Articles: In What Sense Do You Think We Are Free ...

Source: William Sullivan

Here’s a sensible question.  If the mayor of the most notable metropolis in the country can openly suggest that the government has the right to permanently shutter the doors of a church if it refuses to comply with “social distancing” guidelines, or any other edict the government finds necessary in a given moment, then what can’t the government do?

Just a few weeks ago, the threat of COVID-19 was considered by nearly everyone to be potentially far deadlier than it has yet proven to be.  The fatality rates, hospitalization rates, and the predictions of American death tolls (once routinely touted as “over 2 million”) associated with infection were all much higher three weeks ago than they are today.  And yet, as the dire projections about the impact of infection has become considerably smaller with new data and improved medical readiness, the social restrictions placed upon the populace have become progressively more obstructive and draconian.

Got that?  The better the health outlook has become, the harsher the government’s restrictions on you have also become.

If that isn’t bothersome to you, maybe you should think about the fact that these social restrictions seem to have only become harsher on you.  Some Americans are enduring no government obstruction in their lives, and others still are actually enjoying more freedom than they would have before these social obstructions in your lives were introduced.

Consider this.  A junkie can wake up on a brisk morning in the streets of San Francisco, defecate on the sidewalk in plain view of onlookers, and insert a used needle into his arm to inject illegal narcotics into his veins.  The cops will make no effort to stop him, for, you see, that might be a violation of his supposed “rights.”  That’s much the same as it was before the coronavirus pandemic, so I should probably add that this junkie’s sleeping and social arrangements may very well be in violation of “social distancing” guidelines, also.

Now, consider that he is far less likely to incur the attention of law enforcement, or even the news media, than you might incur for the crime of choosing to attend your local church, should it have the audacity to be open.  It is you, don’t you understand, who is the public health menace.

Examples abound of pastors of churches being threatened, fined, even jailed, for refusing to suspend religious worship during this period where “social distancing” is a matter of life and death.

This leads to myriad questions that deserve much attention and discussion, not least of which is how state governments have any authority to obstruct the First Amendment right “to peaceably assemble” or to prohibit “the free exercise of religion.”  How all of this of this is consistent with any modern understanding of an incorporated Bill of Rights, as the United States Supreme Court currently holds as the jurisprudential standard, is anyone’s guess.

But arguments about the suspension of such civil liberties aside, does a citizen’s life or death even matter, in the context of our Constitution?  Let’s move on to a second contrast which should highlight just how little liberty some Americans enjoy today.

Ostensibly to “socially distance” inmates from infected jail cells, Los Angeles’ Sheriff Alex Villanueva “is freeing prisoners from Los Angeles County jails and curbing arrests for more law-breakers.” Apparently, Villanueva and Co. have “cut their arrests by 80 percent.”

Four-in-five potential not criminals going to jails in Los Angeles is a real problem, because that unquestionably means more criminals on the streets free to commit crimes.  And police around the country seem to have their hands full enforcing “social distancing” guidelines, arresting pastors and whatnot.

But Americans have Second Amendment rights, and can protect themselves, right?  Well, in Los Angeles, gun shops were, just days ago, being forced to close their doors, clearly infringing upon the rights of law-abiding Americans who would “keep and bear arms” in order to protect themselves from the criminals their government has been releasing into the public.

I don’t understand how this could be any clearer.  The government was releasing criminals from jails, while the government was simultaneously violating the rights of law-abiding citizens by making it illegal for them to buy or sell the weapons that could protect them and their families from the criminals that the government was releasing from their custody.

Thankfully, the policy of considering the selling of firearms as “nonessential” was reversed quickly under public pressure, even in Los Angeles.  It is, I suppose, a lingering remnant of our cultural inheritance that we Americans tend to bristle menacingly at the government when it comes to our right to individual self-defense.

Yet we often do not do so when it comes to the milder, yet equally obvious, infringements upon our other rights.

Sometimes, the evidence we see in our day-to-day lives doesn’t draw such sharp contrasts as these.  Recently, my wife and I discovered that all nearby parks in my city are closed to any visitors.  This is a shame for our community.  Last weekend, unable to communally attend our church, I and my children purchased some donuts at our favorite local shop, and we went to our nearby park to eat in the California sunshine.  Afterward, my children scootered and played.  We weren’t alone.  People weren’t exactly brushing up against one another that I saw, but apparently there were “reports” of people not abiding by the “social distancing” protocol.

So, until further notice, we were notified, all city parks are hereby closed.  Caution tape has been strewn over our playground to make that point that we can no longer allow our children to play there.  And what’s more, the notification comes complete with a public service announcement urging people to inform the local government if their neighbors have the audacity to violate “social distancing” guidelines.

To put it mildly, the social fabric is being torn apart.  And for what?

It’s healthy for Americans to maintain skepticism about the motives and effectiveness of our government.  Right now, there is a lot which calls the government’s motives and effectiveness into question. Like what I suspect is a growing number of Americans, I am completely unconvinced that the harsh measures being foisted upon the American people, as collective units amongst the states, are entirely necessary, and even more unconvinced that a similar outcome could not have been achieved with fewer rigid restrictions upon healthy and less at-risk individuals and American life, in general.  And as days pass, I’m ever more convinced that the utter annihilation of the economy that we’ve seen, and the trillions in spending of taxpayer money that we absolutely, positively do not have, could have been significantly less damaging if we had demanded fewer government restrictions throughout this crisis, rather than more.