, but I don’t have any children or a job, and plenty of people think I’m an asshole and laugh at me, or block me for reasons unknown. I’ve got to die someday, and this lifestyle genuinely sucks. I don’t know how long it will go on and what it will mean for the future. The present is already pretty shitty. Why stick around for what’s coming next?

You see? I have a pretty easy time of it, but even someone like me can easily fall into a pit of hopelessness and despair. I think about people who are dealing with joblessness, homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions, mood disorders, menopausal rage, and any of the other issues that have people on edge right now. And I think limiting a person’s liberties can cause a lot of unintended consequences. I base those concerns on my own experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained actually studying these issues. There hasn’t been a lot of research done about this specific topic because this is the first worldwide pandemic we’ve had in 100 years. Maybe that’s one of the silver linings of the pandemic. This is a perfect opportunity for some enterprising healthcare professional to do some research that will help the next time this happens. Hopefully, I will be long dead by that time.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this snowy Sunday, which didn’t produce enough snow for the outside to be a winter wonderland, but has made the backyard more of a depressing morass of mud and soft dog crap. Tomorrow, Bill will take Arran in to have his tumor excised. Hopefully, it will go well and he’ll be okay.