A Facebook post of mine was referenced in my local newspaper that misrepresented conservative views on the shutdown. In response to that, I wrote a column that the paper published. I’m re-publishing it here.
Herald-Tribune political editor Zac Anderson referred to my Facebook post from last week supporting the anti-lockdown movement in a Page 1 Sunday story on the partisan divide over re-opening the economy. Anderson’s story accurately reflects how Democrats and the media writ large define the divide. But alas, that does not make it accurate.
This distorted view is reflected a few pages later on Sunday’s Op/Ed page, where Timothy Egan, a writer for the New York Times, naturally, vilely wrote “a significant slice” of the Republican Party think “People are disposable.”
None of us who believe in essential liberties passed down through the generations think people are disposable. But it is this defamation of conservatives and Republicans that is part of the narrative: Democrats want to follow the scientists to save lives, but Republicans only care about money. It’s only lives versus money.
It’s a reprehensible calumny slandering millions of freedom-loving Americans. But apparently that is what we do today, rather than engage the merits. Here are the merits.
At core, the protests are about people who want their rights back. It’s driven by people who understand the threat of tyrannical government, and that threat is real and not overstated. Probably the best face of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called on residents to report their neighbors to law enforcement for violations of social distancing protocols. And he made it super easy! To narc out your neighbors who don’t obey government edicts, de Blasio said: “It’s simple: just snap a photo and text it to 311-692….We will make sure that enforcement comes right away.”
That’s the mayor of the nation’s largest, most preeminent city. In 1984, which I imagine is not read much anymore in public schools, this is exactly what Big Brother teaches neighbors and children to do. Everyone is a snitch. People live in terror. In 1984, people who didn’t follow the government line disappeared. No, we’re certainly not there yet. But this is an astonishing step that few seem to bat an eye at. Shivering.
Here’s some of the overreaches, shall we say, happening around the country. Cops patrolling streets with bullhorns to warn people to stay away from each other. Los Angeles’ mayor threatening to turn off the power to your business if you do not close like you’re told. Michigan’s governor, a close-run second to de Blasio for the Big Brother Award, restricting residents from driving from their own house, in their own car, to another property they own — even if they never leave their car. Drive-in church services being broken up in some jurisdictions — even if, again, people never leave their car.
The last one is a clear violation of two elements of the First Amendment, freedom of religion and the right of assembly. But it’s all OK, just save us from the virus. Have we seen larger constitutional affronts since FDR rounded up Japanese-Americans and interned them in camps during WWII? That was just for our own good, also.
This is to say nothing of the reality that a bad economy equals more deaths. According to one meta-analysis of 42 studies involving 20 million people by the National Institutes of Health, when people lose their job, the risk of death increases 63 percent due to heart attacks, drugs and alcohol, suicides and other stress-related factors. Economists use a rough rule of thumb that for every one percentage point increase in unemployment, 10,000 people die. Dozens of studies bracket that range.
Too many Americans have become complacent about ceding individual rights to government. Save us! they cry out. Take whatever rights you need! Apparently that means drowning out dissent at the direction of the government, which is Facebook’s official stance regarding posts that organize protests — also enshrined in the First Amendment as the right to assemble and right to redress government.
If we will not fight for our freedoms, for our rights, we won’t have them and we won’t deserve them.
Most Americans don’t need to be told what to do. Voluntary social distancing and private shutdowns from the NBA to Disney parks to chamber meetings were well underway before government action. I’m in the high-risk category as a 60-year-old asthmatic. I stayed home before the orders and probably will long after the re-opening. But I can see a bigger picture, a bigger threat not yet fully realized but looming, when this pandemic is in the history books.
The debate over individual liberties and freedoms versus a government rights-grab matters. Our forefathers and preceding generations understood that. I’m sorry so many Americans seem to have forgotten that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
It only takes one generation to lose it.
Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.