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Like a tyrant’s final days when his guards flee the palace ahead of the subjects’ descent on the redoubt, the COVID regime is in disarray.
Think President Snow at the end of The Hunger Games. Think the Mad King in Game of Thrones.
I travel a lot for work and in doing so have seen doctors, nurses, and flight attendants all happily go without their masks since the end of the federal mask mandate in April. These COVID frontliners were once the agents of pro-mandate lawmakers who enforced compliance most stringently on regular Americans.
Their recently exposed smiles are evidence that the country has moved on. People can take all the precautions they want but COVID-19 being endemic means living with outbreaks during normal life.
But those authorities on the left who found renewed purpose and power during the pandemic are now lost and grasping for relevance. The proof is all around us.
For example, I exited the Washington, D.C. metro recently and gazed at a large sign featuring a COVID-compliant citizen and oversized text reading “Masks Still Welcome.”
The metro sign is striking because it elicits an ominous force I had only sensed in fiction.
In The Great Gatsby, the billboard for oculist – eye doctor – Dr. TJ Eckleburg is an ominous motif in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. The billboard’s oversized eyeballs peer down on the main characters driving through a slum area between East Egg and Manhattan as if serving judgment on the vapid waste of 1920s America.
Like Dr. Eckleburg’s billboard, “Masks Still Welcome” commands attention because its purpose is out of place and time. People know that they can still wear masks. Even after the DC metro lifted its mandate, no one has needed a reminder or permission to wear a mask. They were never illegal.
In fact, the COVID regime previously used masks as a Trojan Horse to lure Americans into indefinite compliance with false promises of normality. In June 2021, the DC metro displayed a series of large print advertisements in its stations that read “Wear a Mask and Get Your Life Back.”
The same regime that once tried to gaslight us into thinking mask-wearing was normal now wants us to forget that we were ever free. The regime is now fighting for relevance with illogic as it peddles the false presumption that Americans need experts to give them permission to mask.
The COVID regime’s problem is that the pandemic’s scale gave it too much power too fast. Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s brazen downfall is evidence of that.
“Chaos is a ladder,” the ambitious and duplicitous Littlefinger said in Game of Thrones.
Seizing unchecked power amid national chaos, the COVID regime ultimately grew decadent and content to oversee an indefinite emergency. The regime’s excess marked its downfall.
Excessive ornamentation is the hallmark of decadence. Extravagance without usefulness turns the practical into the decadent.
In December 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) tweeted a picture of herself in a Christmas-themed mask with red-and-white decorations and a snow globe attached. The mask’s impracticality and intricate design exposed Brown’s assumption that the pandemic would last long enough to make the prop’s effort worthwhile – even potentially trendsetting.
In June 2021, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert presented a song called the “Vax-Scene” to encourage people to get the shots. The song featured chiseled men dressed as needles dancing. If the number had an ounce of appeal or self-awareness, it would have been camp.
But ordinary Americans have moved on from daily death tolls and paranoia. The return to normal has depleted the political and social capital that the pandemic once gifted the regime.
In some ways, the COVID regime is similar to other ruling classes that fell into depravity, authoritarianism, and general decline because the wealth it achieved through heroic actions made it decadent and licentious.
George R.R. Martin uses these real historical cycles found in Western civilizations in his fiction.
House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones prequel that premiered on Aug. 21 on HBO, bills itself as a story about Westeros at the height of Targaryen decadence and power before the dynasty’s destruction. The splendor and ornamental dress in the former series makes their absence only starker in the latter.
Conservatives such as the Young Heretics podcast host Spencer Klavan invoke Plato’s Republic to argue that Western regimes cycle through different types of government because forces including deprivation condition how societies move through history.
Klavan, who just brought up Plato’s regime types in his podcast last week, has previously contended that bad times create good men, which leads to good times that create bad men. In doing so, he makes the cycles truly circular; society’s achievements create the conditions for its downfall in which misery invites heroes to commit heroic actions.
Good and bad men do not explain everything about political history; civilizations adopt new governmental regimes due a variety of reasons and arbitrary sequences of events.
However, virtue, excess, manipulation, greed, and heroism transcend civilizations, political systems, and time periods. William Shakespeare wrote about these traits and his plays still have deep relevance today because of virtue’s eternal qualities.
In that sense, it does not matter that the COVID regime is not a Greek city state. It is still a collection of elites that mishandled the power they achieved in bad times that called for heroic action.
The regime is in retreat. It is unadorned, no longer replete with songs, decorations, and glitzy briefings.
It is time for them to move and for us to forget them. We are entering the post-pandemic chapter in American history and it’s time for everyone to accept that.
Reporting from Human Events.