Letter: An enemy of the people
To the editor:
The playwright Henrik Ibsen authored a drama in1882 under the title "An Enemy of the People" ("En Folkefiende" in the original Norwegian). An earlier play by the same dramatist, "Ghosts," was performed during the 2019 season of the Williamstown Theater Fetival.
A year ago, we residents of Berkshire County could hardly have envisioned the extent of a pandemic that so disrupts our daily life today. Nor could theater critics have ventured the opinion that "An Enemy of the People" would have made a choice far more prescient to the future we now face in the coming months.
The play's main character is Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the medical officer in charge of public health in a small Norwegian town that draws its economic livelihood from a spa in which the town's mayor has a financial stake. The doctor has laboratory tests to prove that the spa's waters suffer from bacterial contamination that requires intervention. Such a stark confrontation between science and politics staged more than a century ago, could just as easily feature the real-life
Dr. Anthony Fauci, our country's leading epidemiologist, and the president of the United States as protagonists. The drama ends badly for Dr. Stockmann, whose home is vandalized when the townspeople reject his pleas for a pause in the economic status quo.
In recent testimony before a Senate committee, Dr. Fauci expressed caution that the reopening of public schools next September might be a "bridge too far" based on what medical science is learning about aspects of the COVID-19 infection in children. For this, he faced immediate blow-back from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who opined that "We can listen to your advice but there are people on the other side saying ... we can safely open the economy." You are not the "end-all," asserted Sen. Paul.
If the consequences in this wider debate were not so high, the Senate drama might be considered a comedy. Apparently, Ibsen was not so certain whether his play was a comedy or a tragedy. In a phrase often used by Mr. Trump: "We will see" whether or not we are living in a real-life comedy or a tragedy in which preventable deaths are on the line.
Why does this standoff over the reopening of our national economy need to presented as the simplistic "on and off" switch of a light bulb? Are our choices either all the way on or all the way off? The voice of scientific reason suggests that such an absurdity makes no sense. I'm with Dr. Fauci.
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