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.