Friday, March 20, 2020

Pandemic Versus Panic

            It is as if a Homo Sapiens Day was added to the calendar, one month after Ground Hog’s Day. Though Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year, Panicked Pete did see his, and Americans are being asked to return to their homes and hibernate for at least the next six weeks.
Obviously, we pray for the health of everyone in the country—and around the world—and the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing to laugh about, but having to “self-quarantine” is not nearly the worst of coronavirus repercussions. Our reactions to it will change society for the long term and may well end freedom and prosperity as we—very, very recently in the case of the United States—knew it. And that statement isn’t hyperbole or based on mindless panic. Already the disease is the most politicized in history, with progressives using the threat of it to essentially repeal the Bill of Rights and the Constitution while also attempting to weaponize it against President Trump. Don’t believe that?
To wit: there is talk of nationalizing industries, massive government bailouts and simply giving every citizen large sums of cash. There are proposals to make businesses pay workers who get sick, to forgive student loans and defer or eliminate certain other loan and interest payments. A federal court in Washington unilaterally suspended the Fifth Amendment right to due process and Habeas Corpus and the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a speedy trial. An executive order issued by California Governor Gavin Newsome would empower the state to take over hotels, motels, and medical facilities as needed to quarantine, isolate or treat coronavirus patients. An executive order to seize private facilities to quarter other citizens is “progressive” even by Left Coast standards. The mayor of Champaign, Illinois, Deborah Frank Feinen, recently issued her own executive order flush with ordinances that would give her the authority to prohibit or restrict ingress and egress to the city. (I wonder if she is a big fan of the border wall.) She would also be able to ban the sale of firearms, ammunition, alcohol, and gasoline and other flammable or combustible products (except for that of gasoline put directly into a motor vehicle’s permanently affixed tank). Wonder Woman would similarly be empowered to direct the shutoff of power, water, and gas and authorize government to take possession—and title—to private property if in the best interests of the public during this crisis. Not to worry, though, the city hasn’t implemented any of these measures yet, it has just reserved the right to do so. It certainly wouldn’t ever abuse those powers, would it? And Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has proposed a universal basic income in the guise of sending every single American $1,000 or more, and other Republicans have quickly backed the plan…or similar ones.
Several governors have ordered the closing of all nursing and convalescent homes to visitors and prohibited their inmates  residents from leaving. This is understandable in one sense, but strips even those uncontaminated by the virus of their right to movement and assembly, courtesy of government coercion, without due process. Perhaps better left to the homes and residents themselves to decide?
Newark, N.J., is reportedly criminalizing “coronavirus disinformation,” including misleading “allegations” on social media, and is threatening those guilty of any “false reporting” with prosecution. If disinformation, misleading allegations, and false reporting were against the law, The New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, and most other mainstream media outlets wouldn’t be in business and the majority of their employees would be incarcerated.
In a democratic republic, should there be any limits to government’s power in a declared emergency? Is that not why the Constitution was written and ratified in the first place? And the Bill of Rights?
In days of yore, people routinely lived through plagues, economic depressions and world wars. Or didn’t. Today, those of us who weren’t aborted have decided we should be utterly untroubled from birth to grave, mentally as well as physically.
The future is bleak indeed, not because of the coronavirus, or any virus, plague or malady, but because with this crisis government has seduced its servants citizens into becoming wards of the state, willing to give up any and all freedoms for a little false security.
While some of the above-listed draconian measures may be necessary in the short term to slow the virus, none will stop it. But they may put a sad and shocking end to the grand experiment that is/was the United States of America…and government of, by and for the people.
People can keep calling 911 to report an insufficient supply of toilet paper in their local stores. Or that their neighbor in the adjoining apartment is coughing suspiciously. I can ask the government to come and shake my pee-pee when I’m done urinating or to tuck me in at night.  But is this really how we want to bow out? Is this really the legacy we want to leave? Are we more concerned about our personal safety at this moment than we are about the future of our country and posterity? If so, we have let our forefathers and foremothers down-- from The Founders to Lincoln to The Greatest Generation—as well as our troops currently deployed in the Middle East and around the world.
Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Franklin was asked, while coming out of the Constitutional Convention in September of 1787, what kind of government the Founders had created. He replied, “A republic……if you can keep it.”
By the end of 2020, we may know the answer to Franklin’s query.   

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