bookmark_borderRights are not privileges

Numerous people have been posting the following post on Facebook in the wake of George Floyd’s death:

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.
#BlackLivesMatter

Although it’s always a good thing to raise awareness of instances of injustice and to consider the experiences of other people, I strongly disagree with the concept of “white privilege.”

All of the things listed in the post are rights, not privileges. To go birding is a right. To go jogging or running is a right. To relax in the comfort of one’s own home is a right. To go to church or to Walmart or to a corner store is a right. To hold a cell phone or skittles or even a weapon is a right. To cash a check is a right. To go to a party, decorate for a party, or leave a party is a right. Sleeping is a right. Breathing is a right. Living is a right.

To classify these things as privileges is to argue that people do not have a right to do them. It is to argue that the problem is the fact that white people are able to do these things without thinking twice, as opposed to the fact that black people are not.  

Even if you accept that all of the people listed in the post were victimized because they were black – which I do not, because in many of the instances there is no evidence that racial motivation was involved – that does not mean that white people have privilege. What it means is that the rights of black people are being violated. This is an injustice that everyone should fight against, and the way to fight against it is to make it so that black people’s rights are not being violated anymore, not to make it so that white people’s rights are being violated too.

Let’s work towards a society in which everyone, regardless of skin color, can walk and run about freely, not a society in which no one can.

bookmark_borderMassGOP gets it right on re-opening plan

In my home state of Massachusetts, the state Republican Party has been speaking out against excessive government restrictions to fight the coronavirus. Governor Charlie Baker has begun gradually allowing businesses to open (as if the government had a right to order businesses to close to begin with), and dismayingly but unsurprisingly, numerous politicians have been criticizing even this as too risky.

The Massachusetts Republican Party has come out on the side of individual liberty on this issue. On May 26, they and numerous supporters sent a letter to Gov. Baker urging him to stay the course on re-opening the state. The letter reads in part:

By now, it should be clear: the shutdown of private businesses, large and small, has given the Democratic Party — the party of government overreach — a political boost. This disastrous pandemic has led to unconstitutional decrees being set in stone almost overnight, creating what is unquestionably a dream scenario for the Democrats — stifle independence, entrepreneurship, and personal responsibility, and you create a world dependent upon the state.

We write to you today to urge you to push back, publicly, on the Democrats’ demands to keep Massachusetts shuttered.

We write to you today to remind you that the most regulated businesses in the Commonwealth, our nursing homes, also happen to account for more than 61 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths.

We write to you today to convey the frustrations of small business owners, who have had to padlock their doors while their big-box competitors across the street are allowed to remain open. We write to you today to remind you that the Massachusetts business community lives and breathes on the ambitions, creativity, and dreams of its residents, but will die a painful death if it succumbs to the whims of an unelected bureaucracy. These business owners realize the importance of maintaining a hygienic environment — if the public does not trust them and their products, no amount of government intervention will keep them afloat….

Democrats like to talk about fatalities associated with this virus, but still unknown yet just as tragic are the deaths that will occur due to alcoholism, drug use, and suicide, all of which will be on the increase as long as residents are forced to lock themselves away.
 
Ten weeks of lockdowns have been enough. We’ve flattened the curve, prevented our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and sacrificed our liberties. We’ve watched as a hyper-partisan media has misfired on their forecasts of doom.

The full letter can be read here.

Additionally, the MassGOP issued a statement against a letter by 91 economists calling for – it makes me sick to even write this – new taxes to cover any budget shortfall resulting from the pandemic and associated shutdown. “Incredibly, these economists are calling for an income tax increase at the absolute worst possible time, when mandated business shutdowns have people struggling to make any income at all,” said MassGOP chairman Jim Lyons. I couldn’t have said it any better.

The MassGOP also has a petition to re-open the state, which can be signed here.

bookmark_borderGeorge Floyd’s death was an injustice, but so is destroying innocent people’s property

The death of George Floyd while in police custody after being pinned to the ground by a police officer was horrible and morally wrong. Few people who have watched the video of his arrest would argue against that. The four officers involved deserved to be fired and arguably deserve to be charged with homicide for their actions.

But you know what else is horrible and morally wrong? Destroying innocent people’s property.

That is exactly what protesters have done over the past two days in Minneapolis. Understandably angry about Floyd’s death, people not so understandably burned a nearly completed apartment building to the ground, looted a pawn shop and a Foot Locker store, destroyed and looted a recently renovated Target store, and damaged numerous other commercial buildings.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the National Guard, saying: “Unfortunately, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity, including arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property. These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators and other Minnesotans, and both first responders and demonstrators have already been injured.”

Every individual who damaged or stole property during these riots should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. People have every right to protest peacefully against police brutality, but they do not have the right to damage or steal the property of innocent people. These acts of destruction are senseless because they are being committed against people who have absolutely nothing to do with Floyd’s death.

My question to the rioters is: what did the partially completed apartment building do wrong to deserve your wrath? What did the Target do to you? How about the pawn shop, or the sneaker store?

These buildings did nothing wrong, nor did the people and/or companies who own them. Protests should be directed against the people and institutions who actually did something wrong, not against innocent people and their property.

bookmark_borderGerman soldiers’ graves are part of history and should not be removed

Two members of the House of Representatives have decided to use Memorial Day as an occasion to demand the removal of the graves of three German soldiers from veterans’ cemeteries.

There are two headstones for German soldiers at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, each of which features a swastika inside a German cross and the phrase, “He died far from his home for the Fuhrer, people, and fatherland.” Another similar headstone is at Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who lead the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie which read in part:

Allowing these gravestones with symbols and messages of hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide is especially offensive to all the veterans who risked, and often lost, their lives defending this country and our way of life… a stain on the hallowed ground where so many veterans and their families are laid to rest. Families who visit their loved ones, who are buried in the same cemeteries with the Nazi soldiers whom they fought against, should never have to confront symbols of hatred that are antithetical to our American values… There is no excuse for VA to continue to maintain these headstones.

The gravestones were created before the Veterans Administration assumed responsibility for the two cemeteries, and the VA has left them in place because of a federal law requiring protection of historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. But Schultz and Carter called the failure to remove them “callous, irresponsible and unacceptable.”

I completely disagree. Unless I am misunderstanding their letter, Schultz and Carter are demanding that headstones for dead soldiers be taken down. That is nothing short of unconscionable.

It is true that the government of Nazi Germany practiced hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide, as Schultz and Carter point out. But the three soldiers whose graves are in question did not necessarily do any of these things. And even if they did, do Schlutz and Carter believe that any person who is not perfect does not deserve to have a gravestone? I doubt any of the American soldiers buried in these cemeteries was a perfect person; no matter how heroic or honorable, every person has flaws. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. government and way of life are far from perfect as well. Where do Schultz and Carter think the line should be drawn between those who deserve a gravestone and those who do not?

I fail to see the problem with allowing three graves of soldiers from the losing side of a war to exist among thousands of graves of soldiers from the winning side. There is no rule that only graves of soldiers from the winning side of a war should be allowed to exist. There is no right to go through life without ever seeing something that you dislike or disagree with.

To describe the graves of three German soldiers who died far from home as a “stain” on hallowed ground is ridiculous.

Not only is it incorrect for Schultz and Carter to say that there is no excuse for the VA to maintain the gravestones; there are actually two completely valid reasons for the VA to do so. First, as the VA has argued, the gravestones are historical artifacts, and the world would be a worse place without them. Second, removing the gravestones would be incredibly disrespectful to these soldiers who fought bravely for a cause that they believed in. Obviously, their cause is one that the vast majority of people in America and the world today do not believe in. But that does not justify trashing the memory of these soldiers by desecrating their graves.

Ironically, Schultz and Carter are demonstrating hatred and intolerance by calling so vehemently for the removal of these gravestones. To remove the gravestones would truly be callous, irresponsible, and unacceptable.

Every soldier deserves to be remembered, no matter which side he or she fought for.

bookmark_borderThis weekend in overzealous social distancing enforcement…

In one of the latest examples of overzealous attempts to fight the spread of COVID-19, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham banned a drive-in movie theater from reopening.

According to the Washington Times, city officials in Las Vegas, New Mexico believed that the state government had given the drive-in the OK, and a showing of “Trolls World Tour” and “Doolittle” was planned. But then the governor called the county’s emergency management department and told them the drive-in wasn’t allowed to open after all. “The governor’s office said they would treat the drive-in just like any other movie theater,” said Mayor Louie Trujillo.

This makes no sense. A drive-in, where people sit in their cars in an outdoor field watching a movie on a huge screen, is completely different than a movie theater, where everyone is sitting in an indoor auditorium. If there is any form of entertainment well-suited to social distancing requirements, it would be a drive-in. I can think of no reason why a governor would ban a drive-in from operating, unless she is attempting to be as much of a jerk as possible and to ensure that none of her citizens are able to do anything remotely fun, ever.

In separate but similar news, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot dispatched three squad cars and two unmarked cars filled with armed officers… to shut down a church service.

Pastor Courtney Lewis was in the middle of his sermon at the Cornerstone Baptist Church when the police began to bang loudly on the front doors.

“All we are seeking is the same consideration and trust that is being tendered toward the liquor stores, abortion clinics, and Walmart,” the pastor said, according to the Geller Report. He described the arrival of the armed cops as “like the Soviet-style KGB… the only thing she hasn’t done yet is beat the doors down and arrest our members.”

Pastor Lewis wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch which can be read here.

bookmark_borderCoronavirus vaccine should not be mandatory

When a vaccine for the coronavirus is eventually developed, it will be a huge benefit to those who want the protection and peace of mind that it brings. There will also almost certainly be a minority of people who – for one reason or another – would prefer not to receive the vaccine.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

That’s why it’s disturbing that Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said in an interview:

If a safe vaccine is to be developed for Covid-19, I hope it’s mandated, and I will defend it… Let me put it very clearly, you have no constitutional right to endanger the public and spread the disease, even if you disagree. You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.

Like most proponents of forcing people to undergo medial procedures against their will, Dershowitz points to the Supreme Court’s decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), in which the court ruled that states may require people to be vaccinated if their boards of health deem it necessary for public health or safety. As World Net Daily puts it: “If any individual is allowed to act without regard to the welfare of others, true liberty does not exist, the court argued.”

I strongly disagree with this school of thought. Each person has a right to do anything he or she wishes, as long as those actions do not violate the rights of anyone else. What determines whether an action violates someone’s rights? One must compare the effect of the action on other people against the effect of banning the action on the person or people who wish to do the action.

In the case of vaccines, the question is: Which has a more direct impact on a person, having other people existing in the world who have not been vaccinated, or being forced to be vaccinated against one’s will?

As Dershowitz and the Jacobson court note, people are affected somewhat by the existence of other people who do not get vaccines. The percentage of people in a community who have or have not been vaccinated does affect each individual’s risk of catching a disease. People who are not able to get vaccines for medical reasons can catch illnesses from those who have chosen not to get the vaccine.

However, this impact is indirect. Actually getting sick has a large and direct impact on someone’s life, but a person who hasn’t gotten a vaccine does not cause anyone to become sick. The disease does. The presence of unvaccinated people merely affects a person’s risk of catching a disease; it does not cause a person to catch a disease.

On the other hand, being required to undergo a medical procedure such as vaccination affects a person directly. It involves a person’s skin being pierced by a needle and a substance being injected into his or her body.

A person’s right to make decisions about his/her own body outweighs any supposed right to make decisions about the bodies of other people in order to manage one’s own disease risk. In other words, the importance of being able to decide for oneself whether or not to get vaccines outweighs the importance of being able to decide whether or not the people around you get vaccines.

A country in which the government has the power to take someone to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into their arm is a country without liberty in any meaningful sense of the word. To claim, as the Jacobson court did, that there is no true liberty without being able to control other people’s actions that might have an indirect impact on you, is ridiculous.

I would likely choose to get the coronavirus vaccine when it comes out. But it should be my choice.

bookmark_borderTrump and DOJ join fight against authoritarian restrictions

President Trump is not perfect, and I don’t agree with him and his administration on all issues. However, it is encouraging that at least to some extent, he and Attorney General Bill Barr are pushing back against state governments’ restrictive measures designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in Illinois State Representative Darren Bailey’s lawsuit against Governor J.B. Pritzker. “Plaintiff has set forth a strong case that the Orders exceed the authority granted to the Governor by the Illinois legislature,” read the DOJ court filing.

A statement by Barr’s office said the court filing was part of his initiative “to review state and local policies to ensure that civil liberties are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The state’s public health concern, the statement continued, “does not justify government restrictions imposed upon its citizens without legal authority.”

“However well-intentioned they may be, the executive orders appear to reach far beyond the scope of the 30-day emergency authority granted to the Governor under Illinois law,” said U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft of the Southern District of Illinois.

Additionally, President Trump has taken aim at states’ shutdowns of churches. “Governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now — for this weekend,” he said at a press conference on Friday. He classified “houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services… Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

bookmark_borderLiberty Fest takes place in Sacramento, CA

Yesterday, the largest protest yet took place against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.

2,000 people gathered outside the State Capitol in Sacramento to demand the re-opening of churches, gyms, barbershops, nail salons, and more. In addition to pro-freedom signs, speeches, and t-shirts, the rally featured food trucks, rock and country music, and haircuts by stylist La Donna Christensen, who set up temporary hair cutting stations in order to demonstrate that hair salons are safe and should be allowed to re-open.

According to the Sacramento Bee, some people wore t-shirts that read, “Resist. Rise. Revolt. Reopen.” An airplane circled around towing a banner that read, “End his tyranny.” 

Called Liberty Fest, this protest sounds like it was part political rally and part Memorial Day celebration. And I can think of no better way to celebrate Memorial Day weekend than fighting against authoritarianism.

bookmark_borderMississippi church burned down in horrendous hate crime

In a despicable act, someone burned down the First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

The church had sued the city government over its stay-at-home order which banned in-person services, and pastor Jerry Waldrop reportedly clashed with city officials at a demonstration at a local Walmart. The city had shut down a Bible study group at the church and cited Waldrop for holding an Easter mass.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, the words “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits” were spray-painted on the ground at the scene of the fire, along with an A inside an atomic symbol, a logo for atheism.

To his credit, the President of American Atheists, Nick Fish, called the arson a “heinous act of destruction.”

Clearly, the motivation of the arsonist was to target the church for standing up to the government’s COVID-19 restrictions. In other words, the arsonist committed his/her crime out of support for these authoritarian policies and out of a desire to punish those who fight back against them. This places this act of arson in the very worst category of crimes: members of the majority aggressing against an unpopular minority. This should be treated as a hate crime, and the perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

bookmark_borderNew Virginia laws are the opposite of diversity and inclusion

Last month, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed new laws giving cities and towns the power to remove Confederate monuments and beginning the process of replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol.

“These laws make Virginia more equitable, just, and inclusive,” he said. “These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone. In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”

State Senator Mamie Locke, who sponsored the bill to let cities remove monuments, voiced similar sentiments: “Virginia’s Confederate monuments were erected as symbols of a dangerous Jim Crow era. It is past time we told a more complete story of our history and work to build a Commonwealth that values everyone – no matter who you are.”

Delegate Delores McQuinn, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said, “Today marks an important step towards a more equitable and welcoming Commonwealth. Virginia’s history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years. These new laws will make our Commonwealth better.”

And Dr. Janice Underwood, the state’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, said “For more than 400 years, we’ve consciously oppressed and celebrated painful parts of Virginia’s past at the expense of those who are haunted by it the most. With these laws we are charting a new path for our Commonwealth – one that begins to tell a more complete story of who we are and honors our diversity as our greatest strength.”

The truth, however, is the exact opposite. The sentiments voiced by these politicians completely ignore the fact that those who admire Confederate leaders are also people, and their views and preferences also matter. Getting rid of Confederate monuments completely disregards the views of those who enjoy these statues and admire the soldiers and leaders whom the statues represent.

There are numerous legitimate reasons to admire Confederate leaders – their bravery, their sense of honor, their military skill, their loyalty to their home states, and the fact that they fought against a powerful federal government, just to name a few. The Confederacy was not merely about slavery, and the statues are not symbols of racism. They are symbols of people from history, who have both positive and negative attributes just like all people do. Lots of people don’t like the Confederacy or its leaders, and that’s fine. They have every right to lobby for the creation of statues of historical figures they do admire. They do not, however, have a right to lobby for the removal of statues they do not like. That is not fair to the people who like these statues and the historical figures they represent.

Unfortunately, the viewpoint that the Confederacy and everyone associated with it was bad, is the popular, politically correct viewpoint today. That does not make it right. To get rid of Confederate statues is to state that the popular, politically correct viewpoint is the only legitimate viewpoint there is. This completely excludes anyone with dissenting views. This is the exact opposite of making Virginia more equitable, just, welcoming, and inclusive. It is the opposite of diversity. It is the opposite of valuing everyone. In short, these laws allowing the removal of Confederate statues do the opposite of what the politicians who sponsored and signed the laws claim. They make Virginia, and America, a worse and less tolerant place.