Pain is the Prompt

Pain is the Prompt

It’s been a long time, I know.

It pains me that I haven’t written, that I haven’t been able to muster the energy, focus or heart to put pen to paper and express anything, but I do so now precisely because of the pain. As we all know, life is unpredictable and can be painful, sometime dishing up as much as we can handle. I suffered a spate of heartbreaking losses in the past year and a half and while those were very painful, the feeling prompting me to write now is the pain of witnessing and living through the moral decay and utter breakdown of our society.

I still remember the excitement I felt as a kid in 1976 celebrating our nation’s bicentennial. We played games in the neighborhood, lit fireworks in the street after dark, and scarfed ice cream flavors like Valley Forge Fudge at the iconic Baskin Robbins store. We felt pride at living in a free nation that had lasted for two hundred years. It was joyous and exhilarating. We lived in mostly happy communities, hopeful about the future. I’m not claiming it was some halcyon age, just that we weren’t sharply divided as we are today.

I know humans have a great tendency to reflect on years past through rose colored lenses, but that fact notwithstanding, there exists zero doubt that the tenor of our society has changed in the past couple of decades. Nowadays people behave in ways hitherto unthinkable so, maybe it’s time we attempt to redirect our society back to a more decent sociocultural space.

My father died quite unexpectedly on January 3, 2023 and not in the c-shot sort of way unexpected. I think he was heartbroken because he had had a successful heart procedure in December and wasn’t recovering the way he’d expected. He was almost 85 but looking forward to getting back to lifting weights, working out, and hiking, some of his beloved activities. I know that sounds weird for an 85-year-old but it’s not uncommon where we live or in our family – he was a fit man and doing all of that into his early 80s. So, when I got the call to go to the hospital, I thought I was going to see him and comfort him after a heart attack, but he was already gone. It was quite a jarring beginning to the year. 

But it didn’t end there. Over the coming months, several other beloved long-term friends passed on as well. It felt like a new blow every month or two and given what we’d all been through in the last few years it took time to process and digest so I focused my energy on leading Health Freedom Defense Fund, our lawsuits, and our clients. 

And that brings me to the pain of it all.

I live in a small community in Idaho, and have for most of my life. It’s always been a fairly tightknit community. If someone suffers a catastrophic accident like dying in an avalanche or car accident or develops cancer, the community rallies around that individual or the family to support them by raising funds, helping out, and much more. This had always been the case – until the Covid crisis.

Before Covid, our public servants generally tried to do the right thing by others, but when Covid mania began, the moral compass of almost all of them seemed drowned beneath the deluge of fear being poured upon us daily and they instead enacted a perfect example of obedience to authority in real time.

Despite being informed by countless members of our community that masks do nothing, that Covid dangers are being grossly exaggerated, that social distancing and all this other nonsense was just that – nonsense, they diligently (blindly?) genuflected to the utterances of Anthony Fauci and CDC no matter how illogical, contradictory, or lacking in scientific basis. Most troubling of all, some of these so-called public servants are apparently still ignorant of their mistakes and gullibility as they are still expressing a desire to possess and wield emergency powers for the next “crisis” despite all their failings and all the damage they caused. I wonder what leads them to believe they’ll do a better job next time when they were so lacking in critical thinking this last time.

The whole Covid experience has been hard enough to swallow, but what’s happened in the last month is what’s brought real pain to me. The Idaho primaries took place on May 21 and some of the races were hotly contested on both the Republican and Democrat side of things. While I have no problem with people arguing the issues or debating differences of opinion, I do have a problem with people spreading lies, people anonymously writing mendacious smear pieces and then distributing them, and politicians saying anything they believe an audience wants to hear only to say the exact opposite to another audience a week later, in order to gain votes. All these things happened here in my little community in the last couple of weeks.

I know this kind of stuff happens in bigger cities, bigger states, and on a national level much more than I’d likely care to know or understand, but when it happens in a small community, that has always been a refuge from the world out there, it hurts much more. Learning that someone I had once believed to be an upright member of our community allegedly wrote the anonymous smear piece riddled with malevolent lie after lie, and disseminated it in order to get a person elected, just boggles my mind. Knowing that another person distributed information that was seemingly mistakenly misinterpreted yet feels no compunction to correct the record – which on its own suggests the initial distribution was deliberate – is something I can’t comprehend.

What kind of people behave in such deceitful, immoral, unethical ways? Had I inadvertently disseminated incorrect information about someone, I would not be able to sleep unless I corrected the record with all of those to whom I’d first sent the information. But it seems that in this brave new world we inhabit, anything goes – at least for some. It’s open warfare, absent the shots. I guess it’s just as the saying goes – all is fair in war – but for me, this rationale is simply unconscionable.

If there is a silver lining within this situation, it’s that witnessing this kind of moral decay close up has galvanized me to not only express my utter heartbreak at this sorry state of affairs but also to state why I will never be silent about this kind of behavior and why I hope every person I know will join me in publicly condemning it. If we don’t call out, expose, and condemn those who lie, smear, and deceive, the behavior will not only persist, it will flourish. We don’t stop devious acts by turning a blind eye to them and the moral relativism that plagues our society will only expedite our decline. While we all have our own perspectives, some truths are simply not relative – cheating and deceiving are wrong no matter how we justify them. And a community that condones immoral behavior will ultimately collapse.

At the end of the day, all we really have is who we are in our relationships, in our actions, and in our hearts. For me, the guiding principles in life are doing the right thing to the best of my ability in all situations and doing my best at whatever I may undertake. As a human, I sometimes miss the mark, and that’s just part of life, but these failures are an opportunity to hone ourselves into the best people we can be. The real challenge is how we react when we do err so, for me the next guiding principle instructs me to own my shortcomings, apologize for them, and make amends whenever possible.

I think the only way for us to persist and thrive in this contentious and unethical world, is to embrace a moral life. We must endeavor each and every day to act from a place of good, to be guided by morals and ethics, and to answer to a higher purpose. This does not mean avoiding conflict or rolling over in order to be polite, rather it demands that we muster the courage to confront others when we witness them behaving in unethical and immoral ways. It means making our voices heard, even if we might get uninvited from parties or excluded from certain social circles. It means standing up and being accountable for what we say and do and how we live our lives.

We can’t remain silent about all the wrongs we see in the world – and I don’t mean disagreements about policy or politics, I mean actions that are clearly wrong like theft and other crimes, lying and deceit, corruption, and general dishonesty. While we may not have a voice on the larger national or global scale, we do have influence in our local communities and towns – where it matters most. Of course, this is uncomfortable if not downright frightening for us because our communities are where we are known and where our words and actions have the most potential to impact our daily lives.

Trust me, I know this firsthand as I have lost many friendships since speaking out about the undeniable dangers of vaccines and the Covid debacle. But taking these stands and living in integrity with what I KNOW to be true has given me an inner strength I never realized I had while eviscerating any fear regarding what people think of me because when we come from a place of integrity while demanding honesty and decency, it’s empowering for us and disarming for others at the same time.

Let’s take some inspiration from the American Revolution when a minority stood for what is right, just, and fair – even though that stance risked severing friendships and relationships. Those brave souls gifted us a better system than ever before but that system demands moral fiber which means not only the willingness to act morally in our own lives, but to hold others accountable as well. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant. So, expose the malefactors. Start a local email list and share the truth, expose mendacity, expose corruption. Talk about the stories and scandals the local news media does not cover.

Why should we do this? It’s quite simple, because the cost of not handling our affairs in this manner means the destruction of the social fabric of our society, the end of our communities, and the end of our country. It means the end of essentially everything that we hold dear. It means that those who live by Machiavellian means will win the day. And that’s not something I want for myself, my family or future generations. Righting this ship takes a commitment by us all to do the right thing, to expect the same of others, and to hold one another accountable when we fail. Anything short of this will allow the sickening rot infecting our country to thrive and as a result any dream of a decent society will surely perish.

To be fair, all this talk of taking a stand is not only about self-sacrifice, there are selfish reasons to embrace this path as well, because living a moral life simply feels good. Being honest, fair, and upright gives a sense of well-being, calmness, joy, inspiration, hope, and meaning to our lives. Apologizing for our mistakes and failures lightens our hearts and teaches others the path of humility and responsibility for our actions. This way makes one’s heart swell and spirit sing. It makes one feel that this battle between good and evil, truth and deception, honor and immorality, decency and destruction will end in triumph for those of us who want what’s good.

What would happen if we all vowed to adopt an honor code to guide every moment in our lives? What if we vowed to speak the truth, to act ethically, and to hold others accountable when they violate the codes of society? What if we also vowed to pursue this ethos in a decent, respectful manner, seeking to expose dishonesty not to shame and humiliate the offenders, but to strengthen the social fabric of our communities? Wouldn’t we make clear that this conduct will be given no quarter in our communities?

We could right this ship. We could, indeed, one person at a time.

Authoritarianism on the Rise

There has been a disturbing surge in arrests of freedom fighters and activists in recent weeks portending yet more assaults on our values, our freedoms, and our very way of life.

These events have shaken me deeply as I’m sure they will any reader who values liberty, justice, free speech, and the rule of law, as they reflect a decay in our society and our institutions.

Perhaps the better term is rot. Our systems are rotten.

That is the only description suitable to describe the heinous censorship, demonization, and silencing of those who challenge government narratives that has occurred over the past two years and which has now morphed into arresting peaceful, law-abiding citizens.

The message is clear: contradict the establishment norms and you represent a threat to the power and authority of politicians, even the system itself because those speaking out seek to expose the truth and potential wrongdoing of those holding the reins of power.

This development is not unique to any one western nation and reflects an alarming rise in authoritarianism. If there is a silver lining, perhaps it is that by arresting peaceful activists and attorneys, authorities reveal their true colors, which should serve to awaken more to the reality many of us already see closing in on us.

This escalation of pressure and arrests has taken place over the past few weeks against citizens seeking nothing more than truth, liberty, and justice for all.

Willem Engel, a Dutch activist and founder of Viruswaarheid (Virus Truth), was arrested on the charge of sedition and incitement. According to a close contact of Engel’s, this is, “A remarkable charge that goes against the core message of love, patience, connection, respect and non-violence tirelessly propagated by Willem over the past two years. ‘We are the decent people’ has been his constant motto.” 

Engel is being detained for 14 days and is to appear in court in Rotterdam on Tuesday, March 29th, 2022.

Engel’s group Viruswaarheid had planned two demonstrations in June but both were denied permission. Worse still, an appeal to that decision was denied as well.  An attorney close to Engel concludes that justice no longer exists in the Netherlands.

If government can deny the right to demonstrate, a sacred and protected right in western nations, one must seriously wonder where we are headed as supposed free societies.

In another example of government overreach, French attorney Virginie Araujo-Recchio’s home and office were raided culminating in her arrest in front of her children. She was taken into custody for alleged complicity in attempted acts of terrorism but released without charge three days later.

Araujo-Recchio, has been a vocal critic of France’s COVID measures and the violation of human rights and abuse of power those measures reflect. She has filed lawsuits challenging the legality of COVID measures and represents those seeking the freedom to live their lives according to their conscience and to direct the upbringing of their children.

She has been accused of nothing leaving us to conclude this exercise sought merely to intimidate, frighten, and harm. Chilling as the arrest was, such transparent attempts to silence opponents of COVID measures will be exposed for the unlawful, harassment, and abuse of authority that they are. 

In Germany, several actions signal an increase in pressure on those who question government. A German administrative court has green-lit government spying on a populist opposition party and the German government intends to seize the guns of over 1500 people whom they suspect of extremism. In another action, over 100 activists have been raided for the thoughtcrime of insulting German politicians online. Nicolai Binner, a German comedian, was criminally charged for making a Nazi comparison to the events of today.

Any thinking American must ponder whether these arrests and the escalation of the fight against truth seekers is a harbinger of what is to come in the US.

This question is particularly pertinent in light of the Department of Homeland Services’ recent National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin deeming “The proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions” as a domestic terrorism threat. DHS wrote, “For example, there is widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19.”

While Nineteen Eighty-Four’s thoughtcrime and Minority Report’s precrime may seem like warnings from a dystopian future, these incidents and directives indicate they have arrived in the present all across the west.

These actions against peaceful, law-abiding citizens and protestors by those in authority, backed by the genuine threat of force aren’t just frightening, they suggest an end to what westerners have known as the “free world.”

If you think I’m being sensational, consider what befell the truckers protesting, dancing, praying, and feeding the homeless in the streets of Ottawa – they were trampled with horses, had their truck windows smashed, their bank accounts frozen, their donations stolen – and some were arrested. All these measures contravene the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The protestors and the world watched aghast as Canadian Prime Minister invoked the Emergencies Act, a war-powers style act, against his own citizens for the “crime” of protesting. As if such use of force to deal with peaceable people lawfully protesting their government was not frightening enough on its own, that a western leader would resort to such methods should serve as a wake-up call to us all that the push for more authority and power by government is neither inconsequential nor, likely, temporary.

Concerning as these times are, I believe that while we may lose in the short run, those of us who believe in freedom will win in the long run – there are simply too many of us and too few of them.

I hopefully wait for more who believe in the ideals of individualism, responsibility, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and bodily autonomy to join our ranks and demand that our natural rights be honored.

We are spiraling down into the depths of authoritarianism. We need all hands on deck. Will you stand with us?

A Lesson in Civics

Americans have failed our nation. We’ve failed to honor the sacrifices, beliefs, and dreams of our founding fathers. We have failed in our duty to educate ourselves, understand the principles upon which our nation was built, engage in civic responsibility, and hold politicians at the local, state, and national levels accountable.

We’ve been too busy watching sports and reality TV, buying toys, and “keeping up with the Joneses” to carry out our duty to those who forged a truly revolutionary path to birth this great nation.

Thankfully, that is changing all across America as parents, workers, and students demand their voices be heard and that their rights be respected. As more Americans hold public servants accountable, the political climate in America has entered a new season.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an education on this very issue. Monday morning, February 7, 2022, I submitted a public comment to the Ketchum City Council and Mayor of Ketchum, Idaho as well as to neighboring city councils and mayors.

I called out those who make rules for our community yet do not abide by those rules themselves. I highlighted that public servants made rules for our communities but failed in their responsibility to discuss and defend those policy choices in a public forum.

According to comments made by several Ketchum city council members during the meeting, they were taken aback by the tone of many public comments they received from exasperated constituents opposed to the longstanding mask mandate.

As Americans have generally been disengaged from the political process, such sudden and exercised engagement may have been a surprise.

One of the main refrains uttered by local politicians in communications with their constituents has been that they ‘trust the experts.’ County Blaine County Commissioner Chair Dick Fosbury wrote in an email (pg. 69) to Ketchum City Council member Amanda Breen, ”It is my professional opinion that you do not need to debate Ms. Manookian. Let her debate our State Epidemiologist, Dr. Christine Hahn.”  He continued, “This is not a debate, listen to the licensed professionals.”

For the record, I’d gladly debate Dr. Hahn or have one of the doctors and scientists with whom I’m in contact do so. I eagerly await an invitation from Chair Fosbury to do so in our valley and will reach out to him to make arrangements for such an event.

But his comments illustrate the primary purpose for which I write today: the need to remind politicians that voters did not elect faceless, nameless experts to represent them and experts are not accountable to the voters. 

The politicians elected to represent citizens are accountable to the people and we the people will hold them accountable.

Allowing anonymous experts to dictate policy unchallenged while hiding behind the defense that ‘I was just heeding the advice of the experts’ without publicly defending the science and rationale for one’s reasoning and policy choices is a clear abdication of the responsibilities of public office and a violation of our founding fathers’ intentions. 

Let’s not forget that “experts” make mistakes all the time and when the voices of dissenting experts are being censored and denigrated by government, as has happened during this crisis, it should alarm us all. 

Have we forgotten that experts brought us birth defects from drugs like Thalidomide and DES, that experts x-rayed pregnant women’s pelvises, approved Vioxx and opioids, and allowed mercury in eye drops, drugs, and children’s vaccines?

Are public servants unaware that the scientists who linked stomach ulcers to a pathogen were ostracized, defunded, and derided as lunatics only to be awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine twenty years later in 2005? 

Have elected officials not heard of regulatory capture and that FDA, CDC, and NIH are prime but unfortunate examples of this pernicious development? 

User fees paid directly to FDA by the pharmaceutical industry (the very industry it’s supposed to regulate), account for about 45% of FDA’s total budget and a whopping 65% of FDA’s drug approvers’ salaries. FDA has even gone so far as to ask a court to BLOCK release of Pfizer’s clinical trial data relating to its COVID injection for 75 years.

CDC takes millions from the pharmaceutical industry, giant private foundations, and other interested parties through its public-private partnership. It is the largest purchaser of vaccines in the US and even owns dozens of patents on vaccines while simultaneously being charged with ensuring the safety of vaccines.

Scientists at NIH own half the patent on the Moderna shot they themselves developed and earn up to $150,000 per year on these patents

NIH has received an estimated $2 billion royalties since 1991 from licensing fees on vaccines they developed.  These are conflicts of interest no wise person dismisses. Does this information concern you?

Educated Americans do not want or need fallible, human, often conflicted “experts” directing policy decisions behind closed doors unchallenged by those with differing opinions.

We want the light of day shining on all decisions made by public servants and we expect them to be capable of defending the reasoning and science underlying their policy choices.

If public servants are incapable of doing so, they have no business mandating policy.

Thankfully Americans are saying “no more.” We do not want just the preferred opinion of selected “experts,” who often have a vested interest in a particular outcome, dictating our policies. 

We do not want politicians that hide behind computer screens on zoom meetings and fail to appear in public before their constituents.

We do not want a process that denies constituents the ability to explain their perspective and hold those politicians accountable face-to-face

While many politicians talk about the importance of their mission to protect public health, I think they misconstrue that mission and imperative.

Public servants are supposed to ensure that corporations don’t dump toxins into our rivers, that there is no waste on the streets, and that we have a clean and safe environment in which to live, socialize, conduct business, attend school, etc.

Nowhere in our founding documents, indeed nowhere in law, does it state that public health power extends to forcing an individual to cover their face (and airways) in what can only be described as a dehumanizing and demeaning exercise in subservience, not to mention an unhealthy one.

Nowhere does any statute assert that experimental drugs should be forced or coerced into or onto anyone’s body. 

It may surprise you to know that CDC does not rely on a single controlled trial to prove the efficacy of masks, rather CDC ignores the dozens of controlled trials that show masks are ineffective. 

Anyone who has delved into the matter (see mask section) will know that ever since the Spanish flu, masks were universally viewed as ineffective at stopping the spread of airborne illnesses until so-called experts manufactured new “science” to support the narrative just a few months into the COVID crisis.

Any thinking person must question whether this “science” that suddenly contradicted a century of research, served as a convenient tool to frighten, control, and divide the public resulting in the loss of our rights and the destruction of all our societal and constitutionally protected and understood norms.

Many politicians display an utter disrespect and disregard for our founding fathers and founding principles and it is high time that they wake up and remember that our government is of, by, and for the people – and that they serve us. 

Furthermore, when attempting to impose restrictions on our freedom of movement and our liberty in any way, shape, or form, in violation of our rights, they should expect to be held accountable in the strongest peaceful manner possible.

That they are surprised when Americans peacefully protest reflects our decades-long failure to engage in the political process.

I remind these public servants that speech is not violence, and that anger is the result of people being dismissed, derided, and slurred as fringe conspiracy, anti-vaxxers, anti-Semites, racists, and more. When public servants dismiss and smear their own communities, they are going to feel the displeasure of the people. 

Hurling the “antisemitism” label at those with whom you disagree is despicable and inappropriate.  Unfortunately, this trend is a hallmark of the “cancel culture” plaguing our country and to which so many, sadly, to our detriment and potential national destruction, seem to subscribe. 

Big tech and social media spawned public sharing of hitherto private information to faceless followers and friends, many of whom post nasty comments hidden safely behind their screens.

Big Tech siloed users into echo chambers where they remained oblivious to other perspectives.

Big Tech quashed challenges to the mainstream opinion, labeling only those from Big Tech-sanctioned sources such as CDC and NIH as legitimate.

Americans removed from face-to-face contact combined with limited information and perspective begot what we now know as cancel culture of anyone with different opinions. 

This development not only shut down public discourse, it also allowed those who promulgated unlawful and wrongheaded policies to cocoon themselves in the misguided notion that their “expert-driven” opinions are absolute and that their decisions are unassailable because Big Tech censored opposing viewpoints, used fake fact-checkers to label them false, and created the impression there was no legitimate debate through their cancel culture tactics.

This is a loathsome, poisonous trend infecting our populace. Unfortunately, it is pushed by national leaders and now, it would seem, even local ones.

Ketchum city councilwoman Amanda Breen charged on the public record during a Ketchum City Council meeting that the work of Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc. and our lawsuits are anti-Semitic.

Let’s be clear, anti-Semitism means being hateful against those of Jewish origin because of their religion and race, it means discriminating against them because of their religion and race, it means isolating them, marginalizing them, and dehumanizing them because of their religion and race. 

It does not mean referring to the Nuremberg Code as a seminal event in human history which instilled in the global consciousness and codified in international law the moral and ethical principle of informed consent, meaning that we do not force medical interventions, whether experimental or not, on human beings. 

Prior voluntary informed consent of all medical interventions is requisite for the practice of ethical medicine.

These legal norms have been reinforced in national laws and in international treaties, declarations, and agreements ranging from the Nuremberg Code in 1947 to the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964 and the UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights in 2005.

That Amanda Breen deliberately conflated a reference to the Nuremberg Code in our lawsuits with anti-Semitism is unconscionable. That she doubled down when challenged is even worse.

But perhaps worst of all, Breen’s snipe is aimed at canceling the point of the lawsuit, namely, that the Nuremberg Code which seeks to protect human rights must be honored. 

Of course, she is free to say whatever she chooses to say, and I support her right to freedom of speech, but for a public servant to call a lawful, ethical person, and the nonprofit I run, anti-Semitic is not only inaccurate, it is deeply disappointing as it seeks to discredit and cancel my views and opinions through a highly charged smear rather than engage in debate.

I publicly challenged Breen to identify an instance where I have been racist, where I have been bigoted, where I have discriminated against anyone on the basis of their gender race, religion, or any immutable trait. She has not responded but I know she will not be able to as I have fought against bigotry in all its guises my entire adult life. 

That Breen has not been condemned by the local newspaper, by her community, or by other public servants speaks to the failure of Americans to understand our history, our founding principles, and the responsibilities attendant with public service.

History teaches that this kind of divisive rhetoric won’t end well. To those of you who dishonestly and dishonorably call those with differing opinions anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and other slurs, there will be a day of reckoning.

You are pushing our country towards a breaking point, you are separating us, and it will only hurt us all.

At first, I was offended that someone I’ve known for many years would make such a statement but then I saw the gift of a teaching opportunity for me, my friends, and my community. 

Instead of shrinking away from such defamatory interactions, I view it as an opportunity to expose the lack of appreciation for our founding principles and our history and to hold public servants accountable for their votes and actions.

I hope my stand empowers others to do the same as that is the only answer to the strife we face. 

Americans must summon the courage to stand for our rights as sovereign human beings. Public servants must embrace an informed populace and actively engage their opinions as doing so will only strengthen our communities and our nation.

By coming together to embrace our shared history we can forge a new path, a better path for all.

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