First off, I’m going to say for the record, that a lot of you aren’t going to like this.
My previous blog post Presenting “What good are constitutional rights if they are violated when Americans get sick? drew a certain amount of attention because (I believe) there’s this notion that governmental intervention in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic (lockdown, quarantine) and U.S. constitutional rights are mutually exclusive. That is, you can’t be a responsible citizen in this crisis and still retain civil rights.
If you complain that there is a potential for certain governments to take advantage of the crisis to not only temporarily relieve citizens of their rights, but to plan to never give those rights back after the crisis has passed, you are considered something like a “pandemic denier” (and there are a few other things that being accused of being a “denier” is like being accused of mass murder).
However, as the graphic and title above suggests, it’s okay to be all three.
That said, I’ve seen a few things on twitter lately that have caused me concern.
The first is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urging his citizens to report friends and neighbors to the government if they see said-neighbors violating the lockdown. The method of reporting is just to photograph the alleged offenders with their cell phones and then text the evidence in.
On the surface, you can make a case for this. If you want to “flatten the curve,” then you need to maintain social distance to prevent the spread of the virus. If some people repeatedly, flagrantly refuse to comply, then the authorities must step in.
As an aside, a Northern Idaho family received a citation from police after repeatedly ignoring warnings to stop having yard sales. Yeah, I get it, but it was the police doing their jobs, not citizens policing their neighbors.
How many stories have we heard of the “bad old days,” from totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the old Soviet Union where the government encouraged citizens to report their neighbors for activities against the state? de Blasio is playing a dangerous game.
Then there’s Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti who recently ordered the Venice State Beach Skateboard Park buried in sand in order to prevent violations of social distancing orders. Okay, I get it. According to this story, it makes a sort of sense, but think about it.
Burying such a large area in sand is no trivial event. What happens when the pandemic crisis passes? How much money and effort will it cost to “unbury” the park…or is the assumption that the pandemic will never pass?
That last part was a tad paranoid, but again, my argument isn’t that current efforts aren’t somehow justified, it’s that they deny that the crisis will pass, AND it plays into the agendas of at least certain politicians.
I know, I know, a lot of you will think the above illustration is way over the top, and maybe it is.
I follow a number of Holocaust related info sources on twitter. This morning, Today in History stated that on April 19, 1943, “Belgium partisans attack a Nazi German train carrying Jews to Auschwitz. Transport No. 20 left Mechelen with 1,631 Jews. 233 people attempted to escape, 26 were shot, 89 were recaptured and 118 successfully escaped.”
The United States of America is a Republic that, at least in theory, by the people and for the people. But as long as I can remember, it’s been more like the politicians are our rulers, and we must obey their edicts. Sure, we can vote them out of office, but it’s not the individual politicians per se, it’s the overarching system of politics that tends to lead our leaders to seize control and never give it up.
For example, the longest person ever to serve in Congress according to Wikipedia (I know, I know) was John Dingell (D), who was in office 59 years, 21 days. That ended when he retired. He passed away in 2019.
The person still in office who’s been there the longest is Don Young (R), who has served for over 47 years.
Of course, my two examples of what I consider abuse of power were Mayors, but my point is that people, once in a position of authority, will tend to hold onto that authority as long as possible. Even if their motivations are generally benign, and they truly believe that
ruling over administering the rights of the citizens is in their best interests, it’s still violating the core principles of the Constitution.
So why don’t we vote the rascals out?
People are sheep. No really, at least according to one source (and beware a point based on only one source), we really do, for the most part, prefer to follow than to lead.
So in many ways, if we lose more and more of our civil rights, it’s really our own fault for allowing it.
However, just in case people have failed to notice what’s going on around them during the pandemic, I thought I’d point it out.
Tons of twitter pundits, including this one are ridiculing the right-leaning people who are protesting against the lockdown, as dangerous, gun-toting, Trump followers. Yes, the protesters going over the top, but I can understand their reasoning.
These people are scared of their government, and they believe they’re (again) being lied to by the government and by the “authorities.” They wonder why everyone is being locked down, when traditionally, only sick people have been quarantined?
That’s a very good question.
Yes, it’s prudent to take all the necessary precautions, but the flip side is that people are on the verge of going bankrupt, losing their jobs (not everyone can work from home), losing their homes, losing everything.
If that really happens, who will they be dependent upon?
Sounds pretty dystopian, doesn’t it? It would make a great science fiction novel. Except those stories have already been written. George Orwell’s novel 1984 comes to mind.
No, I’m not calling for a revolution, and I’m not casting myself as a “coronavirus denier” (and don’t get me started on the timing of the pandemic, China’s potential role in all this, and the rest of the conspiracy theory stuff floating around out there). I’m just saying, don’t automatically assume that the government always has your best interests at heart, and that kind, loving, Democratic progressives (or for that matter mean ol’ Republican dinosaurs) will always do the right thing for the right reasons, and could never, ever become totalitarian.
Remember, it’s okay to be all three.