bookmark_borderAthletes’ boycott is inconsistent and illogical

The world is finally emerging from a government-ordered lockdown during which countries, states, and cities forbade their citizens from leaving their homes for anything other than necessities. A more severe, wide-reaching violation of people’s rights can hardly be imagined. 

Yet because of an incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin in which Jacob Blake was shot by police officers, the NBA, NHL, and MLB have decided to cancel their games as a form of protest. I do not mean to minimize the injustice of what happened to Jacob Blake. Obviously, being shot and paralyzed as a result is absolutely horrible, and he did not deserve for this to happen. But I disagree with the claims by the Black Lives Matter movement that incidents like this are symptomatic of an overarching trend of systemic racism. Like the equally unjust and tragic killing of George Floyd, this was an isolated incident. It is being investigated, and if any of the officers involved are found to have acted wrongly, they will be punished. The shooting of Jacob Blake is being handled the way it should be. 

So why did so many athletes boycott their games in response to this but not in response to issues that are actually important? 

As a result of demands by its athletes, the NBA agreed to postpone all of yesterday’s and today’s playoff games. The NHL called off today’s playoff games, and MLB postponed three games yesterday and seven games today after some players decided to sit out and their teammates and managers backed them. 

Contrast this with the complete lack of reaction when the majority of states in the U.S. enacted stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, banning all people within those states from traveling, going to parks, doing outdoor activities, getting together with other people, and operating businesses. Did any professional athlete express any opposition whatsoever to these tyrannical policies that violate every person’s rights on a massive scale? If so, the media has done a good job of keeping it secret. 

As another example of an issue that merits widespread protests, take the barbaric destruction of buildings, businesses, and worst of all, statues that has been perpetrated by protesters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement across the country. Why have no professional athletes taken a stand against these violations of people’s rights? Why has no one pledged to boycott games until the vandalized statues are restored and protected?

It’s not only recent injustices that merit protests. Why have no athletes protested against technology companies’ constant tracking of everyone’s internet activities? This practice violates every person’s privacy rights. Why did no athletes protest the deployment of full-body scanners at airports in 2010, also violating every traveler’s privacy rights? Why did no athletes protest when the federal government passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, requiring all people to purchase health insurance? This law violates every person’s right to decide what to do with his or her own money. And why did no one protest the passage of the Durham-Humphrey Amendment in 1951, requiring each person to get a doctor’s permission before being allowed to purchase medications? This law violates every person’s right to make his or her own medical decisions. I could continue listing examples until this blog post became as long as a novel, but I think you get the point.

All of these issues are more important, and more deserving of protests, than an isolated incident of police brutality. The decision by so many basketball, hockey, and baseball players to boycott games over one instance of injustice while completely ignoring others is illogical, inconsistent, unjust, and unfair. Their gesture is meaningful to Jacob Blake and those who care about him, but it is a slap in the face to all those people who are negatively affected by other types of injustice. 

bookmark_borderBoston City Councilors on preserving public art

Boston City Council President Kim Janey had some interesting comments on public art this week, after a mural called “Roxbury Love” was destroyed during the process of building a new housing complex.

“There was a missed opportunity in terms of residents being able to come and say goodbye to the mural,” Janey said. Although Cruz Companies, which is building the complex, had told the city that the mural would need to be demolished and is considering incorporating elements of the mural into the building, citizens did not know ahead of time that it would be demolished on that particular day. Even the mural’s creator, Deme5, said in an Instagram post that he was saddened at the loss and would have appreciated a heads up about the demolition.

Janey called on her fellow council members to discuss “strategies for ensuring intentionality when it comes to preserving murals and public art.” She expressed admiration for the murals that she grew up around in Roxbury and the South End during the 1970s and 1980s. “It was an important part of what it meant to live in the community that I lived in,” she said. Another city councilor, Liz Breadon, described public art as “a wonderful, vibrant expression of the community that lives in that place.”

I wholeheartedly agree with these comments. Art is an essential part of the identity of a place. But when reading them, I can’t help but think of the beautiful statues across the country that have been destroyed by mobs or taken down by local governments. These statues were just as crucial to the identity of their communities as the Roxbury mural was, and their removal just as damaging. Rampaging, politically correct protesters have also deprived people of the opportunity to say goodbye to beloved works of art, as have cowardly public officials who have ordered statues removed under cover of night. Boston’s Italian-American community did not get the chance to say farewell to the statue of Christopher Columbus that was brutally beheaded by a despicable excuse for a human being. Richmond residents who are proud of their Southern heritage weren’t able to bid adieu to the magnificent statues of Confederate generals that Mayor Levar Stoney abruptly ordered removed. So while I completely share the sentiments of these city councilors with respect to the importance of preserving public art, the same consideration needs to be extended to all works of art, not only those that happen to be favored by the political establishment.

bookmark_borderMaryland considering getting rid of state song

Naturally, in this era of political-correctness-motivated war against everything to do with the Confederacy, various people are demanding that Maryland replace its state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” The song was written by James Ryder Randall in 1861 in response to riots that took place as Union soldiers passed through Baltimore on their way to Washington, D.C. The lyrics criticize Abraham Lincoln and the North and express support for secession. It became the state song in 1939, but starting in 1974 there have been 9 unsuccessful attempts to repeal it.

The full lyrics are as follows:

Continue reading “Maryland considering getting rid of state song”

bookmark_borderState Senator and others charged with felonies for destroying Confederate monument

Finally, a small step towards some semblance of justice. On Monday, various people, including a state senator, were charged with felonies for destroying a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Virginia. On June 10, a mob surrounded the monument, covered it in profane and insulting graffiti, decapitated the four soldier statues standing on the monument’s base, and pulled down one of them. (If you have a strong stomach, photos of the destruction can be seen here.)

According to local news station WAVY News 10, the following people were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, as well as injury to a monument in excess of $1,000 (also a felony):

  • LaKeesha Atkinson, Portsmouth School Board member
  • Amira Bethea
  • James Boyd, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • Louie Gibbs, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • LaKesha Hicks, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • State Senator Louise Lucas
  • Kimberly Wimbish
  • Dana Worthington

And the following people were charged with injury to a monument in excess of $1,000:

  • Raymond J. Brothers
  • Meredith Cramer, public defender
  • Hanah Renae Rivera
  • Brenda Spry, public defender
  • Alexandra Stephens, public defender
  • Brandon Woodard

The Portsmouth Police Department is asking for help identifying 13 additional people involved in the destruction of the statue, and they are asking for anyone who recorded video during the incident to share it with them.

Lucas’s attorney, Don Scott, accused the police department of “doing what they always do which is they weaponize the criminal justice system against black leadership.” The ACLU of Virginia demanded that the charges be dismissed because the police department directly asked a magistrate to charge the defendants instead of going through the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. (Police Chief Angela Greene said that her department did this because discussions with Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales “did not yield any action.”) Governor Ralph Northam called the charges “deeply troubling.” Former Governor Terry McAuliffe described Lucas as “a trailblazing public servant who isn’t afraid to do and say what she believes is right” and praised her “opposition to a racist monument.”

I could not disagree more strongly with these comments. The felony charges are 100% justified. Destroying a monument to the outgunned, outnumbered, losing side of a war is an act of bullying, bigotry, intolerance, and authoritarianism. Anyone who participates in such a despicable action is a bad person and deserves to be severely punished. A Confederate monument is not racist, nor is the decision to hold people accountable for vandalizing it. For Lucas’s attorney to accuse the police department of racism is deeply wrong – any person who damages a statue deserves to be criminally charged, regardless of his or her race. Does he think that his client should be able to destroy statues with impunity because she is black? As for the decision to bypass the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, the police department should be saluted, not criticized, for its determination to seek justice. Does the ACLU believe that people should be able to destroy statues with impunity because the Commonwealth Attorney refused to do her job?

It is particularly disturbing that people in positions of leadership  – a state senator and members of the school board, NAACP, and public defender’s office – would vandalize a statue. As Jazz Shaw at Hot Air points out: “When your average citizen does something like this it’s bad enough. But when an elected official such as a state senator is caught red-handed, you’re talking about someone who was placed in a position of trust by the public to uphold the law.”

Lucas might be a person who is not afraid to do what she believes is right, as McAuliffe claims, but in this case, what she allegedly did was 100% wrong. There is nothing honorable about openly and unabashedly doing a morally repugnant action. There is nothing brave about being an intolerant bully who tramples on the underdog. And that is exactly what Lucas, and all the other individuals who were charged, allegedly did. Assuming that these defendants were actually part of the mob that destroyed the statue and this is not a case of mistaken identity, every one of these individuals deserves the harshest possible punishment. 

bookmark_border“It’s not vandalism,” says man who helped tear down Jefferson statue

I recently came across an interview that Willamette Week did with one of the people (and I use that term loosely) who tore down a statue of Thomas Jefferson in Portland, Oregon. According to this account, a group of about 15 people tied ropes around the statue of our third president outside Jefferson High School and used a car to pull it off of its base and cause it to come crashing down. People then chopped at the statue with axes.

This man, who bravely chose to remain anonymous, described the destruction of the statue as necessary and morally correct. “It felt like the community just spontaneously got together to do this thing that needed to be done in that moment,” he said in the interview. “We were doing this thing that should’ve been done, that people in charge aren’t doing. It’s direct action. We need to not have this statue sitting here. It’s not right.”

I vehemently disagree with the claim that the destruction of a magnificent statue is something that “needs to be done.” Statues are beautiful works of art that give cities and towns character and identity. Their existence is a good thing. Taking them down is not only unnecessary; it is morally wrong and makes the world a worse place.

In a dubious stretch of logic, the anonymous protester denied that the destruction of the Jefferson statue constituted vandalism: “It’s not vandalism, you’re doing something by taking down this image. There wasn’t rage… We can’t just watch and let people call them vandals. That’s not vandalism.” I wasn’t aware that rage was a requirement for an act to be considered vandalism. Nor did I know that an action was exempt from being called vandalism if its perpetrators believe they are “doing something.” Destroying property that does not belong to you – and statues certainly qualify because they belong to the people as a whole – is vandalism. You can argue that vandalism is morally right in this case (and I would disagree with you wholeheartedly), but you can’t really deny that what happened was vandalism.

This man also expressed support for the destruction of Portland’s George Washington statue, which occurred in a separate incident. “We no longer want to let those things just exist out in the open,” he said of the statue of our first president. He also condemned Mt. Rushmore, one of the most iconic outdoor sculptures in the United States, calling it a “travesty” and a “shitty thing.”

He even questioned the idea of building monuments at all: “Should we be making statues of people? Is anybody worth having their figure being a permanent presence somewhere? It’s a powerful thing to think about. It’s a bit magical to have a lifelike body of an individual being a permanent presence. That’s a high school. It shouldn’t exist there.” And he characterized support for statues as a “fantasy about these figures that we were trained to have so much respect and admiration for.”

I could not feel more differently. We absolutely should be making statues of people, and the fact that they are permanent, and somewhat magical, is exactly why! A person does not need to be perfect in order to deserve having their statue become a permanent presence. They do not even need to be respected and admired by the majority of people. There is something beautiful and inherently enriching about having monuments to historical figures dotting the urban landscape. Remembering and learning about notable people from the past is intrinsically valuable. As people learn about history, they will come to a variety of different conclusions about which historical figures are and are not worthy of admiration. No person, group of people, or even society as a whole, has the right to get rid of a statue merely because they don’t find the subject admirable. Believing that statues should exist is not a “fantasy.” It does not mean that one thinks that the people depicted in the statues are perfect. It is, ironically, a matter of respect for diversity. Instead of creating a homogenized society in which everyone conforms unquestioningly to the social mores of the present, we should acknowledge and value the wide range of different ways of thinking that have existed in the past and exist today.

Maybe it’s because I have loved history since I was ten, but I find it incomprehensible that so many people prefer a world without statues of historical figures. A world in which the only thing that anyone cares about is the present might function okay, but it would be a world without culture, without identity, without joy, and without meaning. Why would anyone want that? Statues of historical figures absolutely should exist, not only at high schools but everywhere.

bookmark_border59 Confederate symbols removed since George Floyd’s death

According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, 59 Confederate symbols have been removed across the country since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. This includes 38 monuments that have been removed entirely, 5 monuments that have been relocated, 9 schools that have been renamed, 5 parks/trails/roads/water bodies that have been renamed, the fact that the Confederate flag was removed from the Mississippi state flag, and the fact that the Confederate flag was removed from a police uniform in South Dakota. This total accounts for nearly half of the Confederate symbols removed since the Charleston church shooting in 2015, meaning that the pace of removals over the past 3 months has drastically accelerated.

Contrary to the opinions of the Southern Poverty Law Center, this is a tragedy. The removal of Confederate monuments, names, flags, and other symbols is not only the removal of an important part of America’s history; it is also the removal of values and ideals that are a crucial part of our nation’s identity.

The Confederacy is not synonymous with racism, or with slavery. The Confederacy was a collection of states that attempted to form their own country, a collection of people who fought for their independence. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned and having a less industrialized economy, the Confederacy stood up to the federal government. Therefore, the Confederacy stands for freedom, defiance, rebelliousness, and resistance to authority. These are all positive qualities that are central to what it means to be an American; after all, our country came into existence as a rebellion against unjust taxation. To obliterate Confederate iconography is to erase not only Southern heritage but the very values upon which America was founded.

Each Confederate statue, just like any other statue, stands for a human being from history, with both good and bad attributes. The fact that the individuals honored by these statues fought for the Confederacy does not make them bad, any more than a statue of someone who fought for the Union is inherently bad. No person is perfect and no country is perfect. Yes, the Confederacy had slavery, which nearly everyone today would consider a negative attribute. But the Union and its leaders invaded the Confederate states, carved a swath of complete destruction across the South, instituted the draft, made it illegal to criticize the government, and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, meaning that anyone could be jailed for any reason. And they did all this in order to force the people of the South to remain part of the country against their will. Why is this considered perfectly acceptable while the Confederacy, along with everything associated with it, is condemned?

Both sides in the Civil War deserve to be recognized and celebrated. Erasing and defaming the losing side of a war is intolerant, conformist, and authoritarian. Every removal of a Confederate symbol is an assault on diversity, moving America closer to becoming a completely homogeneous, conformist, cookie-cutter nation in which all people think alike, a nation with no culture, no identity, and nothing that makes it different from any other nation. People from all backgrounds and all regions of the country should be able to honor their ancestors and celebrate their heritage.

One tiny glimmer of good news is the fact that there are still 725 Confederate statues and 1,800 total symbols of the Confederacy remaining, according to the SPLC’s report. However, because it is almost certain that no new Confederate symbols will be added in the current political climate, each instance of a symbol being removed is tragic beyond measure. Each loss is essentially permanent, a thing of glory, beauty, and magnificence lost forever, never to be replaced. All true patriots must fight to ensure that each and every one of these 1,800 Confederate symbols is preserved forever.

bookmark_borderHypocrisy and overreaction to Portland arrests

In response to aggressive and destructive protests in Portland, Oregon the federal government sent law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection to restore order. “Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14,” explained Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.” These federal officers have come and gone, but their actions and the response to them still merit discussion.

Those on the left-hand side of the political spectrum have predictably erupted in outrage, describing these arrests as authoritarian and unconstitutional. “It sounds more like abduction,” said Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center. “It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.” Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the deployment of federal officers “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.” Senator Jeff Merkley tweeted, “authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters.” An opinion piece by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post proclaims, “This is not America… There is a more important symbol of justice than a brick-and-mortar building. It is called the Constitution. To ignore it is to attack America.”

If Marcus cares so much about the Constitution, where was she when governors around the country implemented executive orders requiring businesses to close and people to stay in their homes? When has she stood up for people’s Second Amendment rights, or the First Amendment rights of those who have protested against lockdown orders?

It is hypocritical that so many people who have not only failed to object to but actively cheered on blatantly authoritarian and unconstitutional policies are up in arms about the arrests of protesters associated with Antfa and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Portland arrests are not an attack on America. The protesters’ actions are an attack on America, and criticism of the federal officers who were deployed to defend people and property is off-base.

First of all, as even the Washington Post opinion piece admits, the law enforcement officers are wearing patches that say “police.” As an article by Law Enforcement Today accurately points out, “The irony is that the ‘unmarked authorities’ that Senator Merkley is complaining about… clearly have the words ‘police’ on their chest plate. That usually means they’re marked.”

More importantly, the actions of the protesters more than justify a forceful response. What has been happening in Portland is nothing short of atrocious. For weeks and months on end, mobs have been barbarically destroying both private and public property and assaulting innocent people. Night after night they have repeatedly firebombed, graffiti’d, smashed the windows of, and thrown fireworks, pipes, and rocks at a variety of courthouses and federal buildings. The damages have totaled over $23 million. Rioters have thrown ball bearings, glass bottles, cans, rocks, feces, and animal seed at police officers, deliberately shined laser pointers in officers’ eyes, and attacked them with hammers. They threw fireworks at construction workers who were attempting to repair the damage to a courthouse. Additionally, they have destroyed priceless statues and monuments. The city was forced to remove the iconic elk statue after rioters climbed on top of it, graffiti’d the phrase “oink oink” on it, set it on fire, and damaged its foundation. Previously, rioters tore down a statue of George Washington after covering it in graffiti and setting it on fire, and used ropes and an ax to tear down a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Journalist Andy Ngo has been diligently chronicling the Portland chaos minute by minute on Twitter since the beginning, documenting new acts of destruction every day.

These actions – particularly the attacks on statues and innocent construction workers – are repugnant and despicable. Anyone who has participated in these acts of vandalism and aggression needs to be severely punished. It is true that in situations involving large groups of people protesting, not every protester is involved in or even aware of the immoral actions committed by fellow protesters. For example, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, two individuals arrested by “unmarked” officers, Conner O’Shea and Mark Pettibone, claim not to have been engaged in criminal activity. However, they did admit that they regularly attend protests. There is nothing wrong with attending protests, per se. It is protected by the First Amendment. But given the atrocious acts committed by protesters aligned with Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, both in Portland and around the world, anyone who chooses to participate in demonstrations supporting these causes is implicitly expressing support for the atrocious acts. In other words, even those individual protesters who have not personally destroyed statues or assaulted construction crews are standing in solidarity with those who have. Anyone who expresses support for these atrocities, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a bad person and deserves anything that he or she gets.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf had it right when he said: “Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.” As part of his statement, Wolf provided a disturbing litany of the acts of destruction carried out by protesters. In her Washington Post opinion piece, however, Ruth Marcus describes this list as “less than convincing” and disingenuously quotes the entries from one particular day as evidence for this claim. But reading the list in its entirety provides a completely different picture. How anyone could read this list of despicable actions and not find it a convincing justification for a federal crackdown is beyond me.

As Law Enforcement Today puts it, “So long as protests turn into riots, these ‘activists’ can count on getting arrested or detained.” By punishing those who have either carried out or expressed support for attacks on innocent people and property, law enforcement officers are standing up for the rights of the people of Portland. There is nothing authoritarian or unconstitutional about that.

bookmark_borderGloucester mayor’s unprofessional, authoritarian comments

Sefatia Romeo Theken, the Mayor of Gloucester, Massachusetts, recently made some highly offensive and unprofessional comments bashing people for getting together on boats.

“I’m tired of everyone’s baloney,” she said in an interview with WHDH. “If you want to go in the ocean, respect it. Just because it’s open doesn’t mean it’s all yours.” These comments were directed at people who have the audacity to go boating, tie their boats together with other boats, and go swimming together in the ocean.

How does the decision of people to do an activity that does not harm anyone and does not infringe on anyone else’s rights constitute “baloney”? How can someone be “tired” of something that does not affect her and is not her business? And how does getting together with people on other boats constitute treating the ocean like it’s “all yours”? Doing this does not prevent other people from using the ocean in any way; therefore I do not see what is wrong with it. The true baloney is politicians’ belief that they have the right to tell individuals what they are and are not allowed to do. The people of Massachusetts are the ones who should be tired of her baloney, not the other way around.

In a different interview, Theken criticized boaters for “putting everyone else’s life in jeopardy.”

“It’s not your constitutional right to come onto a beach,” she continued. “It’s not your amendment. It’s respect. What happened to respect? You’re not entitled to this. We all work for it. We’re supposed to be in it together. Massachusetts for Massachusetts. Gloucester is a welcoming community all the time, but respect us. That’s all I’m asking — respect.”

Actually it is everyone’s constitutional right to come onto a beach. There is no amendment to the Constitution that includes the word “beach,” but that does not mean people do not have a constitutional right to go there. The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” And the Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” These amendments mean that anything not explicitly prohibited in the Constitution is allowed. The Constitution does not include any language prohibiting people from going to the beach or from gathering together with other boaters on the ocean; therefore people have a constitutional right to do both these things.

Additionally, regardless of what the Constitution says, people have a moral right to go to the beach and get together with other boaters if they wish to. Yes, doing so carries an increased risk of virus transmission compared to boating solo or staying in one’s house. But it is incorrect to say that doing so “puts everyone else’s life in jeopardy.” The virus puts everyone’s life in jeopardy. People have no moral obligation to actively work to reduce transmission of the virus; therefore the fact that an activity carries an increased risk of transmission does not make the activity morally wrong. In other words, contrary to Theken’s claim, people are entitled to go to the beach and to do any activities they wish there, so long as those activities do not interfere with other people’s ability to do the same.

What is morally wrong is Theken’s nasty criticism of people who have done nothing to deserve it, as well as her apparent belief that she has a right to tell other people what they are and are not allowed to do. Her talk of respect is ludicrous. There is nothing disrespectful whatsoever about what these boaters are doing. They are minding their own business and doing an activity that they have every right to do. Theken, on the other hand, is demonstrating profound disrespect: disrespect for her fellow human beings, disrespect for individual liberty, and disrespect for the fact that people have different tolerances for risk and the right to make decisions accordingly. She has no right to ask for respect when she demonstrates not one iota of respect for the rights of others.

Making matters even worse, Theken tweeted similar sentiments to those that she expressed in interviews:

I doubt anyone thinks that COVID doesn’t go out to sea. People are aware that boating get-togethers carry a risk of virus transmission but are willing to live with this risk, as is their right. Theken is correct that low-risk is not the same as zero risk. That is the whole point. People have a right to make their own decisions about how to manage risk. Some people prefer to be cautious and stay home as much as possible, while others are comfortable with group activities and believe that the benefits of these activities outweigh the risks. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Does Theken believe that only activities with zero risk of virus transmission are acceptable? That is utterly preposterous – every activity, including grocery shopping, mailing a letter, walking down the street, or receiving a delivery, carries some risk – yet it is what the above tweet implies.

These comments demonstrate a lack of professionalism, poor command of both logic and grammar, and most importantly, a disturbing tendency towards authoritarianism. I don’t even live in Gloucester, but I am tired of her baloney, and every resident of Gloucester should be as well.

bookmark_borderYes, COVID-19 restrictions really are tyranny

Numerous people, including myself right here on this blog, have characterized government policies designed to combat COVID-19 as tyrannical. Dictionary.com has several definitions of “tyranny,” including “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority,” “oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler,” and “undue severity or harshness.” In my opinion, the stay-at-home orders unilaterally imposed by governors across the country, prohibiting citizens from moving about freely and conducting their daily lives, fit this definition perfectly. But in a recent column, journalist and political consultant Gary Pearce dismisses the arguments against these authoritarian policies and claims instead that systemic racism is the real tyranny.

Pearce derisively writes that “people across North Carolina and the nation protested against what they called the ‘tyranny’ of COVID-19 restrictions that kept them from bars, gyms and hair salons for a few months.” He claims, “COVID restrictions aren’t tyranny. They’re an inconvenience during a public health crisis.” What Americans should truly be concerned about, according to Pearce, is “the tyranny of racism that has terrorized African Americans for centuries and continues today.”

While some of the examples that Pearce lists, such as slavery, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws, arguably constitute tyranny, these things have long ago been abolished. Other examples that he mentions do (at least occasionally) happen today: lynchings, beatings, and instances of police brutality such as that which took the life of George Floyd, for example. But while I would never deny (nor would anyone in their right mind) that these things are horrible and unquestioningly violate the rights of their victims, they do not constitute tyranny. This is because these actions are not carried out as part of a deliberate government policy but are isolated incidents, almost universally condemned and punished just as any other crime would be. Crimes committed by individual people, as wrong as they are, are not tyranny.

Pearce also alleges that the police response to the Black Lives Matter protests constitutes tyranny. He criticizes police officers’ “menacing presence,” their use of clubs, tear gas, and rubber bullets against protesters, and their armored cars, riot gear, and semiautomatic weapons. “Sometimes the police looked more like military units,” he writes. How can the way that police officers look, the weapons that they carry, the gear that they wear, or the vehicles that they drive, constitute tyranny? As for the use of clubs, tear gas, and rubber bullets against protesters, these would constitute tyranny if used systematically against innocent people, but the protesters against whom these things were used were far from innocent. Over the past few months, people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have assaulted police officers and civilians, burned, smashed, and otherwise destroyed property, looted businesses, and vandalized countless statues and monuments. Although there have been a few isolated instances of police using excessive force against innocent people, the vast majority of instances of use of force were in response to acts of aggression by protesters. Defending people and property against violent mobs is not tyranny.

Contrary to what Pearce argues, COVID restrictions are the true tyranny here. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, governments around the country and world have trampled on individual rights on a massive scale. People have been told that they cannot run their businesses, shop at stores, eat in restaurants, attend church, gather in groups, go to parks or beaches, or even leave their homes, sometimes under penalty of fines or prison time. How can anyone argue that this is not tyranny? The fact that these policies have been instituted in response to a health crisis does not make them any less tyrannical. A pandemic does not mean that individual rights no longer exist, nor that it is okay to violate them. If it is tyrannical to force blacks and whites to use separate restaurants, stores, and barber shops as Pearce alleges, how can it not be tyrannical to ban all people from restaurants, stores, and barber shops altogether?

So in conclusion, although instances of racism and police brutality are certainly unjust, they are not systemic, nor do they constitute tyranny. Stay-at-home orders, on the other hand, violate everyone’s fundamental rights to make their own choices and therefore are the true tyranny. In the words of John Wilkes Booth (and also the Virginia state motto), sic semper tyrannis!

bookmark_borderNew Jersey gym owners standing up for freedom

Two New Jersey men named Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti are facing fines of $10,000 per day and jail time for the horrendous crime of… opening their gym.

Pursuant to Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order, gyms are still not allowed to be open except for one-on-one personal training. But that did not stop Smith and Trumbetti from opening Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey. Back in May, the gym opened in defiance of the stay-at-home order. Supporters holding American flags and chanting “Reopen New Jersey,” “We are not afraid,” and “Murphy’s a tyrant” filled the parking lot. State officials issued summonses for disorderly conduct to the owners and ordered the gym to close. In June, the gym was allowed to open again for nutrition and clothing sales only, but they soon began welcoming customers for indoor workouts. Since then, the gym has been issued 14 citations and has been ordered to close by a judge. Smith and Trumbetti steadfastly refused and were arrested on July 27 for contempt of court, obstruction, and violation of a disaster control law. After they got out of jail, they removed the gym’s front doors so that state officials could not change the locks. In response, state officials boarded up the entrance with plywood. Then, Smith and Trumbetti kicked down the plywood barricades in front of a cheering crowd and once again allowed members into the gym. Now the state is pushing to impose fines of $10,000 per day as well as additional jail time.

“I am grateful that the court recognized the need for compliance,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal when a judge initially ordered Atilis Gym to close. “The vast majority of businesses and residents are following these rules and doing their part to keep their friends and neighbors safe, and those few companies who flout our Executive Orders are once again on notice that we will hold them accountable, and that there will be serious consequences for their actions.”

This statement is typical of the authoritarian attitudes that so many government officials have adopted during the Covid pandemic. Neither the gym’s owners nor its customers are doing anything wrong – each person has the right to decide for himself or herself how best to balance safety and quality of life amidst the pandemic. No one is obligated to follow unjust rules, and no one should be punished for merely operating a business and providing a place for their fellow citizens to exercise. This talk of compliance, consequences, and being held accountable is nothing short of Orwellian.

Smith and Trumbetti have sued Murphy and his administration, alleging that his restrictions are unconstitutional. “The government has to trust its citizens at some point, and say — you know what, everybody needs to be responsible,” said their lawyer, James Mermigis. “We all know how contagious and horrible this disease can be, I’m not disputing that at all, but there needs to be a balance”

Interviewed by Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Trumbetti vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court. “Good luck,” Trumbetti said. “You’re going to be violating our Constitutional rights, and we’ll go ahead with a lawsuit against them and we will stay in business… We will be open.”

“There’s no excuse for the way that we’ve been treated,” Smith added. “We started this peacefully and kept it peaceful the entire time.”

Right on. Salute to these two brave individuals who are standing up to tyranny.