bookmark_borderThe real double standard between Capitol and BLM protests

One of the most disturbing and infuriating things I’ve ever witnessed is the media’s and society’s promulgation of the myth that the pro-Trump protesters at the U.S. Capitol were somehow treated more leniently than Black Lives Matter protesters have been. This is one of the most blatantly false ideas I have ever heard, and it has been expressed over and over again, ad nauseam, by people across all forms of media and social media.

Coverage of the recent happenings at the Capitol is so offensive to me that I haven’t been able to read and analyze a huge amount of articles on this topic. But this article by USA Today provides an overview of the BLM/Capitol protest comparisons made by various public figures. I am going to attempt to explain why these comments and statements are wrong and unjust.

The article itself describes how during the BLM protests last spring and summer, “law enforcement often clashed with demonstrators, deploying tear gas and rubber bullets, bruising faces and bodies, and, in one incident that went viral, pushing an elderly man to the ground.” Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, gave a similar characterization of events: “When Black folks are protesting and progressives are protesting peacefully they were tear-gassed, they were arrested, they were shot with rubber bullets. They were shot with real bullets. We should not be witnessing what we are witnessing today in this nation. It’s a global embarrassment. None of this took place.”

This, to use a very technical philosophy term, is complete and utter baloney. First of all, no Black Lives Matter protesters have been shot by police. Johnson’s reference to being “shot with real bullets” seems to refer to the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, a counter-protestor who killed two BLM protesters in defense of himself and local business owners whose property the protesters were destroying. Because Rittenhouse was a private citizen and not a police officer, this shooting has no relevance to the topic of the respective police responses to the BLM and Capitol protests. Additionally, how can Johnson claim with a straight face, with regard to tear gas and arrests, that “none of this took place”? Over 100 of the pro-Trump protesters were, indeed, arrested and charged with crimes, and over 200 are being investigated by the FBI for federal felonies such as sedition and conspiracy. Suspects have been hunted down all over the country, and law enforcement is widely publicizing surveillance footage in an attempt to identify even more suspects. Not to mention the fact that one of the protesters, Ashli Babbitt, was killed by a police officer, and two more protesters lost their lives due to mysterious causes during the conflict with police. And all of this despite the fact that the actions of the BLM protesters – destroying countless innocent people’s businesses and countless beautiful, irreplaceable historical statues – were vastly more deserving of punishment than the actions of the pro-Trump protesters at the Capitol. Johnson is (kind of) right about one thing: how leniently BLM protesters have been treated compared to pro-Trump protesters is indeed a global embarrassment.

On a similar note, Bernice King, the daughter of MLK, tweeted: “If this were Black Lives Matter storming the Capitol, tanks would have been in the city by now. The response tells the story of our nation’s racist history and present.” There is absolutely no evidence that tanks would have responded to a hypothetical protest in which BLM protesters entered the Capitol, and the leniency with which such protesters have been treated as they smashed, decapitated, and burned priceless works of art all across the country for months is strong evidence against King’s claim.

Adding to the ridiculousness, CNN commentator Van Jones tweeted: “Imagine if #BlackLivesMatter were the ones who were storming the Capitol building. Thousands of black people laying siege to the seat of government – in the middle of a joint session of Congress? Just imagine the reaction.” I can indeed imagine the reaction. It would not have involved a protester being shot to death by police. It would not have involved hundreds of protesters (or any protesters, for that matter) being hunted down, arrested, and charged with federal crimes. Instead, it would have involved those protesters being unanimously praised as brave, selfless, and heroic by the media, politicians, and society.

Joe Biden voiced similar sentiments, saying, “No one can tell me that if that had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.” And Rep. Marcia Fudge claimed, “There is a double standard.” These statements are indeed true, but in the opposite way from what the speakers intended. As a side note, there is also a double standard in terms of how presidents are treated by the media and by society. Why is it that Biden has received zero criticism for referring to protesters who disagree with him as a “mob of thugs,” while Trump was ruthlessly attacked as unprofessional and un-presidential for far less insulting rhetoric?

“We have witnessed two systems of justice: one that let extremists storm the U.S. Capitol yesterday, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protestors last summer,” tweeted Kamala Harris. “It’s simply unacceptable.” Actually, the two systems of justice that we have witnessed are one that let people smash beautiful statues to pieces and another that hunted down and arrested hundreds of people, and killed one person, for entering the Capitol building. These disparate systems of justice are indeed unacceptable, but in the opposite way from what Harris meant.

“It’s not any shock that we see this huge contradiction that we can storm a capitol, break into elected officials’ offices, the chamber, and create other chaos trying to perform a fascist coup, and we see little to no consequences,” said activist Kofi Ademola. “But Black protesters here in D.C. and Chicago, we’re heavily policed, brutalized, for literally saying, ‘Don’t kill us.’ There was no planned insurrections. We were literally just advocating for our lives. It speaks volumes about the values of this country. It doesn’t care about our lives.”

This statement is preposterous. As I have already explained, one protestor who entered the Capitol was shot to death and hundreds were hunted down, arrested, and charged with federal crimes. Even the thousands of pro-Trump protesters who made no attempt to enter the Capitol have been shunned as pariahs, fired from their jobs, and received death threats. How can Ademola claim that this constitutes “little to no consequences”? Nothing could be further from the truth. His claim that the pro-Trump protesters were “trying to perform a fascist coup” is equally ridiculous. Countless photos and videos show the protesters carrying Gadsden flags and Confederate flags, emblems of rebellion, liberty, and resistance to authority. This alone is sufficient to prove that the protesters were attempting the exact opposite of a fascist coup. The protesters at the Capitol are the true anti-fascists, ironically a distinction that the left-wing group Antifa claims to hold. Also ridiculous is Ademola’s claim that BLM protesters were “literally just advocating for our lives.” BLM protesters have destroyed countless businesses, buildings, and statues. In what universe is advocating for the destruction of other people’s property and precious works of art considered the same thing as advocating for one’s life? This country certainly seems to care about the lives of these protesters, given the fact that it allows them to brutalize works of art all across the country without making any attempt to stop them or punish them in any way.

And the Black Lives Matter Global Network said in a statement: “When Black people protest for our lives, we are all too often met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, shields, tear gas and battle helmets. When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene, going so far as to pose for selfies with terrorists, and prevent an escalation of anarchy and violence like we witnessed today. Make no mistake, if the protesters were Black, we would have been tear-gassed, battered, and perhaps shot.”

The last statement is false for reasons that I have explained above and also completely ignores that fact that one of the pro-Trump protesters, Ashli Babbitt, actually was shot. The characterization of BLM protesters as protesting “for our lives” is inaccurate for reasons that I have also explained above. Additionally, the reference to “white people attempt[ing] a coup” is not only false but also racist. The pro-Trump protest comprised people of all races. (For example, a picture in this gallery from the aftermath of the protest shows a baseball cap that reads “Black Voices for Trump.”)

So in conclusion, there is indeed an inconsistency between the reactions of law enforcement, as well as the media, tech companies, and society in general, to the BLM protests versus the pro-Trump protest in Washington, D.C. The double standard is precisely the opposite of what most people think it is. Seeing mobs brutally destroy beautiful works of art representing historical heroes with almost complete impunity, and then seeing pro-liberty protesters being hunted down, arrested, personally insulted, ostracized, fired, and slandered as fascists and terrorists for standing up to government overreach, is so unjust that it makes my soul cry out in agony.

bookmark_borderThoughts on “whataboutism”

Often during political discussions and debates, when one person points out another person’s inconsistency or hypocrisy, he or she will be accused of “whataboutism.” This has always struck me as a wrong and disingenuous argumentative tactic.

After last week’s protest at the Capitol, accusations of “whataboutism” have proliferated. Numerous people have correctly pointed out the inconsistency of those who condemn pro-Trump protesters’ breach of the Capitol despite having said nothing to criticize equally violent and destructive protests by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Frequently, the person being criticized responds by accusing his/her critic of “whataboutism.” The implication is that the critic is somehow doing something wrong by pointing out this inconsistency. The focus needs to be on the topic currently under discussion, the argument goes, and bringing up things that have happened in the past detracts from the real issue. People who make this argument place such importance on condemning the protest at the Capitol that they consider it irrelevant to consider whether their condemnation is proportional and fair when compared with their reactions to other events. 

These types of arguments are disingenuous and wrong. Thinking logically, noticing inconsistencies, and pointing them out are important parts of discussing a topic. If two people are debating, and one of those people employs double standards or other inconsistencies in reasoning, that person’s opponent has every right to point that out. It is wrong to criticize right-wing protesters more harshly than left-wing protesters if both groups acted similarly, just as it would be wrong for a teacher to give one student a better grade than another when both students turned in similar quality work, for an employer to pay one employee more than another if they both have the same job and perform equally well, or for a judge to give one person a harsher sentence than another if both people committed similar crimes. 

It’s important to treat people in a fair and unbiased way. This is particularly true if one is active in the field of politics, public policy, or law, or writes about these topics for a living. Being inconsistent is a problem that does real harm to those who are being criticized or punished disproportionately, while giving a free pass to those who are more deserving of criticism and punishment. Making allegations of “whataboutism” is a way of deflecting attention from one’s own inconsistency and hypocrisy. When someone uses the term “whataboutism,” they are saying that pointing out inconsistency is the real problem, as opposed to the actual inconsistency itself. 

bookmark_border“When we say something is racist, believe us”

In an opinion piece for the Boston Globe Magazine, Linda Chavers, a lecturer and dean at Harvard, complains about her “first angry white student.” Near the beginning of her teaching career, a student in Chavers’ class was upset about his low class participation grade and told her that he “felt he was a minority in a classroom ‘led by a Black woman.'” In my opinion, this sounds like a pretty good point. Every student has a right to ask teachers why they got the grade that they did and if there’s anything they can do to increase their grade. But Chavers considers this student’s comment to be an example of racism.

Chavers also sees racism in her interactions with co-workers, including those who ask her “What do you do?” She describes this as a “loaded question” and a “sinister covert act.” Describing the co-workers who ask such questions, she writes, “it’s as if my resume has personally insulted them” and “as if I have committed an assault.” Silly me, but I thought that asking a person what they do for work was a friendly way of making conversation. Are people supposed to automatically know that Chavers is a professor by looking at her? “I am the only one truly affronted by these interactions,” Chavers claims. How someone could be affronted by kind, polite, and completely non-race-related interactions is incomprehensible. 

Chavers complains that “the stripping of our power started long before we were in the workplace” and that she has “endured so many battles that what some might call ‘attitude’ is actually just exhaustion.” But she doesn’t give any examples of actions that people have taken to strip her power away, of battles that she has fought, or of elements of her life that are particularly exhausting. 

“Prioritize the Black women in your workplace,” Chavers urges. “Listen to what we say and listen when we say it the first time, not the hundredth. Don’t be defensive. When we say something is racist, believe us.”

There are a couple of problems with this, however. Prioritizing black women might sound like a positive thing, but prioritizing any race or gender over others is discriminatory. Treating everyone equally is the fair thing to do. Similarly, it might sound like a good thing to believe black women when they say something is racist, but this fails to take into account the rights and the point of view of the accused. Accusing someone of doing something racist is a serious allegation. To take such an allegation as automatically true is unjust to the person being accused. If someone does something racist, that is wrong, and the person absolutely deserves to be punished. But falsely accusing someone of being racist is equally wrong. It’s important to determine whether or not an allegation of racism is actually true.

As for telling readers not to be defensive… it’s difficult not to be defensive when one is constantly being criticized and attacked. Chavers dedicated an entire essay to accusing the people around her of being racist, sinister, and engaged in a conspiracy to take away her power and cast doubt on her qualifications, without providing a single piece of evidence. If she were reading this blog post, she would likely accuse me of being racist for demanding evidence as opposed to accepting without question her claim that complaining about a grade, or asking someone what they do for work, is inherently racist. Chavers complains about how upsetting it was when one colleague whispered, “everyone’s tired of what she has to say, and she should just be grateful to be here.” Maybe she should start saying things that actually make sense, instead of making baseless accusations and seeing racism where it doesn’t exist. 

bookmark_borderA riot is the language of the unheard

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watching and reading news coverage and social media posts about the pro-Trump protests at the Capitol has been enormously stressful, infuriating, heartbreaking, upsetting, and exhausting. It is not the actions of the protesters that make me feel these emotions; it is the attitudes and opinions expressed by journalists, commentators, authors, politicians, and society as a whole. The protesters did nothing wrong, and their actions are understandable and justified. Their treatment by the media and society is utterly appalling in its harshness, cruelty, hypocrisy, and inconsistency. 

People who believe in freedom, liberty, and individual rights are angry. And we have a right to be angry. We have been trampled on for a long time. Our income has been stolen by excessive and unjust taxation, our right to make our own medical decisions is under constant assault, privacy rights are essentially non-existent, we are not allowed to board an airplane without passing through a full-body scanner, and even our freedom to leave our houses and move about in the world has been taken away with the advent of a novel virus. And then the Black Lives Matter movement decided to start burning down our businesses, banning our flags, destroying irreplaceable, beautiful statues of the historical figures we love, and, adding insult to injury, claiming that they truly are the ones being trampled on and that we are the oppressors.

When someone is trampled on, he or she becomes angry, and justifiably so. We have protested peacefully again and again. We have explained our views civilly. But no one listened. Our concerns were dismissed as the whining of entitled, privileged crybabies, and the fact that we had the audacity to complain at all was used as evidence that we were selfish jerks. We have been called white supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes, and “deplorables” and been accused of “bitterly clinging” to the things that we value. When we have objected to these characterizations, our objections have been taken as evidence of our “white fragility,” and when we point out that this is racist, this is taken as further evidence of how fragile we are. When one is ridiculed, mocked, and dismissed again and again, one becomes increasingly angry, frustrated, and exhausted. The more angry and exhausted one becomes, the less able one becomes to express one’s views in a measured and articulate manner. And as we become less and less articulate in expressing our views, society takes our lack of articulateness as further evidence that we are are boorish, irrational jerks and ridicules and mocks us even more harshly. The cycle continues, with supporters of individual liberty becoming more and more angry and the rest of society insulting us with increasing nastiness and brutality. The injustice of this situation is overwhelming. It becomes nearly impossible to express oneself eloquently or constructively. When people are treated this way, what happened at the Capitol is the logical result. 

And now, the actions of the Trump supporters at the Capitol have been swiftly, completely, universally, and brutally condemned, used as yet further evidence to impugn the character of all conservatives and libertarians. Anchors and reporters on national news networks call us disgraceful, deplorable, disgusting, sickening, buffoons, idiots, thugs, traitors, domestic terrorists. The terms “riot,” “Trump mob,” “insurrection,” and “coup attempt” are used as if they are non-controversial, neutral descriptors. All over social media, people complain about the devastation, sadness, and even nausea and tears that they experienced while watching the protest. The condemnation infiltrates even areas of life that should have nothing to do with politics: commentators during basketball and football games have called the protesters “terrorists” and decried the “violent riot;” teams have put forth statements alleging that the protesters were treated too leniently by law enforcement; articles on psychology websites speculate about what type of mental disorder could explain the protesters’ behavior; and a speaker during a history lecture that I attended pontificated about how everyone is “saddened and shaken” by the “assault on our democracy.” No attempt whatsoever is made to understand where the protesters are coming from, why they felt so angry and unheard, or why they decided that such drastic action was their best option. 

Making this societal reaction even more inappropriate is the complete lack of proportionality when compared with society’s reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests. The widespread looting, destruction, arson, vandalism, and violence committed by members of the BLM movement had almost no impact on society’s perception of the movement as a whole. The media described those protests not only as mostly peaceful, but also as brave, noble, heroic, and necessary. Countless brands, celebrities, athletes, and all four major sports leagues issued statements in support of the movement. The cruel and barbaric destruction of historical statues and the damage done to business owners were dismissed as unimportant. Almost no one was punished for these despicable acts, and in many cases local governments actually rewarded the perpetrators by removing the victimized statues. Essentially, the way that it seems to work is that when someone on our side does something illegal or violent, everyone on our side is punished. And when someone on the other side does something illegal or violent, everyone on our side is punished. Those who support individual liberty are characterized by the insulting (and sexist and racist) stereotype of the entitled, irrationally aggrieved white male, while the grievances of members of the BLM movement are portrayed as justified and understandable. Never were any leaders of the BLM movement asked to disavow the violent or destructive actions committed by members of their movement, but that is exactly what was immediately demanded of Republican political leaders and conservative organizations with regards to the Capitol protest. Also in the wake of the protest, social media companies, online stores, and other websites banned large swaths of conservative users, and when these users moved to a conservative-leaning alternative, that app was banned from the major operating systems’ app stores. Nothing even remotely similar to this occurred in response to any BLM protest, no matter how violent or destructive. 

And then, taking things to a new level of preposterousness, society and the media complain that the protesters at the Capitol were treated unfairly leniently compared to BLM protesters, when the exact opposite is the case. Imagine what would happen if black people or Muslims stormed the capital, the media asks, implying that it’s obvious they would be treated more harshly. I’ll tell you what would happen: none of them would be arrested, and they would be lauded as heroes by the media instead of being universally ridiculed and condemned. 

So-called journalists and the general public alike have gone on and on about their horror at the attack on their beloved Capitol, which in their eyes symbolizes the democratic process. But neither the Capitol building nor democracy is a defining feature of America. The defining feature of America, the principle upon which it was founded, is individual liberty. And when our political leaders, institutions, and society as a whole trample on individual liberty, then our political leaders, institutions, and society as a whole have forfeited any right to be obeyed and respected. Those who protested at the Capitol were brave freedom fighters who risked their personal safety to stand up for their beliefs. Their actions were justified, and they deserve none of the arrests, charges, or criticism that have been leveled against them. 

In summary, we have been bullied and beaten down, and it is the bullies who are complaining that they are shaken, nauseous, and in tears because some of us actually had the audacity to stand up for ourselves. This reaction is as ridiculous as if a hockey team defeated its rival 8 to 1 and its fans were nauseous and in tears after the game because they were so upset that the other team scored one goal. It also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy; how do they think we have felt all these years as we have been relentlessly insulted and our rights violated? The bullies who have been oppressing and trampling on us receive no scrutiny whatsoever and are portrayed by the media as innocent victims while we, the true victims, are vilified, mocked, and condemned. As a result of this pervasive unjust treatment, we are angry, we are frustrated, we are overwhelmed, and we are exhausted. We are tired of being trampled on, tired of our rights being violated, tired of being insulted and ridiculed, tired of our complaints and grievances being dismissed, tired of being told that we are privileged and that we are the problem. When a society treats people this way, it has no right to criticize them for fighting back.

“When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.” – Thomas Jefferson

bookmark_border2020 thoughts

It would be a cliche to say that 2020 was a horrible year. Almost everyone has been affected negatively by the Covid-19 pandemic in one way or another. For me, the most demoralizing, dispiriting, and discouraging events during 2020 were governments’ authoritarian policies imposed in response to the pandemic, Biden’s victory, and the widespread destruction of historical statues and monuments by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In this blog post I will discuss how these events affected me personally and how I hope to move forward in 2021. 

I’ve written at length about authoritarian coronavirus restrictions. The fact that they have been implemented almost universally by governments around the world and embraced without question by the vast majority of people is beyond dismaying. Because I’ve already written about this topic dozens of times, I won’t go into it in any more detail in this post. 

The election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States was another demoralizing event. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that the reaction of Biden’s supporters was more demoralizing and upsetting than the election result itself. In every election, one side ends up happy, and the other heartbroken. But the meanness, nastiness, viciousness, and brutality that Biden’s supporters demonstrated was surprisingly irrational and inappropriate.

Social media was flooded with post after post after post expressing joy, relief, gratitude, the feeling of a weight being, lifted et cetera et cetera. Even when posting pictures of sunsets, cityscapes, pets, and babies, far too many people were unable to resist alluding to Biden’s victory as the reason for their happiness. One (now former) Facebook friend shared a meme urging people to start working on “dismantling white supremacy” now that Biden has won the presidency. Another shared a tweet ridiculing Trump supporters and calling them “weirdos” for wearing hats and flying flags with his name on them. Another opined that a vote for Trump was the same as a vote for racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny. Preposterously, people described Biden’s election as a “new birth of freedom” and posted videos of and lyrics to the song “Battle Cry of Freedom” (how, pray tell, does it constitute a new birth of freedom to elect a president who believes in giving people less freedom in their day-to-day lives than his predecessor?). Worst of all, numerous people have expressed the idea that one should not “go easy on” Trump supporters but should, in the words of one (former) friend, “focus on the harm caused.” This is based on a false premise, namely that Trump supporters have somehow done something wrong for which we deserve to be punished. Refraining from personally attacking and insulting people who have done nothing wrong is not “going easy.” It is a basic requirement of being a morally decent person. Trump supporters did not cause any harm; the only harm is that caused by the intolerant bullies who have been contaminating the internet with their vile personal attacks on anyone whose views differ from theirs.

Continue reading “2020 thoughts”

bookmark_borderSilent Sam: UNC Chapel Hill’s destroyed Confederate statue

The amount of destruction of historic statues that has taken place over the past months and years has been absolutely overwhelming. As a result, I admittedly haven’t been able to read and absorb all of the news as it’s been happening. As painful as it is, I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks catching up on old news stories about various incidents of statue vandalism and removal. One article that I came across is about Silent Sam, a Confederate statue that called University of North Carolina Chapel Hill home until August 20, 2018, when he was destroyed by protesters. As with all acts of destruction committed against statues, I condemn this despicable action in the strongest possible terms.

In the article, history professor Anne Bailey describes Silent Sam as a “powerful symbol of white supremacy” and “a divisive symbol of white supremacy” who “was meant to pay tribute to those who wanted to maintain slavery.” She also writes that “Confederate statues, therefore, represent a step backwards – a symbol of what the United States once was – not what it is now.”

In my opinion, Confederate statues are not symbols of white supremacy; they are simply symbols of the Confederacy, a short-lived nation that, like all nations, had various attributes, some admirable and some less so. And representing a step backwards is not necessarily a bad thing; there’s no reason why the way the country used to be is necessarily inferior to the way the country is today. (The pervasiveness and widespread acceptance of attacks on statues such as Silent Sam weighs heavily in favor of the argument that the U.S. was a better place in the past than it is now.)

As for the claim about being divisive, those who use this term seem to be assuming that it’s a bad thing to display any kind of symbol that is liked by some people and not others; in other words that only universally liked symbols should be displayed. But this is a recipe for a uniform, bland, sterile, conformist society containing nothing interesting or distinctive and no diversity. Not every monument or memorial, not every piece of public art is going to be liked by everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why tearing down statues is so wrong. Perpetrators claim to be carrying out this destruction in the name of diversity and inclusion, but what they are doing is contrary to these ideals. Destroying works of art because you do not like them violates the rights of those who do and demonstrates a complete disregard for their preferences and viewpoints.

Bailey also writes:

Today, the nation is experiencing what some call a civil war over statues. The only way to avert this new civil war – in some ways a symbolic one over the outcome of the original Civil War – is to have dialogue. And after dialogue, actions must follow. It could be that protesters who toppled Silent Sam acted out of a sense that dialogue had reached a standstill after years of debate. Communities may decide to take the statues down or replace them with monuments that honor abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, William H. Seward or Thaddeus Stephens. They may also choose to keep the Confederate statues intact with a plaque that gives a more balanced view of the causes of the war.

While dialogue is always a good thing, Bailey seems to be assuming that the only options to be discussed are getting rid of Confederate statues or adding plaques that profess a negative view towards the Confederacy (Bailey’s idea of a more balanced view of the causes of the war isn’t necessarily everyone’s). The option of leaving the statues completely as they are isn’t mentioned, let alone the option of adding more Confederate statues in places that do not currently have them. In this way, Bailey is presuming the truth of what she is trying to prove, namely that Confederate statues are bad. The idea that someone might consider the statues just fine as they are, or even want new ones to be built, isn’t even acknowledged as a possibility.

bookmark_borderWho is really being selfish when it comes to Covid?

One of the most common arguments made by people who support Covid restrictions is that those who oppose the restrictions are “selfish.” Proponents of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, et cetera demand that everyone be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. How selfish, they argue, to value one’s own freedom more than other people’s health and safety.

Examples of this attitude abound. One article that came out early in the pandemic criticized young people who chose to ride the bus, because if the young person happened to have an asymptomatic case of the virus, they might end up “killing” an old person who got on the bus after them. Someone on Twitter wrote that as a chemotherapy patient, businesses that do not comply with lockdown orders “force me to never leave my house… thanks for being so selfish.” And one of my Facebook friends criticized the Liberty Rally that took place in July on the Boston Common, calling the participants “idiots contaminating each other” and claiming that they should not ride on public transportation because “we have a right to be FREE of your germs.”

But are any of these people really less selfish than the people they are criticizing? The debate about Covid restrictions is a debate about which should be valued more highly: liberty or safety. Those who prioritize liberty are no more selfish than those who prioritize safety. After all, when I argue that I have the right to leave my house as often as I wish, go wherever I wish, and get together with as many or as few people as I wish, I’m not arguing that only I have the right to do these things. I am arguing that everyone does. Not only am I arguing that I have no obligation to sacrifice my quality of life to protect other people; I am also arguing that other people have no obligation to sacrifice their quality of life to protect me. Similarly, lockdown proponents are not altruistically sacrificing their freedoms for the sake of others; they are demanding that others sacrifice their freedoms to keep them safe as well.

In the examples above: Is it really selfish of the hypothetical young person to ride the bus, just because this could possibly result in an old person catching the virus? Why is an old person’s right to ride the bus safely considered more important than a young person’s right to ride the bus at all? I argue that it is more selfish to tell other people to stay off the bus just to make the bus safer for you. Without trying to be insensitive towards how difficult it must be to go through chemo, does the fact that you’re going through chemo really give you the right to demand that businesses close down to make it safer for you to leave your house? If leaving your house is too risky, it is your responsibility to stay home. Claiming that it is other people’s responsibility to curtail their activities to make the world safer for you is truly selfish. And is it really selfish to attend a rally, or is it more selfish to demand that those who have attended a rally stay off of public transportation so that you can be provided with a germ-free environment? You can probably guess what my answer to this question would be.

If you are at higher risk for a severe case of the virus, or are just very concerned about the virus, it is your responsibility to take the proper precautions (or to absorb the risks of not taking the precautions). If an activity or environment is too risky for you, then it’s your responsibility to avoid it. It is not other people’s responsibility to modify their behavior to make activities and environments safer for you. In other words, every person has the right to make decisions based on his or her own risk tolerance. Demanding that the entire society be tailored to your own risk tolerance is truly selfish.

I leave you with the below post which has been making the rounds on Facebook and which makes some excellent points:

I see a whole lot of this: ‘People who don’t wear masks are selfish and putting everyone else in danger.’
Just no. Stop.
Do you know what’s selfish? Passing off responsibility for YOUR health to everyone else around you. It doesn’t work that way.
YOUR health is YOUR responsibility. MY health is MINE.
Trust me, you don’t want ME in charge of your health because I’ll swoop in and toss out all your junk food, processed crap, alcohol, & cigs, fill your fridge with fruits and veggies, force you to drink water, take quality supplements, exercise daily, and get plenty of sleep.
Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to be told what to eat, drink, take, do, etc? Well, Karen, if the way you’re living promotes poor health and a depleted immune system that isn’t functioning at its best, then you don’t get to make a single health decision for me.
Furthermore, if YOUR mask works, which you obviously believe it does since you want to force everyone to wear one, you have nothing to worry about if I choose not to.
My freedoms don’t end where your fear begins. We are all adults that make our own decisions regarding the level of risk we are willing to take in everyday life. As of now, we’re a free country, although that seems to be changing.
If YOU want to wear a mask, bleach everything around you, wear gloves, and never touch anyone or anything… that’s up to you. I do not and cannot accept that life.
Sincerely,
A woman who has never changed her daily routine, worn a mask or gloves, or sanitized the heck out of everything since all this started. And I’m still here and haven’t been sick. Thank God for properly functioning immune systems (which are NO accident, btw)

bookmark_borderChristmas ornaments are now racist, apparently

As the cult of political correctness reaches new levels of ridiculousness, Confederate-related Christmas ornaments are now a target. Yes, you read that right. Christmas ornaments.

According to a Yahoo News article by Nicole Maurantonio, a professor at the University of Richmond, “Confederate Christmas ornaments are smaller than statues – but they send the same racist message.”

Maurantonio criticizes Confederate-themed cookbooks, stuffed animals of Stonewall Jackson’s trusty steed, Little Sorrel, and ornaments depicting such sites as Stone Mountain and the Confederate White House. 

“While these keepsakes may seem apolitical, their very circulation enables Confederate myths and symbols to become ‘normal’ features of people’s daily lives,” she writes. “My research suggests they can thus desensitize Americans to the destructive nature of such stories and icons… In that way, seemingly apolitical objects like cookbooks, toys and Christmas ornaments commemorating Confederate history serve to normalize – rather than problematize – the objects, rituals and stories surrounding the Confederacy.”

Maurantonio also complains that “many unexamined Confederate symbols have made their way into people’s kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms” and that “like Confederate statues and flags, Confederate Christmas ornaments strengthen this myth that the Confederacy – an entity built on white supremacy – was about southern ‘heritage.'”

But the Confederacy was about southern heritage. This is not a myth; but the truth. If one truly stopped to examine Confederate symbols, one would realize that they stand for the values of liberty, freedom, individual rights, resistance to authority, and thinking for oneself as opposed to mindlessly conforming to social norms and complying with existing power structures. These things are, in my opinion, awesome, not destructive. Therefore, the Confederacy should be normalized, not problematized. America needs more, not fewer, Confederate symbols in people’s lives. It is the Black Lives Matter movement and the associated attitudes of political correctness that are truly intolerant, racist, and destructive. 

“Christmas ornaments communicate something about the person or family that displays them,” Maurantonio writes. “They reveal their history, passions and aesthetic taste. So pause to consider whether your Christmas tree represents your values. Does a keepsake from Stone Mountain really belong between an ornament crafted in a kindergarten classroom and a glass nutcracker gifted by your grandmother?”

Of course it does. The fact that ornaments communicate something about the person who displays them is exactly why Confederate images belong on Christmas trees everywhere. In addition to numerous Confederate toy soldiers, figures, and dolls in a variety of shapes and sizes, I am the proud owner of a Stone Mountain magnet and Breyer horses of both Little Sorrel and Robert E. Lee’s equine companion, Traveller. Additionally, there is a Confederate warrior of sorts on my Christmas tree among the Santas, bows, and bulbs. I wonder what the politically correct mob would say about this ornament…

bookmark_borderStatues and “intolerance for partial narratives”

An article in San Francisco Weekly claims that the despicable acts of destruction that have been perpetrated against beautiful statues and monuments are motivated by “growing intolerance for partial narratives.”

In June, mobs of intolerant bullies ruined statues of Father Junipero Serra, Francis Scott Key, and Ulysses Grant in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Mayor London Breed cravenly got rid of the city’s beautiful statue of Christopher Columbus because of the threat that it, too, would be violently destroyed. But if someone considered partial narratives to be a problem, then destroying all statues that represent viewpoints and cultures other than their own would be the exact opposite of what they would want to do. Presenting a full and complete version of history requires the inclusion of figures such as Serra, Key, Grant, and Columbus, because presenting a full and complete version of history requires the inclusion of all viewpoints and cultures. The actions of these vicious bullies have made the historical narrative partial and incomplete by dictating that only those viewpoints deemed to be compliant with political correctness be included. 

I was struck by a social media comment quoted in the article, where the commenter said, “Monuments reflect our values. We need updated monuments for updated values.” But values are not something that should change over time. Moral right and wrong are absolute and eternal; there is no reason why the values commonly held in 2020 are any more likely to be correct than the values held in 1492 or 1861 or any other year. Additionally, people have different ideas about what constitutes moral right and wrong and therefore which historical figures are worthy of admiration. To change monuments based on the values that happen to be popular at the time is unfair to those who hold values that happen not to be popular. Why should some people get to see their values reflected in the monuments around them, while others are deprived of this? That’s why it’s so important to have monuments representing a wide range of ideologies and values, as opposed to only the ideologies and values popular at the moment.

“The people who are vehemently opposed to these narratives are saying [the statues] represent a forced celebration of oppression and public funding of a narrative of oppression,” Kim Morrison, a professor at San Francisco State University, said in the article. “The types of things we celebrate are war, colonialism, and the conquering of a land, and we don’t talk about the human loss that has gone along with that. It’s been the partial telling of a story and forcing large segments of communities that have been hurt by those particular monuments to believe that they should participate in celebrating things that have harmed their communities.” She also suggested that replacement artwork “celebrate diverse communities.” 

But this is only one viewpoint about what constitutes oppression. In my opinion, policies such as the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, the progressive income tax, gun restrictions, and stay-at-home orders are far more oppressive than anything Columbus or Serra did. Why does Morrison’s idea of what is oppressive matter, while mine does not? I am forced to celebrate and to contribute to the funding of my oppression every single day. War, colonialism, and the conquering of lands are not the only things that inflict human loss. The everyday injustices, violations of liberty, and restrictions that prevent people from living their lives in the ways that they choose, these are far more harmful to human beings than acts of conquest by long-ago explorers and generals. Did Morrison ever consider how people who believe in medical freedom might feel about statues of Hubert Humphrey, who introduced the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, and Harry Truman, who signed it? Did she think about the hurt inflicted on the Confederate community by the existence of statues of Abraham Lincoln, who violated the First and Fourth Amendments in order to force the South to remain part of the United States against its will, or of William Tecumseh Sherman, who barbarically burned and destroyed farms, cities, and train tracks across the South in service of this same goal? Clearly, to her, only some of the people who are hurt by monuments matter, while others do not. 

As for the suggestion that art celebrate diverse communities… that was what was already being done before the Black Lives Matter movement began destroying everything in the world that does not conform to their ideology. By including statues of Columbus and Serra alongside those celebrating black and indigenous people, the world had a full, complete, and diverse telling of history. Destroying these statues took that away. Now, black and indigenous people’s narratives are the only ones remaining, the only ones allowed to be celebrated. That is truly a partial narrative. 

As a side note, the article characterizes the brutal and sickening destruction of the statue of Father Serra as an “act of civil disobedience.” Civil disobedience is the act of disobeying an unjust law as a form of protest. But the existence of a Serra statue is not unjust. It is actually the act of tearing it down that is unjust. These acts of destruction are neither attempts to make historical narratives more complete nor acts of civil disobedience. They are acts of bullying and intolerance whose purpose is to enforce conformity and eliminate true diversity.

bookmark_borderSupreme Court got it right: public health cannot override religious freedom

The Supreme Court’s Thanksgiving decision overturning New York’s Covid restrictions was truly something to be grateful for. A 5-4 majority ruled that the state government violated the First Amendment by imposing capacity limitations on religious services in an effort to combat the virus. 

The 5-justice majority reasoned that New York’s restrictions discriminated against religious institutions because they were regulated more strictly than secular businesses such as retail stores. But Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, part of the minority of 4, argued in their dissent that church services ought to be treated more strictly than stores because they involve people spending large amounts of time together in an enclosed space, often singing and talking. Retail businesses typically do not feature singing, and customers typically get in and out fairly quickly, making the virus less likely to spread there. “Justices of this court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily,” wrote Sotomayor. She argued that the religious restrictions are justified because they help to save lives, and that the ruling overturning them “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.” Professor Jeffrey Sachs made a similar argument in an opinion piece for CNN, criticizing the ruling as “against public-health science” and “scientifically illiterate.” 

These arguments would make sense if saving lives was the sole consideration in determining right and wrong; in other words if a policy’s effectiveness in stopping the virus was the sole consideration in determining whether or not it should be enacted. But this is not the case. The first and foremost consideration in determining whether a policy should be implemented is: does it violate individual rights? If so, then it is not morally permissible, and should not be considered constitutional, regardless of how many lives it would save. This is not “anti-science” or “scientifically illiterate.” It is simply recognizing that science and morality are two separate things. The court was not “second guessing the expert judgment of health officials” about the environments in which the virus spreads most easily. It was simply affirming that these judgments about risk cannot justify taking away fundamental freedoms. Science tells us factual information about the world, including how a virus spreads and what measures would be most effective at containing it. But only philosophy can determine which policies governments ought to enact. Too many people, worshipping at the altar of “science” and “data,” falsely presume that whatever science says is most effective is what should be done. This is to throw morality out the window.

Referencing Pope Francis’s New York Times opinion piece bashing people who stand up for individual rights (I wrote about that here), Sachs claims, “the common good takes precedence over simplistic appeals to ‘personal freedom’ in protests against justified public health measures.” I could not disagree more strongly. First of all, Sachs is presuming the truth of what he is trying to prove. The public health measures against which people have been protesting are not justified. They are unjustified. That is why people are protesting against them. Second, it is offensive and wrong that Sachs chose to derisively put the words “personal freedom” in quotes. The appeals that he refers to are to personal freedom, not “personal freedom.” Additionally, there is nothing “simplistic” about the concept of personal freedom. The non-aggression principle is simple, but that does not make it stupid or incorrect, as Sachs implies. In fact, according to the concept of Occam’s razor, simple ideas are more, not less, likely to be true. Finally, the common good does not take precedence over personal freedom. Individual rights are an absolute and therefore must take precedence over everything else. 

Sachs complains that as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, “public health authorities will feel hamstrung to restrict religious gatherings even when the virus is spreading out of control.” But that is exactly the way it should be. He urges religious, public-health, and political leaders to use “scientific knowledge combined with compassion.” But the policies for which he advocates – taking away individual freedoms in order to combat the spread of the virus – demonstrate a complete lack of compassion. A leader with true compassion would understand that not everyone has the same preferences as he or she does. A leader with true compassion would allow all people to make decisions according to their preferences as opposed to imposing his or her own preferences and risk tolerance on everyone. Therefore, it is the five justices who overturned New York’s restrictions, including the Court’s newest member, Amy Coney Barrett, who demonstrate true compassion.