bookmark_borderTom Brady did not “get a pass” for endorsing Trump

USA Today columnist Nancy Armour recently published a deeply wrong, racist, and offensive column in which she claims that Tom Brady “has gotten an undeserved pass for his past support of Donald Trump” because he is white. Contrary to Armour’s claim, Brady has not gotten a pass because he is white. He has gotten a pass because, well, he did nothing wrong. As difficult as this may be to comprehend for those who subscribe to the intolerant ideology of political correctness, people have the right to endorse any political candidates they want. It is disturbing that expressing support for Trump is presumed to be something morally wrong, for which a person deserves to be punished.

“How mighty white of him,” Armour writes with respect to the fact that Brady once had a MAGA hat in his locker and endorsed Trump in the 2016 election. “Brady’s ability to enter and exit the debate at his choosing, to shield himself from accountability, is the height of white privilege. As this country grapples with the far reaches of systemic racism, look no further than Brady, for whom the expectations, and allowances granted, will always be different.”

The column also quotes author David Leonard, who says that “Whiteness is the benefit of the doubt… He reaps the benefits that we as white Americans reap each and every day in different contexts.”

Silly me. I thought that whiteness was a skin color. Both Leonard’s allegation and Armour’s “how mighty white of him” comment are blatantly racist.

Armour’s column is based on an idea first put forth by Shannon Sharpe on his Fox Sports show. The talk show host alleged that Brady “got a pass” for having praised Trump, while a hypothetical black athlete who praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan would have been “canceled.”

I disagree with this claim. In today’s society, white athletes, and white people in general, are overall subjected to harsher criticism than their black counterparts. Additionally, public figures who express support for right-leaning causes or candidates are criticized much more harshly in our society than those who express support for left-wing causes and candidates. As evidence of this, one need look no further than the near-unanimous support across all professional sports for the Black Lives Matter movement. Not once has any athlete, or public figure, been criticized for supporting this movement, despite the fact that its supporters have perpetrated widespread and horrific destruction of cities, businesses, and irreplaceable works of art.

“Brady has been allowed to divorce himself from it while Black athletes are made to own their views in perpetuity,” Armour writes of the QB’s past Trump support. “There is no end in sight to Colin Kaepernick’s blackballing, even though his protests to bring attention to police brutality of Black and brown people have proven to be an alarm we should not have ignored.” This contention ignores the fact that Kaepernick’s behavior – wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs and demanding (successfully) that Nike stop producing a patriotic sneaker with a Betsy Ross flag on it – is reprehensible and his “blackballing” therefore completely justified. And the fact that despite this behavior, Kaepernick is hailed almost unanimously as a hero and a victim of unjust treatment, while Brady is harshly and incessantly criticized, as the existence of Armour’s column demonstrates. 

Armour describes it as a privilege that Brady has not been asked about his views on the January 6th protest and that he is “not asked to speak for white America.” She writes: “Even Brady’s aversion to talking about politics or current events is itself a form of privilege. Like other white athletes, Brady is seen as an individual in a way minority athletes never are.” Leonard echoes these sentiments, saying: “Seeing sports and living sports as an uncontested space is the privilege of whiteness. It’s the privilege of being a man. It’s the privilege of being a heterosexual athlete. That is a luxury that Black athletes and other marginalized and disempowered athletes have never been afforded.”

First of all, there is no such thing as “white America,” and it is racist and think and speak in such terms. Additionally, I disagree with the allegation that minority athletes, female athletes, and gay athletes are never seen as individuals. I also disagree with the claim that it is a privilege and a luxury to be seen as an individual or to have the choice of whether or not to discuss current events. Being able to express one’s views on politics and current events, or alternatively, to opt not to do so, is a right, not a privilege.

Armour closes by criticizing Brady’s “moral cowardice.” She writes that “celebrating what he’s done while turning a blind eye to what he has not is a privilege Brady does not deserve.” Actually, it is Armour who is demonstrating moral cowardice. And having one of the nation’s most well-known and widely-read newspapers as a platform from which to spew her pompous, mean-spirited, racist nonsense is a privilege that she does not deserve.

Thankfully, Fox Radio host Clay Travis had some sensible words to say about this situation. “Do [74.2] million Americans who voted for Donald Trump have to answer for their support?” he asked. “That’s what America is. It’s a democracy. I voted for Donald Trump… Nobody ever has to apologize when they support a Democratic or left-wing politician in the world of sports. Why in the world should Tom Brady have to apologize for supporting the former president of the United States? I think that’s what makes American sports so fantastic. It cuts across our racial, our ethnic, our socioeconomic, our political divisions and brings us all together. And I hope on Sunday we can all sit down, grab a beer, have some nachos, and enjoy one of the greatest games of all time regardless of who the politicians are supported by the players on the field.”

Amen to that.

bookmark_borderWashington Post article epitomizes what is wrong with the media

Lately I have been avoiding consuming news as much as I can. Things have reached a point where I can no longer watch news shows or read news articles without becoming angry at the biased word choices of the so-called journalists. What is supposed to be the neutral providing of information has turned into editorializing and opinion. The below article from the Washington Post epitomizes what is wrong with the media. I read only the headline and the first sentence of the article, and there are almost too many false and biased things to count:

First of all, news outlets should not describe Trump’s claims as “falsehoods.” They should remain neutral on the truth or falsity of Trump’s statements and allow readers to form their own conclusions. Second, describing Trump’s claims as an “onslaught” is opinion, not factual. Third, Trump’s claims did not necessarily mislead any Americans, let alone millions, because as I already stated, it is up to readers to form their own conclusions about the truth or falsity of the claims. Fourth, undermining faith in the electoral system is not necessarily a bad thing, because if Trump’s claims are actually correct, and there are problems with the integrity of the electoral system, then it is good for people to question this system instead of having blind faith in it. To characterize undermining faith in the electoral system as inherently bad presumes the truth of what the authors are (wrongly, because their job is to be neutral) trying to prove: namely that Trump’s claims of election fraud are false. Fifth, what happened at the Capitol on January 6th was a protest, not a riot. And sixth, it was not really the protest that was deadly; it was the police response to it. Out of the five people who died for reasons related to that protest, one was a cop who was allegedly killed by a protestor, one was a cop who committed suicide, two were protesters who suffered medical emergencies, and one was a protestor who was deliberately killed by cops. 

So yeah, other than that, this article is totally appropriate and makes perfect sense… NOT! The individuals who wrote it and the editor(s) who allowed it to be published should be ashamed of themselves. And, as a side note, it’s awfully ironic that a news outlet so biased towards the left, and the accompanying tendency to spend as much money as possible on unnecessary government programs, is suddenly concerned about taxpayers’ money.

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_borderCyclist suspended for pro-Trump tweets

In the latest example of intolerance practiced in the name of tolerance by today’s politically correct society, cyclist Quinn Simmons was suspended for tweeting his support of Donald Trump. 

According to ESPN/Associated Press, the “controversial” tweets began when Dutch journalist Jose Been tweeted: “My dear American friends, I hope this horrible presidency ends for you. And for us as (former?) allies too. If you follow me and support Trump, you can go. There is zero excuse to follow or vote for the vile, horrible man.”

Simmons, the 2019 junior road race world champion, responded “Bye” with a dark-skinned hand emoji. 

When someone else tweeted, “Apparently a Trumper,” Simmons responded, “That’s right” with an American flag emoji. 

His team, Trek-Segafredo, said in a statement: “Trek-Segafredo is an organization that values inclusivity and supports a more diverse and equitable sport for all athletes. While we support the right to free speech, we will hold people accountable for their words and actions. Regrettably, team rider Quinn Simmons made statements online that we feel are divisive, incendiary, and detrimental to the team, professional cycling, its fans, and the positive future we hope to help create for the sport. He will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice.”

They added in a separate statement that Simmons “was not suspended because of his political views. He was suspended for engaging in conversation on Twitter in a way that we felt was conduct unbefitting a Trek athlete.”

And the team’s manager said that Simmons “has a bright future as a professional athlete if he can use this opportunity to grow as a person and make a positive contribution for a better future for cycling.”

According to Cycling Weekly, the organization Diversity in Cycling alleged that the use of the dark-skinned emoji was a form of “blackface” and pompously lectured him to “listen and learn.”

“To those who found the color of the emoji racist, I can promise that I did not mean for it to be interpreted that way,” Simmons responded. “I would like to apologize to everyone who found this offensive as I strongly stand against racism in any form. To anyone who disagrees with me politically, that is fine. I won’t hate you for it. I only ask the same.”

In my opinion, this is a perfect example of much ado about nothing. Simmons expressed his support for Trump, something that he has every right to do. When one considers the wide range of opinions, thoughts, insults, and profanities that exist in the vast world of social media, Simmons’s tweets are really pretty innocuous. He did not attack or insult anyone, use profanity, or call anyone names. Interpreting the dark-skinned emoji as racist is a stretch and is certainly not an interpretation that would occur to me upon seeing this tweet. There wasn’t any need for Simmons to apologize, as he didn’t do anything wrong. By suspending him, his team went way overboard and veered into the realm of hypocrisy. Any organization that truly values inclusivity and diversity would embrace people with varied political beliefs. There was nothing incendiary or divisive about Simmons’s tweets, unless by divisive the team meant demonstrating ideological diversity, in which case being divisive is not a bad thing. There is no need for Simmons to “grow as a person” or “listen and learn,” as he has already demonstrated good character and courage by daring to voice unpopular views. It is the practitioners of political correctness run amok who need to listen and learn about what diversity truly means.

bookmark_borderMarkey calls Trump “racist scum”

During last night’s chaos-filled debate, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) called Donald Trump “racist scum.”

This, in my opinion, is more offensive than anything that Trump said during the debate, or ever, for that matter. If Markey believes that one or more of Trump’s comments or policy positions is racist, there’s nothing wrong with tweeting, “that comment is racist” or “that policy position is racist” and (ideally) explaining why. But to call a person “scum” is completely unprofessional and completely inappropriate for someone who holds public office. This type of personal attack is something I would expect an anonymous, illiterate troll to write, not a United States senator. Shame on Senator Markey. Trump is often accused of being a bully, but the real bully here is Markey, as well as anyone who uses this type of insulting, ad hominem discourse against those with whom they disagree. 

bookmark_borderTrump orders creation of National Garden of American Heroes

President Trump continues to fight back in the war on statues. Yesterday he signed an executive order creating a task force for building and rebuilding monuments and ordering the creation of a statuary park called the National Garden of American Heroes.

The executive order reads as follows:

America owes its present greatness to its past sacrifices. Because the past is always at risk of being forgotten, monuments will always be needed to honor those who came before. Since the time of our founding, Americans have raised monuments to our greatest citizens… In our public parks and plazas, we have erected statues of great Americans who, through acts of wisdom and daring, built and preserved for us a republic of ordered liberty.

These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal. They preserve the memory of our American story and stir in us a spirit of responsibility for the chapters yet unwritten. These works of art call forth gratitude for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our exceptional fellow citizens who, despite their flaws, placed their virtues, their talents, and their lives in the service of our Nation. These monuments express our noblest ideals: respect for our ancestors, love of freedom, and striving for a more perfect union. They are works of beauty, created as enduring tributes. In preserving them, we show reverence for our past, we dignify our present, and we inspire those who are to come. To build a monument is to ratify our shared national project.

To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance. In recent weeks, in the midst of protests across America, many monuments have been vandalized or destroyed. Some local governments have responded by taking their monuments down. Among others, monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, leaders of the abolitionist movement, the first all-volunteer African-American regiment of the Union Army in the Civil War, and American soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wars have been vandalized, destroyed, or removed.

These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn. My Administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory. In the face of such acts of destruction, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand strong against this violence, and to peacefully transmit our great national story to future generations through newly commissioned monuments to American heroes.

It is not yet clear where the National Garden of American Heroes will be located or when it will open, although Trump’s goal is to have it opened before July 4, 2026. Funding and administrative support for the garden will be provided by the Department of the Interior. The garden will enable the public to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and learn about history. Trump specifies in his order that the statues should be realistic, as opposed to abstract.

Trump provides the following list of specific people to be included in the garden: “John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Billy Graham, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Antonin Scalia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

He also provides the following list of more general categories of people who should be considered for inclusion: “the Founding Fathers, those who fought for the abolition of slavery or participated in the underground railroad, heroes of the United States Armed Forces, recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Medal of Freedom, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, civil rights leaders, missionaries and religious leaders, pioneers and explorers, police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty, labor leaders, advocates for the poor and disadvantaged, opponents of national socialism or international socialism, former Presidents of the United States and other elected officials, judges and justices, astronauts, authors, intellectuals, artists, and teachers.”

And importantly, he points out: “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.” Amen to that.

In addition to the garden, this executive order also directs funding towards the commissioning of new statues to be installed in cities and towns where statues of historically significant Americans have recently been removed or destroyed.

My only criticism is that no Confederate historical figures are included in the list. Hopefully a few of them will make it into the garden as well. Interestingly, the executive order mentions the possibility that the task force might “encourage and accept the donation or loan of statues by States, localities, civic organizations, businesses, religious organizations, and individuals.” Does this mean that statues that cities and towns have decided to remove might find a new home in the garden? I hope so, because it is a shame for beautiful, magnificent statues to languish in storage instead of being on display where the public can appreciate them.

bookmark_borderRe-opening the country is about freedom, not just the economy

A few weeks ago, when the U.S. first began to emerge from coronavirus-related restrictions, President Trump acknowledged that opening the country might result in more deaths than would have occurred it the country had remained locked down.

ABC’s David Muir asked Trump, “Do you believe that’s the reality that we’re facing, that lives will be lost to reopen the country?”

Trump replied: “It’s possible that there will be some because you won’t be locked into an apartment or a house… Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

The ABC News article described Trump’s stance as “directly acknowledging there will be a real, negative human cost in prioritizing an economic revival over a more cautious approach in favor of public health.”

This is typical of the way the debate over reopening the country has been framed: as a trade-off between the economy on one hand and health and safety on the other hand. But it’s not just the economy that’s at issue: it’s people’s fundamental rights and freedoms. The paternalistic, authoritarian restrictions that governments put in place to slow the spread of the virus did not only completely destroy the economy, ruin businesses small and large, and take away the livelihoods of millions of people. They also violated the rights of every single person: the right to move about freely, the right to assemble, the right to protest, the right to privacy, the right to religious freedom, and the right to bear arms, just to name a few. Governments had no right to enact these restrictions in the first place; therefore they could not possibly end the restrictions too soon. If something violates people’s rights, then the sooner it stops, the better.

But far too many people have described even the first cautious steps towards reopening the country as reckless, immoral, irresponsible, and even (according to one acquaintance on social media) “sickening.”

Epidemiologists Dr. Abby Greenberg and Dr. Harvey Finkel expressed such sentiments in a Boston Globe letter to the editor. “Opening up society and businesses now, or soon, will lead to many deaths,” they wrote. “Death is permanent. Economic loss can eventually be recouped. Trading deaths for dollars is unconscionable. Inconvenience and boredom must be borne with equanimity.”  

But it is not a matter of trading deaths for dollars. Nor is it even a matter of trading deaths for freedom. Freedom is a right. If something is a right, it cannot be taken away, full stop. It makes no sense to even debate whether or not freedom should be traded for health, or safety, or even lives. It is never OK to violate rights, to any degree, no matter how many lives could be saved by doing so. Restoring freedoms that should never have been taken away in the first place is neither reckless, nor irresponsible, nor sickening, nor immoral, nor unconscionable. It is a fundamental moral obligation. Contrary to what Greenberg and Finkel argue, extending the lockdown would be unconscionable.

Furthermore, it’s not about “inconvenience and boredom.” It’s about the moral principle that people have the right to make their own decisions about their lives. It’s not about the specific things that are sacrificed in an effort to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus; it’s about the principle that people should be free to weigh risks and decide for themselves what sacrifices (if any) to make to reduce their risk. How dare Greenberg and Finkel (and the many other people who think similarly) reduce this moral argument against the lockdown to a complaint about inconvenience and boredom? How dare they demand that people “bear with equanimity” the trampling of our fundamental rights?

It is common to hear the argument that a particular policy position is correct because it “saves lives,” as so many people have argued with respect to lockdown orders. It is difficult for opponents to argue against any policy position framed this way without sounding like callous jerks. But the fact that something saves lives does not automatically make it morally right. This point is explained wonderfully in an article by Anthony Davies and James Harrigan entitled “No Policy Can Save Lives; It Can Only Trade Lives.” Here is an excerpt:

Regardless of whether we acknowledge them, tradeoffs exist. And acknowledging tradeoffs is an important part of constructing sound policy. Unfortunately, even mentioning tradeoffs in a time of crisis brings the accusation that only heartless beasts would balance human lives against dollars. But each one of us balances human lives against dollars, and any number of other things, every day.

Five-thousand Americans die each year from choking on solid food. We could save every one of those lives by mandating that all meals be pureed. Pureed food isn’t appetizing, but if it saves just one life, it must be worth doing. Your chance of dying while driving a car is almost double your chance of dying while driving an SUV. We could save lives by mandating that everyone drive bigger cars. SUVs are more expensive and worse for the environment, but if it saves just one life, it must be worth doing. Heart disease kills almost 650,000 Americans each year. We could reduce the incidence of heart disease by 14 percent by mandating that everyone exercise daily. Many won’t want to exercise every day, but if it saves just one life, it must be worth doing.

Legislating any of these things would be ridiculous, and most sane people know as much. How do we know? Because each of us makes choices like these every day that increase the chances of our dying. We do so because there are limits on what we’re willing to give up to improve our chances of staying alive. Our daily actions prove that none of us believes that “if it saves just one life” is a reasonable basis for making decisions.

In another thoughtful article, Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic argues that in addition to negatively impacting people’s quality of life, lockdown measures could negatively impact people’s life expectancy as much as, or more than, the virus itself. He cites the dangers posed by food shortages, the likelihood of suicide and/or drug use among those whose livelihoods are destroyed, and the impact of a crashing economy on the medical system:

The general point is that minimizing the number of COVID-19 deaths today or a month from now or six months from now may or may not minimize the human costs of the pandemic when the full spectrum of human consequences is considered. The last global depression created conditions for a catastrophic world war that killed roughly 75 to 80 million people. Is that a possibility? The downside risks and costs of every approach are real, frightening, and depressing, no matter how little one thinks of reopening now.

Anyone who thinks that the economic devastation caused by the government’s response to the coronavirus will simply be reversed in time might want to think again.

It is interesting that just three months ago, the idea of the government banning restaurants from offering dine-in service, sports teams from playing, and stores from opening would have been unthinkable. But now that most state governments has done just that, it is considered the default. Those who want to relax the restrictions bear the burden of proving that doing so is safe, and if they do not do that to the satisfaction of the medical and political establishment, they are attacked as irresponsible, greedy, and selfish. Yet it is those who want to extend the shutdown of our country who should bear the burden of proof; it is those who want to keep people imprisoned in their homes who are truly immoral.

bookmark_borderFacebook employees stage walkout over lack of discrimination

Dozens of employees at Facebook refused to work on Monday in protest of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to censor posts by President Trump. Employees have circulated petitions, threatened to quit, and publicly criticized the company, all because of the company’s decision to…allow freedom of expression and not discriminate against people based on their political views.

The offending post by President Trump is as follows:

“The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the US President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,” wrote one employee on an internal message board. “Along with Black employees in the company, and all persons with a moral conscience, I am calling for Mark to immediately take down the President’s post advocating violence, murder and imminent threat against Black people.”

Twitter added a warning label to the equivalent Trump tweet and a fact-check label to a different Trump tweet, but Facebook opted to leave the post alone, stating that it does not violate Facebook’s rules prohibiting incitement of violence.

In my opinion, Zuckerberg was completely correct not to censor the post, because it does not incite or advocate violence. It simply states that if protests become violent, and people loot businesses, law enforcement will respond with lethal force. In other words, Trump is not advocating for initiating violence against anyone; he is advocating responding in kind to those who initiate violence. What is wrong with that? Does advocating enforcement of very reasonable laws protecting private property now constitute a threat of violence? Is the president required to allow people to engage in rioting and looting without doing anything about it? As for the employee who posted on the message board, how can Trump’s post be interpreted as “advocating violence, murder and imminent threat against Black people” if it does not even mention race?

Venture capitalist Roger McNamee criticized Facebook, saying: “In the U.S., Facebook has consistently ignored or altered its terms of service to the benefit of Trump. Until last week, Twitter did the same thing.”

According to the New York Times article, Zuckerberg is planning to hold a call with civil rights leaders who have criticized “Facebook’s protection of Mr. Trump’s posts.”

But there has been no protection of Trump’s posts. Facebook has not ignored or altered its terms of service to the benefit of Trump. It has simply enforced its terms of service consistently, treating Trump the same as it treats everyone else. Twitter, on the other hand, went out of its way to censor Trump, and the employees staging the walkout are demanding that Facebook do the same. They are demanding that their company take down posts that do not violate its rules, merely because they dislike the individual who made the posts and disagree with his political views. In other words, they are demanding that Facebook discriminate against Trump and treat his posts more harshly than the posts of someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum would be treated.

Now that is something that any person with a moral conscience should be against.

bookmark_borderTrump and DOJ join fight against authoritarian restrictions

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

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

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

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

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