A diner in Michigan is open for business despite being told to close. A barbershop here, a crafts store there, churches, synagogues, temples — what makes this COVID revolt different is that the businesses that are defying lockdown orders are being swarmed by customers — many coming from miles away — just to support the defiance. It’s the most demonstrative political statement being made today and authorities who would try to enforce their edicts are playing with fire.
The short notice taped to the door is addressed ‘to all government officials’. It gives them a warning: ‘You are in violation of your oath of office by trespassing unlawfully on the property of this business establishment and committing an act of terrorism under Section 802 of the Patriot Act.’ Taped up next to it, a longer warning in black and set-off red type, with Title 18 from the United States Code copied out underneath.
The notice appeared on the door of the D&R Daily Grind Café in Portage, Mich., and the owner, Dave Morris, is being rewarded for challenging the government with land-office business. Morris’s story was on a local TV station and the customers have made a point of standing with him in his defiance.
It’s the same story from coast to coast. The government has made its rules. Now let them enforce them. Citizens are calling the politicians’ bluffs and they’re powerless to resist.
His name is Gary, and he’s driven 40 minutes west from his hometown. His sling is from rotator cuff surgery. He has been to three different hospitals. ‘Not one of them is full,’ he tells me. He’s been running a barbershop for three years. Before that, he was a sometime truck driver and cemetery worker. Before that, a soldier with two tours in Iraq. He is currently allowed to stay open, but only under certain restrictions, which he is ignoring. ‘I practice civil disobedience every day,’ he says, grinning. When I ask if he masks up, he says he’d gladly do it for any customer who specially requests it, ‘But guess what? Not one person has asked me, and none of them want to wear one either.’
This isn’t “pandemic fatigue.” People’s very existence is being threatened. They can’t work. Their mortgages and rent are overdue. Their kids are forced to stay home from school. And on top of that, many are desperate to see loved ones. And trying to shame those people for traveling at Thanksgiving is backfiring grotesquely.
Pandemic shaming, a national pastime since the spring, intensified in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Thousands waited in line, some for many hours, for a preholiday coronavirus test, only to be rebuked as careless, selfish violators of public-health rules. “I do want people to understand that testing on Thursday so you can party on Saturday: That doesn’t work,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health. “It’s not effective, and you really are in some ways wasting a valuable resource.” Those long lines included people whose families were begging them to visit; students whose campuses had just closed for the semester; and people who were observing state rules requiring visitors to get tested 72 hours before arriving. Yet even people who were trying to be careful weren’t spared from criticism: Many news articles and comments from public officials portrayed Thanksgiving travelers, regardless of the precautions they were taking, as irresponsible people. On social media, they were maligned as #covidiots, recklessly endangering themselves and their loved ones.
Certainly not the way to make friends and influence people.
In some ways, it shows how freedom threatens those in authority. Since power depends on the consent of the governed, when the people withhold their consent, there’s precious little those in power can do. They can frighten them into obeying — shooting them down in the streets or arresting them and making them “disappear.” Dictators have found those tactics work very well.
But in America, if you start shooting people, they’re likely to start shooting back. That’s “American exceptionalism.”
So the governors, mayors, and other wannabe dictators post their edicts, tell people to obey, and they don’t. Now what? You depend on the army of social media squawkers to “tsk-tsk” and wag their fingers at the rebels. “Shame on you. Are you trying to kill your neighbor?” That may work with some people. It probably worked on a few citizens in 1776. Otherwise, not so much.
If you’re concerned about getting sick, wear a mask, keep your distance, and stay at home as much as possible. Those who aren’t worried about falling ill won’t. That’s how it is now and how it’s going to be until this cursed pandemic is over.
Long live the rebels.