On the first day of the coronavirus quarantine I went for a walk through my neighborhood to the park. The weather was warm and the walk was nice. The park looked like a park in central Texas should in the spring, with wildflowers and bluebonnets in bloom and dandelions popping up like little white clouds above the grasstops. Kids were out playing, oblivious as they should be to the world’s problems, when they should have been at school. But everywhere I looked on the way to the park, where there should be empty driveways, there were cars. Everyone was home. It looked like a Saturday morning, but it was Tuesday.
Some of my neighbors were working from home, as I was, teleworking to avoid the coronavirus. But surely some were home because they could no longer work. Their businesses are shut down by the virus. They were inside, worrying how or if they can keep their homes. Worrying about what tomorrow would bring, and the day after that. This creeping dread we all feel once in a while has taken up residence in millions of American homes.
There’s a little church along a country highway heading east that I pass often, a small thing that some pastor had the vision to build to reach a small community. It’s a shell now, empty. Closed. It failed. Someone cuts the grass around it every once in a while, probably a city crew, but when they delay, the grounds get overgrown and it looks lost in time.
There are few things in modern life that gnaw at me like a shuttered church. There’s something heartbreaking about a place built to exemplify faith that has failed and hollowed out. We’re seeing a lot of shuttered churches now, not because of any failures within them. Their faith is fine, maybe stronger now than a few weeks ago. Hardship will do that. They’re closed because we can’t gather in groups anymore, because of the virus. We can’t worship together, or have large weddings or funerals. Games and graduations and concerts are canceled. The gatherings of our lives are gone for a while. Because of the virus.
Right along with shuttered churches, shuttered businesses break the heart. A failed business represents a failed dream, livelihoods lost, risks taken but not rewarded, the end to something that often did not lead to a new beginning, just bankruptcy. Before the virus, out-of-control property taxes were killing businesses around here. Now it’s the virus.
We have hundreds of thousands of churches and businesses and schools across America that are closed now. Many of them will not re-open. They didn’t fail because of some flaw within them or because their model didn’t work. They failed, or will fail, because of a tyrannical system beyond our shores that lied to the whole world. America’s churches and businesses and schools are closed because, on the other side of the world, China’s amoral dictators failed to be a normal nation and do the right thing. They lied out of their paranoid obsession with power. In America, we can make fun of Trump, call him names and mock whoever we want and find others who will laugh with us. In China, merely displaying a cartoon of Winnie the Pooh — because of his resemblance to dictator Xi — risks imprisonment. Should we do business with such a thin-skinned despot?
China’s coronavirus actions have been entirely indefensible. Not that you would ever know that if you listen to some in the media and among our smug elites. There was, first, the lie that the novel virus would not infect humans. Then the communists ordered the early samples destroyed and silenced the doctors, at the point of a gun that Mao himself may as well have been pointing at them. They prosecuted the doctor who sounded the alarm, making a noble hero die a criminal. China abused its manufacturing power to build and then hoard the N95 masks doctors and nurses the world over need as they battle the virus. Some medical heroes will become infected and die, because of China. China’s communists did all this, while the whole world watched and suffered, and while Italy’s coronavirus death toll surpassed the grim toll of 9-11. China now says its coronavirus infection rates are dropping, but can we believe them? When China is pushing a crank conspiracy that the U.S. created the coronavirus? China’s communists are trolling the world to dodge responsibility and keep their power. This cannot stand.
We tried making China rich to make the Chinese people free. The globalists’ theory was that trade would make prosperous people who would then demand their freedom, and the Chinese Communist Party would either grant it or die. It hasn’t worked. China has become more prosperous but less free. Its people live under a digital dictatorship fed by social media algorithms and always-on video surveillance. Their future is cradle-to-grave monitoring for thoughtcrime. The paranoid communists are as brutal and ruthless as ever, shuttering churches with hammer and sickle and using Uighurs and dissenters as slave labor. China uses its wealth to buy hearts and minds in Africa and positive propaganda press everywhere. China uses its wealth to fracture our own bedrock rights, as when it turned the NBA into its red, white, and blue thought-police right here on American soil. This cannot stand.
The world cannot get into this situation again. We can’t just pretend this did not happen, resume normal trade relations, go on with our lives, and keep allowing the communists to rob us blind and make us vulnerable. We can’t let China’s criminal caste of communists brutalize their own people, threaten their peaceful neighbors and menace the world. We can’t.
We depend on China for cheap labor and cheap goods. But we cannot afford China any longer. The price is too high. We must divest. We must redirect. Some of our manufacturing in China must come back home. Some must go elsewhere, to India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, to other free republics with open societies. We must favor free peoples everywhere, shun tyrants everywhere, and do business with friends of liberty everywhere. For our own good.
The free world built up China’s economy in a naive attempt to free its people. This faith that has truly failed. This is one business we should no longer patronize, one school that has taught us its final lesson. This church should empty now and seal up its doors.
Bryan Preston is the author of Hubble’s Revelations: The Amazing Time Machine and Its Most Important Discoveries.