On Monday, the Hungarian Parliament introduced new draconian measures to deal with the spread of coronavirus in their nation. The list of rights suspended is enough to send a healthy shiver down the spine of every free Westerner.
Virginia and Maryland are instituting state of emergency and “stay at home” orders and Trump announcing continued distancing measures until at least April 30. NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio has said he will permanently close religious locations that hold services in violation of distancing/quarantine orders. In California, access to state parks has been closed to prevent people from congregating out of doors. San Francisco has extended their shelter-in-place order to May 1st.
If the trend continues, Americans are just going to keep getting pushed inside for the entire summer…a terrifying prospect when looking at what’s happened to the economy after less than a month of coronavirus precautions. The economy certainly won’t recover from that kind of clamping down, but will social distancing Americans even make it that long without government force?
There are a lot of opinions flying around about what should be done, what can be done and how bad the virus really is. No one is totally sure who is most vulnerable and how we pick up and move forward without a vaccine or a cure. Like any virus, at some point, it’s going to come back. Are we to believe we are going to halt the entire global economy every time we have a surge from here on out?
I don’t envy our government officials, even the ones I despise. This is a terrible position to be in as a leader, especially as President. Trump must preside over a pandemic that could easily cripple our hospital system even if the mortality numbers don’t add up to Spanish Flu levels. He also must preside over the future. It is his job to ensure and enable the future of Americans – a future that will be as peaceful and prosperous as possible even after he is long gone. This is no small task in a republic.
We are the most unique nation in the world. Our Constitution and national history separate us from everyone else. We have very much enjoyed the benefits of a free market system and a Constitution that recognizes human rights as bestowed by a Creator and no one else, but there is a downside to all that prosperous freedom. The freedom to succeed also means the freedom to struggle, and it means we can’t use “any means necessary” to protect our population in strange times like these.
The government can provide guidance, use emergency powers and shift laws to address a crisis like this pandemic, but what they can’t do is become a totalitarian state. We have to accept that our unique brand of freedom means we may, at times, pay a very high price. We’re always happy to talk about that price in terms of military service and what that means to our national defense, but no one ever talks about it in terms of what it means for the sacrifice of private citizens.
Our republic allows for freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of speech. These are grossly inconvenient rights in the face of global infection. We cannot lock down 327 million citizens. It isn’t the government’s place to do this. Our Constitution says so. If a right can be suspended in the face of an emergency is it really a right?
This means we must be willing to deal with the consequences of life in a free republic. The government can and should be doing everything within its power to flatten the curve but, at some point, we’re all just going to have to admit that, in order for freedom to be protected, the risk of moving on with the economy and freedom of movement within our own borders will need to be accepted. It is unreasonable to expect 327 million Americans to suddenly deal with being citizens of a totalitarian state, no matter how temporary.
Not only that, it’s dangerous. America is more than a territory. It is an idea…an idea that has created the most innovative and prosperous society in the history of mankind so far. It is an idea that obliterated slavery (and kicked Jim Crow in the ass when the time came), took us to the moon, invented world-changing technology, and has made our popular culture the most influential on the planet. The American Dream isn’t just a checklist of things to own, it is a spirit, an energy that drives innovation and flows through every hopeful citizen. We can tamp down our movements to varying degrees but if we spend too long tamping down the American Dream, it will descend into a nightmare and Americans are not primed to sit back and let nightmares unfold without resistance.
Look, I think we should stay home as long as we can. I’m doing that and I am a big believer in flattening the curve through extended social distancing. It’s imperative and I take the government’s guidance on this extremely seriously. However, we can’t suspend our constitutional rights just because some people out there make terrible (and sometimes tragic) decisions with their freedom. Living in a free society means bearing the consequences of the poor choices of others. It isn’t fair, but it is just. It’s how it has to be.
Our status as a global leader depends on our freedom. If we stomp on the freedoms we’ve been guaranteed, we will be in no position to maintain our vital place as a world superpower. Trump’s biggest fear will come to fruition – the cure will turn out to be far worse than the disease.
The President and every state leader need to be very careful about balancing our freedom with our safety. Again, not a job to be taken lightly or envied but it’s the one they signed up for. At some point, they’re going to have to come down on the side of freedom and it will then be up to all of us to bear out the consequences. Until then, it is up to all of us to help the healthcare system be as prepared as possible for the day that Americans collectively choose their freedom above all else.