bookmark_borderPortland’s intolerant “Day of Rage”

On Sunday, the day before Columbus Day, about 300 evil excuses for human beings held what they described as a “Day of Rage” in Portland, Oregon to protest against the Italian explorer. Disgustingly, they tore down statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, fired bullets through the window of a restaurant, and smashed the windows of numerous buildings, including restaurants, a jewelry store, a bank, and a coffee shop. They also attempted to burn down the Oregon Historical Society, breaking windows and throwing flares inside, and stole and damaged a historic quilt made by 15 African-American women to celebrate America’s bicentennial. 

According to CNN, flyers for the Day of Rage warned that photography and videography would not be allowed. Apparently whoever organized this event is unaware that in America, there is this thing called the First Amendment. In addition to providing evidence that the protesters intended to commit criminal actions, it is obnoxious that someone would believe they have the right to tell other people that they are not allowed to take photos or videos in public places.

At least two people have been arrested to far, according to local news station KGW. Brandon Bartells, 38, of Pasco, Washington was charged with first-degree criminal mischief and riot for tearing down the Roosevelt statue. He allegedly chained his van to the statue and used the vehicle to pull it down. Malik Fard Muhamad, 23, of Indiana was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, riot, and unlawful possession of a firearm. He allegedly smashed the windows of the Historical Society and other buildings with a metal baton.

According to journalist Andy Ngo, one of the rioters, Amanda Siebe, is running for Congress. “It was so f***ing wet tonight,” she tweeted. “But still, we brought down 2 statues. It was an amazing thing to see those statues fall!” The prospect that someone who thinks like this and writes publicly in such an unprofessional manner might hold public office is disturbing. 

Ngo also reported that the restaurant that was shot at, Heroes American Cafe, was targeted because it was decorated with photos of first responders.

The City of Portland said that the damage to the statues will cost $30,000 to repair. This is after rioters already destroyed statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and an elk in the same city.

District Attorney Mike Schmidt called this weekend’s vandalism “sickening,” “inexcusable,” and “without purpose and justification.”

I could not agree more. I condemn these destructive actions in the strongest of terms. Contrary to the sentiments expressed by congressional candidate Amanda Siebe, the destruction of statues is the exact opposite of “amazing.” It is repugnant and despicable. The fact that someone would deliberately pull down a beautiful, magnificent piece of art, and then be happy about this accomplishment, is completely incomprehensible. Every time a monument is torn down, my soul feels like it has been stabbed. Every loss of a statue makes the world a worse place. How could someone do such a thing or express joy about it?

It is also completely illogical that supporters of Antifa and Black Lives Matter would have such a thing as a “Day of Rage.” Those who support these movements have absolutely nothing to be angry about. They have gotten their way on everything. All four major sports leagues and countless celebrities vigorously support their movement. Any person or institution that dares to express dissenting views is immediately condemned, boycotted, and/or fired. Members of these movements have already destroyed hundreds upon hundreds of businesses, buildings, and priceless statues, as well as assaulting and killing innocent people. They have succeeded in causing the Confederate States of America and its iconography to be almost completely obliterated from our society, Christopher Columbus to be slandered as a mass murderer and his holiday replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day in many states, and even founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to become controversial.

It is those on the opposite side – those who admire the Confederacy and/or Columbus and/or the founding fathers – who have the right to be enraged. Our statues have been brutally destroyed and our culture and history mercilessly attacked. And now, bizarrely, those who have been trampling on our rights have the audacity to claim to be “enraged” by us, the people on whom they have been trampling. The “Day of Rage” participants and all those who share their beliefs are bullies with no tolerance for any cultures, opinions, or values other than their own. Christopher Columbus is a hero and a cultural symbol to many Italian-Americans, including myself. To hold an event whose sole purpose is to demonstrate rage towards a holiday that celebrates Italian heritage is an act of bigotry. Everyone who participated in this event deserves to be charged with a hate crime. 

bookmark_borderThe linguistics of protests, riots, and BLM

As someone who is fascinated by words and ideas, I have long been pondering what is the best name for the protests that have been happening since the death of George Floyd and the ideology that motivates them. Participants in and supporters of the protests, of course, use terms such as Black Lives Matter (BLM for short), anti-racism, and racial justice to describe their movement. Detractors of the protesters sometimes call them the “woke mob” or use the term “cancel culture” because of the movement’s propensity to demand the cancellation or firing of any individuals, movies, shows, or books that do no conform to their ideology. Commentator Robby Soave coined the term “1793 Project” to describe the mentality, because that was the year the Committee of Public Safety took over the French Revolution and began inflicting terror on anyone who did not conform to their ideology. Some people characterize the ideology of the protests as left-wing, radical, Marxist, or even anarchist, and some go so far as to call the protesters domestic terrorists.

This topic has been on my mind as of late because the Associated Press recently tweeted about the appropriateness of various words for acts of protest and resistance. The AP’s twitter thread reads as follows:

“A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium. Focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s. Unrest is a vaguer, milder and less emotional term for a condition of angry discontent and protest verging on revolt. Protest and demonstration refer to specific actions such as marches, sit-ins, rallies or other actions meant to register dissent. They can be legal or illegal, organized or spontaneous, peaceful or violent, and involve any number of people. Revolt and uprising both suggest a broader political dimension or civil upheavals, a sustained period of protests or unrest against powerful groups or governing systems.”

The AP seems to be suggesting that the recent actions and events should generally be referred to as unrest or protests as opposed to riots. It is difficult to write about these events in a neutral way because in addition to the arguments both for and against the actions themselves, there is an almost equally heated debate about what the actions should be called. Proponents prefer the words “protest” and “protesters” because these words focus on the cause that the participants are advancing, while opponents prefer the words “riot” and “rioters” because these words focus on the destructive actions. The AP has declared itself firmly in the “protest” camp.

I also found it interesting that the AP mentioned the possibility of characterizing the recent events as a revolt or uprising. Some participants in the events have, on a similar note, characterized themselves as participants in a “revolution” or “resistance.” I disagree strongly with the use of such terms to characterize this movement. This is because, as the AP notes, revolts, uprisings, revolutions, and resistance are all directed against powerful groups or governing systems. In other words, they are actions taken by “underdogs” against the establishment or, to use a term popular among hippies in the 1960s, “the man.” The Black Lives Matter movement, in my opinion, is the opposite of this. Contrary to what is portrayed by members of this movement, I feel that the BLM movement is less about diversity and tolerance and more about enforcing conformity. It is less about standing up for the underdog and more about trampling on and bullying unpopular minorities. It is less about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable and more about comforting the already comfortable and further afflicting the afflicted.

As proof of this, one need look no further than the BLM movement’s attitude towards the Confederate States of America. The members of the Confederacy were rebels in the truest sense of the word. They carried out a revolution against a powerful federal government. Outnumbered and with fewer supplies and a less modern economy, they lost. The South was physically devastated, its economy destroyed, its leaders charged with treason, and its people forced to remain part of the Union, at first under military occupation before they were eventually allowed to enjoy the full rights of citizenship again. It is impossible to think of a better example of an underdog than the Confederacy. Yet in the year 2020, members of the BLM movement insult and denounce the Confederacy and every person associated with it, tear down, vandalize, beat, smash, burn, lynch, and urinate on its statues, demand that its flag be banned, and advocate that it be “erased” and every reminder of it obliterated from the earth. This is the very essence of “punching down” as opposed to “punching up.” The Confederate generals and soldiers who are the objects of the BLM movement’s hatred were revolutionaries; therefore the BLM movement cannot accurately be described as a revolution or uprising.

For similar reasons, I’m not in favor of characterizing this movement as “radical.” I also don’t particularly favor characterizing it as left-wing, Marxist, or anarchist. These are all distinct ideologies with philosophical principles that define them. Much of today’s activism does not seem to be motivated by any ideology, per se, but by more of an anti-ideology. Instead of focusing on specific philosophical principles, the recent actions too often focus on destruction for the sake of destruction. Nor do I think domestic terrorism is the right term, because as destructive and violent as terrorism is, it is motivated by principled devotion to an ideology. Additionally, any terms involving the word “mob” call to mind the mafia, and I don’t think it’s fair to the mafia to compare them to this movement.

What is the best term to describe this movement, then? I sometimes use the phrases “black supremacism” or “reverse racism” because of participants’ tendency to demonstrate negative attitudes towards white people merely by virtue of being white. But I’m not sure these are the best terms. Black supremacism seems a little harsh, and the idea of reverse racism is problematic because it presumes that racism against black people is the “default” type of racism. I often call participants in this movement bullies, but this word can apply to any mean, intolerant, or pushy person and is not specific enough to be a good name for a particular movement or ideology. An idea that I strongly associate with this movement is political correctness. Political correctness in itself is not a horrible thing; if someone wants to use politically correct language and ideas in their own speech and actions, they have the right to do that. What is striking about the recent activism is its desire to obliterate everything in the world that does not conform to the requirements of political correctness, in other words its complete intolerance and disregard for dissenting views. Political correctness reigns supreme and is prioritized above logic, philosophy, diversity, or kindness. Some terms that I feel come close to capturing this phenomenon are “aggressive political correctness,” “political correctness run amok,” or perhaps, “cult of political correctness.”

Regardless of what words are used, I will continue writing about the BLM movement, political correctness, and the associated protests and riots, most likely using a variety of different terms until I settle on a word or words that I like best.

bookmark_border“No justice, no Derby”

The Black Lives Matter movement yesterday chose the Kentucky Derby as its latest occasion for protests. Activists gathered in a park near Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and marched towards the racetrack chanting “No justice, no Derby!” The fact that the race was even run was described as insensitive, callous, and tone-deaf.

These criticisms are, in my opinion, ridiculous. There are legitimate concerns about police brutality, and people are understandably demanding justice in the police-involved shooting of Breonna Taylor, who lived in Louisville. But why is any of this a reason to cancel the Kentucky Derby? Police officers who abuse their authority deserve to be punished, as do all those who perpetrate racism in our society. But to cancel the Derby would not accomplish this. It would punish the hardworking trainers, jockeys, grooms, and owners who have dedicated their lives to caring for horses, as well as the racing fans, and most importantly, the horses themselves who have been training for this moment all year long.

There are all sorts of injustices and wrongs in our society. Racism against black people exists in some places, and racism against white people exists as well. Anti-Semitism exists, as does prejudice against gay, transgender, and asexual people. Income inequality, social pressure, animal cruelty, and climate change are all serious issues. As a person on the autism spectrum, I face discrimination and other challenges on a daily basis. But no one who is affected by any of these other issues has demanded that major sporting events be canceled. Yes, racism and police brutality deserve to be condemned and protested against. But so do all forms of injustice. All of the injustices that I listed are equally widespread and equally problematic as what the Black Lives Matter movement is protesting against, if not more so. So why do Black Lives Matter protesters believe that their issue should be treated preferentially to all others? To demand that the Kentucky Derby be canceled as a response to the injustices that the BLM movement cares about is unfair to everyone affected by other injustices, as well as to everyone who loves horse racing.

The fact that something unjust happened does not mean that events that have absolutely nothing to do with the injustice should be canceled or that people who have nothing to do with the injustice should be punished. The Kentucky Derby is not a frivolous social occasion. It is more than an excuse to wear fancy hats and drink mint juleps. It is a prestigious sporting event for equine athletes, which horsemen and horsewomen build their entire year around. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race was rescheduled from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September, and was held without fans. These measures are more than sufficient; there is no reason to demand that the race be canceled entirely. Supporters of BLM should focus their criticism and protests upon people who are racist and police who commit acts of brutality; not innocent horses and the people who work with them. To demand that the world of horse racing stop in its tracks for the BLM movement, after already being disrupted around the country by the pandemic, is truly tone-deaf.

P.S. Although I was rooting for Tiz the Law, congratulations to Authentic and all of his humans!

bookmark_borderRand Paul and the ignorant mob

In yet another example of the intolerance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Senator Rand Paul was attacked by an angry mob of over 100 people while leaving the White House after the Republican National Convention. As he and his wife were trying to make their way back to their hotel, the mob swarmed around them, screamed insults, profanities, and death threats, and physically prevented them from moving.

The Daily Caller tweeted a video of the incident.

Senator Paul also described his ordeal on Fox & Friends:

They’re attempting to push the police over to get to me, so at one point they push a policeman backwards, he stumbles and he’s trying to catch his balance and I catch the back of his flak jacket to stabilize him to make sure he’s OK because he’s our defense. If he’s down, the mob’s loose on us. I truly believe this with every fiber of my being, had they gotten at us they would have gotten us to the ground, we might not have been killed, might just have been injured by being kicked in the head, or kicked in the stomach until we were senseless… They were shouting threats to us, to kill us, to hurt us, but also threats shouting “say her name,” Breonna Taylor, and it’s like you couldn’t reason with this mob, but I’m actually the author of the Breonna Taylor law to end no-knock raids, so the irony is lost on these idiots that they’re trying to kill the person who’s actually trying to get rid of no-knock raids.

That’s right, a mob of Black Lives Matter supporters threatened and harassed the very person who has authored 22 criminal justice reforms, including abolishing no-knock raids, which led to Breonna Taylor’s death. Apparently completely ignorant of this, the mob told the libertarian-leaning Republican senator, “We’re not going to let you go alive unless you’ll say you’re for criminal justice reform.” Paul’s actions over the years demonstrate quite clearly that he is. As Paul wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News, “almost no one has said Breonna Taylor’s name as often or sincerely as I have.”

Continue reading “Rand Paul and the ignorant mob”

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_borderThe way to prevent riots is by… not rioting

As supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to destroy statues and other property around the country and world, it is a good time to point out a very common, but wrong way of reacting to this destruction.

Many people, even those on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, briefly acknowledge that destruction of property is bad, but then proceed to claim that those who criticize the property destruction are more problematic than those carrying it out, or that no one has a right to criticize the destruction unless he or she is helping to fix the problems that the protesters are protesting about. If the demands of peaceful protesters are not met, goes the argument, then they have no choice but to engage in rioting and destruction to get their point across. Therefore, if you don’t want violent riots to happen, you need to support the Black Lives Matter movement by praising its peaceful protests and advocating for reform of the police, the criminal justice system, the educational system, and the economy. If you don’t take these steps, the argument goes, then you have no right to complain when riots and destruction happen. In the words of one of my acquaintances on Facebook: “Condemn riots. But do so honestly – and prevent them – by doing justice and listening up.”

This way of thinking presumes that the protesters’ cause is correct and that their demands are legitimate. It has become unacceptable to say so in today’s social and political environment, but I disagree with this premise. Yes, racism is bad, and so is police brutality. Yes, what happened to George Floyd was unjust. But I disagree with the claim that systemic racism exists, as well as with the assumption that police brutality has anything to do with race. In my opinion, there are numerous injustices more worthy of protesting against than those that motivate the Black Lives Matter movement – the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, infringements on Second Amendment rights, authoritarian measures designed to slow  the spread of Covid-19, and the assault on Confederate iconography, to name just a few. Can you imagine what the reaction of the general public or the media would be if supporters of any of these causes resorted to violence because laws were not changed in response to our protests?

It is false to presume that our society is obligated to meet the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t agree with the message of these protests, and I’m not obligated to either agree with it or accept that violent riots are going to happen.

Many people quote Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “A riot is the language of the unheard… And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

With all respect to Dr. King, the cause of riots is people who decide to riot. To suggest that the cause is the issues that the rioters are protesting against is to deny that people are responsible for their own actions. Why should people who have nothing to do with these riots bear the burden of preventing them, while those who are actually rioting are let off the hook? I’m not obligated to help prevent people from destroying property by addressing the issues that they are angry about. People are obligated not to destroy property, period. You know what is an absolute guarantor of riot prevention? Not rioting!

bookmark_borderFour people charged with attack on Andrew Jackson statue

On Saturday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced that four people were charged with attempting to destroy the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square.

Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia allegedly attempted to pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and to pull it down with a yellow strap.

Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C allegedly attempted to pull down the statue.

Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland, allegedly attached a rope to the statue and attempted to pull it down.

Graham, Lloyd, 37, of Maine allegedly attempted to pull the statue down with ropes and broke off and destroyed the wheels of cannons at the base of the statue.

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said: “The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed. This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”

And Acting Chief of the U.S. Park Police Gregory T. Monahan said: “Members of the United States Park Police are working tirelessly to provide quality law enforcement, safeguard lives, protect our national treasures and symbols of democracy, and preserve the natural and cultural resources entrusted to its service. We are committed to ensuring that citizens are able to freely exercise their constitutional rights in a safe and peaceful manner. The deplorable acts of violence and destruction of property are unacceptable and will continue to be pursued through ongoing collaborative investigations and enforcement efforts.”

Right on! I am heartened that something is being done to punish these disgusting attacks on statues that have been occurring with disturbing frequency. Looking at pictures of mobs trying to destroy the Andrew Jackson statue – such as the one accompanying this article or this article – makes me sick. The statue is magnificent and beautiful. How could someone look at it and want to tear it down? How could someone prefer a world without this statue and other patriotic works of art? The destructive actions of these four individuals, as well as those of countless others over the past few weeks, are morally wrong and incomprehensible. Anyone who intentionally damages a statue in any way, or attempts to damage a statue, or cheers, supports, or encourages the damaging of a statue, deserves to be severely punished.

Now that President Trump has signed an executive order calling for vandalism against statues to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, I hope that more people will be arrested on similar charges for the barbaric acts that have taken place over the past few weeks. Trump’s executive order, issued on Friday, instructs the Department of Justice to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of acts of destruction against statues, memorials, monuments, government property, and religious artwork. The Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003 authorizes sentences of 10 years in prison for these types of vandalism.

In the order, Trump also announced his intent “to withhold Federal support from State and local law enforcement agencies that have failed to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism. Unwillingness to enforce State and local laws in the face of attacks on our history, whether because of sympathy for the extremists behind this violence or some other improper reason, casts doubt on the management of these law enforcement agencies. These law enforcement agencies are not appropriate candidates for limited Federal funds that support State and local police.”

This is a great idea that will hopefully result in more police departments doing their jobs instead of allowing statues to be destroyed.

bookmark_borderHypocritical and racist letter on public health and protests

Earlier this month, over 1,000 public health professionals, infectious disease professionals, and community stakeholders wrote an open letter entitled “Open letter advocating for an anti-racist public health response to demonstrations against systemic injustice occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In the letter, they praise protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement while insulting and defaming protests against authoritarian government restrictions. In regards to the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the letter reads, “A public health response to these demonstrations is also warranted, but this message must be wholly different from the response to white protesters resisting stay-home orders.”

It is disturbing that public health professionals would openly advocate such disparate treatment towards protesters based on whether or not they personally agree with the message of the protest.

When it comes to Black Lives Matter protests, the letter reads: “We do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”

The letter urges everyone to “support local and state governments in upholding the right to protest and allow protesters to gather.” The letter recommends that authorities neither disband protests, not arrest protesters, nor use tear gas or any other type of respiratory irritant. The letter encourages bystanders to provide masks, hand-washing stations, hand sanitizer, face shields, goggles, and wrapped, single-serving food and beverages to protesters. (This suggestion is particularly jarring when contrasted with the uproar that took place when a college allowed police officers keeping order during a protest to use its bathroom.) And the letter urges people to donate to protesters’ bail funds.

On the other hand, when it comes to protests against authoritarian government policies, the letter has this to say:

“On April 30, heavily armed and predominantly white protesters entered the State Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, protesting stay-home orders and calls for widespread public masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Infectious disease physicians and public health officials publicly condemned these actions and privately mourned the widening rift between leaders in science and a subset of the communities that they serve.”

How could the authors of this letter condemn people who are not only doing nothing wrong, but bravely standing up for individual rights? Stay-at-home orders are morally wrong, and therefore protesters in Michigan (and all over the country) were 100% correct in protesting against them. It is the stay-at-home orders that should be condemned, not those protesting against them. And how could someone “mourn” the fact that people are protesting against a morally wrong government policy? The real cause for mourning is the fact that so-called “leaders in science” have lost all sense of right and wrong and think nothing of throwing away individual rights and freedom in the name of safety. If there is a rift between leaders in science and people who are standing up for individual rights, it is the leaders in science who are on the wrong side.

Why does the letter mention that the anti-lockdown protesters were “heavily armed and predominantly white”? People have a right to bear arms; the protesters were not doing anything wrong by being heavily armed. Additionally, their race is irrelevant. Believing that people should have a right to move about freely and that the government does not have a right to order people to stay in their homes has nothing to do with race. But despite this, the authors of the letter repeatedly categorize the anti-lockdown protesters as “white” and even go so far as to accuse the protests of being “rooted in white nationalism.”

Clarifying its position on Black Lives Matter protests, the letter states that this position “should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders. Those actions not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives.”

How is protesting against authoritarian government policies “rooted in white nationalism”? And how does this “run contrary to respect for Black lives”? In addition to accusing protesters of being white nationalists while providing no evidence to support that claim, the letter appears to be stating that respect for Black lives requires people to accept government policies that take away everyone’s freedom of movement. This is a preposterous claim. No person, of any race, has the right to demand that others shelter in their homes in order to keep him or her safe. No sane person could find it disrespectful for others to go about their lives and mind their own business. In fact, the exact opposite is the case. Allowing people to make their own decisions about risk is the only way to truly respect not just Black lives but lives of all races. Paternalistic and authoritarian government policies such as stay-at-home orders are disrespectful to all people, and protesting against them demonstrates true respect for Black lives and all lives.

Also, the fact that the anti-lockdown protests “oppose public health interventions” is not a bad thing. The public health interventions being challenged are morally wrong because they violate people’s rights to move about freely, and therefore it is correct to oppose them.

Furthermore, the letter demands that the public “listen, and prioritize the needs of Black people as expressed by Black voices.” Although this might sound like a nice sentiment, when you think about it, it is actually racist. Of course, everyone should listen to Black voices, just as everyone should listen to the voices of people of all races. But it is wrong to prioritize the needs of Black people, because the needs of all races matter equally. To prioritize the needs of Black people over the needs of others is racist and discriminatory.

So to sum up, the authors of this letter are on the wrong side of the issue of individual rights versus safety, are mischaracterizing this issue as having to do with race when it does not, and are also advocating that Black people be given preferential treatment over other races. They are advocating that protests with which they personally agree be not only permitted but actively supported and encouraged, while singling out protests with which they personally disagree for insults and condemnation. People with such racist attitudes and such disrespect for the rights of those they claim to serve have no business holding positions of leadership in their communities of in the field of public health. Each person who signed this letter should be fired from his or her job and should be sued for defamation.

bookmark_borderProtests against authoritarianism: it’s not about haircuts

I often see causes that I believe in dismissed as petty or unimportant. People who object to their rights being violated are accused of “whining.” What the people who make these types of arguments do not understand is that it’s not usually about the specific thing, but about the general principle behind it.

An example of this is the recent protests against authoritarian measures designed to slow the spread of Covid-19. The other day, while listening to the radio, I heard a medical ethicist who was being interviewed refer to these protesters as “the people who want haircuts.” Separately, in a tweet that I saw today, someone described these protesters as “whining ’cause the barbershop closed during a pandemic.”

These criticisms completely miss the point. It’s not about barbershops. It’s not about nail salons, or restaurants, or malls, or gyms, or parks, or casinos, or even churches (although those who argue that their religious freedom is being violated by the lockdown orders have an excellent point). It’s about individual liberty. It’s about the principle that freedom should not be sacrificed for the sake of safety. It’s about the principle that individuals should be able to make their own decisions about their own lives and to decide for themselves what amount of risk they are willing to take.

Supporters of gun rights face similar criticisms. We are called “gun fetishists” and “gun kissers,” and ridiculed for being irrationally obsessed with our “murder toys.” But it’s not about the guns. I have never owned a gun and have only used one a couple times, but it would be difficult to find a more ardent supporter of gun rights than me. Just like with the lockdown protests, it’s about the principle that freedom should not be sacrificed for safety. It’s about the principle that an object should not be banned, or made more difficult to obtain, simply because some people choose to misuse it. It’s about the principle that the correct response to a crime is to punish the person who did it, not to punish innocent people by taking their freedom away.

These moral principles are important. Without them, people would not have any freedom at all. Barbershops and guns are just examples of instances to which the moral principles apply. Personally, I can do without a gun and I can do without a haircut. But the government should not be able to take the freedom of owning a gun or getting a haircut away from people. Once a moral principle is violated in one case, there is nothing to stop it from being violated in other cases as well. Think about that before accusing protesters of “whining.”

bookmark_borderBoston restaurant owner: “What did I do to deserve this?”

Last night, as has been happening all over the country, protests against the death of George Floyd turned into rioting in my home city of Boston.

A mob of people surrounded a police car, ripped the doors off, and set it on fire. People vandalized historic churches, set trash cans on fire, tipped over large potted plants, threw bottles at journalists, smashed the windows of countless stores and restaurants, and engaged in looting and destruction all over the city.

In Downtown Crossing and the Theater District, people ransacked a Men’s Warehouse, the jewelry stores Bromfield Jewelers and Skylight Jewelers, the liquor store Wild Duck Wine and Spirits, a convenience store called Downtown Convenience, shoe stores, nail salons, a bank, a cell phone store, and a Walgreens, to give just a few examples. News coverage on NECN last night showed food from the Walgreens strewn all over the sidewalk.

Tany Gad, the owner of Lambert’s Marketplace near Boston Common, which was also vandalized and looted, described the scene: “I never saw anything like this at all in my life. Two of the glass windows were 100% broken and people went inside stealing beer, wine, and cigarettes.”

In the Back Bay, people ransacked stores such as H&M, Cartier, Ugg, Alex and Ani, Canada Goose, Allen Edmonds, Valentino, Burberry, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as the liquor store Clarendon Wine.

In the South End, people broke into and looted Giorgiana’s Market, the restaurant Frenchie, and sneaker store Laced.

In Dorchester, people destroyed clothing stores Dareales and EbLens.

The Boston Globe summed things up:

Chris Parsons, owner of the Oyster Club restaurant at 79 Park Plaza, went to bed Sunday night hopeful his restaurant had been spared from the violence wracking downtown Boston. He woke up Monday to learn looters had thrown rocks through his windows, pilfered the bar, and destroyed the place.

Kayla Levine was watching the news when she saw the liquor store near Copley Square that her family has owned since 1940 being looted. The damage in the neighborhood, she said, reminded her of the Boston Marathon bombings.

And Driss El Mokri raced downtown Sunday night to his Cafe Bonjour on Temple Street, arriving just as looters smashed the big front window. He stayed until 3:30 a.m., to make sure that was the only damage they did.

Jason Santos, owner of restaurants Abby Lane in the Theater District and Buttermilk & Bourbon in the Back Bay, said: “They stole most of our booze behind the bar, they ripped out the cash registers, and they trashed the place. They even stole my cookbooks.”

Possibly the most poignant comments came from El Mokri of Café Bonjour, who was interviewed live on last night’s news by a NECN reporter. Asked how he felt when, at home watching footage from the restaurant’s security cameras, he saw someone throw a brick through the window, he replied, “Loss of words. Sad. Heartbroken. You feel like, what did I do to deserve this? You talk about justice. This is injustice… What did I do to deserve this? What purpose does this serve? What good does this give to anyone? Nothing… You break my property for nothing and then you feel happy about it.”

Exactly. Café Bonjour did not kill George Floyd. Trash cans and plants do not oppress anyone. None of these businesses deserve any of the harm that was perpetrated against them.

The Boston Police Department tweeted at 9:59 last night: “Those now protesting in the streets of Boston have surrendered the moral high ground.”

I could not agree more. It is incomprehensible why people would choose to deliberately inflict such destruction, particularly given that these businesses have already suffered so much as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown order.

Additional protests have been happening today and tonight, so let’s hope that no more businesses are added to the list of those vandalized.