Many have crit­i­cized Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer’s COVID-19 response for going too far. | Flickr

Since the Spanish flu pan­demic of 1918 —  which infected nearly 500 million people worldwide and killed any­where from 20 to 50 million victims — no one has expe­ri­enced the national effects of a viral pan­demic. From our couches and living rooms to our kitchen tables and recliners, we are now seeing the alarming political con­se­quences all around us. 

COVID-19 has caused great suf­fering to over 3.6 million infected worldwide. But while viral out­breaks are a natural occur­rence, our government’s responses pose a grave threat to our innate lib­erties.

In the United States, our political leaders have responded with quar­antine orders, social dis­tancing policies, and numerous reg­u­la­tions that have put mil­lions out of work, drained family savings, and will likely force many busi­nesses to close in the near future. These policies will either be remem­bered as what saved us or as a series of over­re­ac­tions. 

Nev­er­theless, political leaders across the country are running amok with ques­tionable orders, over­bearing restric­tions, and knee-jerk solu­tions.

In Florida, a pastor was arrested for holding two Sunday ser­vices in defiance of local restric­tions. This occurred despite fam­ilies remaining six feet apart within the church, staff members wearing gloves and san­i­tizing the building after the service, and com­pli­mentary hand san­i­tizer being made available to wor­shipers at the entrance. 

One day later, Rev. Tony Spell of Louisiana was arrested and charged with six mis­de­meanors for hosting ser­vices. And after 50 Ken­tucky wor­shippers removed mys­te­ri­ously-placed piles of nails blocking the entrances to their church on Easter Sunday, two state troopers later entered the church’s parking lot, placed quar­antine notices on the parish­ioners’ cars, and took down license plate numbers. A federal judge quickly ruled in favor of the church and denounced the troopers’ actions as uncon­sti­tu­tional. 

This hos­tility to Chris­tians is further com­ple­mented by direct calls for state crack­downs on church leaders. Joseph Gerth at the Louisville Courier Journal com­pares church-going Chris­tians to cultists who care more about their invisible God than the public health. The gov­ernment “needs to padlock the doors of the churches before members show up” or “send in the National Guard to take over the churches for use as makeshift field hos­pitals” or even “arrest the pastors and have police in the churches’ parking lots,” he writes. 

Even more alarming is the recent action taken by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He warned local churches and syn­a­gogues that if they con­tinued to host ser­vices during the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, they would be shut down by enforcement agents. And if Christian and Jewish leaders con­tinued to defy de Blasio’s orders, centers for worship would be fined and closed “per­ma­nently.” 

De Blasio was recently crit­i­cized for his blatant hypocrisy. While New York City was tran­si­tioning into a lock-down, the mayor exer­cised at his local gym. In a public statement, he said, “I did not think for a moment there was any­thing prob­lematic.” 

Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, made a similar excuse when she got a haircut, despite Illinois’ stay-at-home order: “I take my per­sonal hygiene very seri­ously.” She later added, “I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.” 

Adding insult to injury, she had pre­vi­ously issued a short public service announcement in which she told the people of Chicago  to “stay home, save lives,” and “getting your roots done is not essential.” In no other pro­fession could someone be this hyp­o­critical and self-obsessed. Clearly Illinois’ rules do not apply to her. As a result, the mayor, and other priv­i­leged leaders like the gov­ernor of Illinois and Barack Obama, con­tinue to enjoy the finer things in life while mil­lions lose incomes. 

The American people are not stupid. Hon­orable behavior is never above anyone’s pay grade

Recent state responses have likewise pro­voked frus­tration due to their blanket gen­er­al­iza­tions which defy the rights and liberty of American cit­izens. 

In one Boston suburb, locals are herded into one-way side­walks for the sake of social dis­tancing. Vio­lators can be fined as much as $100.

Fol­lowing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s slew of exec­utive orders, retailers are pro­hibited from selling any­thing she deems “non-essential.” Some are calling the gov­ernor a tyrant. Her policies “have gone too far.” 

With all the mystery sur­rounding the origins of COVID-19, and the fear that a return to nor­malcy is nowhere in sight, the last thing the American people need is for political elites to revel in their power. We need to pri­or­itize the health and financial liveli­hoods of fellow cit­izens. 

If we are to have social dis­tancing rules, state agencies need to apply them even­handedly. Local gov­ern­ments should work with busi­nesses whose inge­nuity has kept doors open and employees working. 

Amer­icans have neither the time nor the funds to twiddle their thumbs end­lessly as mayors, gov­ernors, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives take advantage of the current sit­u­ation for their own agendas. 

The virus should be the trou­bling thing — not elected offi­cials. 

Zachary Palmer is a senior studying history.