If there were ever a silver lining to the coronavirus, it’s that it has acted to separate the wolves from the sheep. The fear of the virus has been so whipped up by stories circulating on the internet that even people who once professed to love liberty and traditional conservative values have become rabid authoritarians who would make Hitler and Stalin blush. Or maybe it just goes to show that many who talk the talk aren’t willing to walk the walk when the rubber hits the road.
Far more disconcerting, however, is the assault on basic freedoms that has resulted from the response to the coronavirus. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has admitted that the city is tracking cellphones to determine whether or not people are complying with the city’s stay at home order. That’s a precedent that, once established, will be hard to break. The fact that a government is actively tracking its citizens’ movements should raise the hackles not only of conservatives, but also of civil liberties advocates. Yet there has been hardly a peep either from conservative groups or from civil liberties groups such as the ACLU.
New York City is trying to give LA a run for its money, with Mayor Bill de Blasio declaring that any synagogues that continue holding services in violation of the city’s stay at home order will be permanently shut down. The fact that the government can’t violate freedom of worship like that doesn’t seem to factor into de Blasio’s thinking, and we would certainly hope that courts would come down hard on him if he were to try to do something like that.
De Blasio is also trying hard to crack down on freedom of assembly, threatening New Yorkers who fail to comply with social distancing rules with fines of up to $500. According to de Blasio, “I don’t want to fine people when so many folks are going through economic distress, but if they haven’t gotten the message by now, and they don’t get the message when an enforcement officer’s staring them in the face… that person then deserves the fine, so we’re going to proceed with that.” If you needed any more evidence of the totalitarian mindset that pervades the thinking of most politicians today, de Blasio’s statement exemplifies it. Do what we tell you to do, or else.
The sad thing is that millions of Americans have no problem acquiescing to Big Daddy government in this situation. They’re so terrified of a virus that they are bending over backwards not just to give in to the government’s demands, but even to defend the blatant violations of God-given rights as necessary to combat the virus. Right now everyone assumes that this crisis will come to an end, and everything will get back to normal. But what if it doesn’t?
What if governments decide that they really like the ability to control and track people’s movements? What if they decide that they like being able to ban public assembly, direct production, and keep certain businesses from operating? What if they decide that they’re not going to give up the power that they’ve seized? What then? Will Americans rise up and fight, as their forefathers once did? Or will they meekly accept the servitude that too many of them allowed to materialize?