bookmark_borderThanksgiving thoughts

It has been a dark and demoralizing couple of years. The things that I value most – individual rights, liberty, history, tolerance, and diversity – have been under attack in various ways across the country and world. But there are a few signs of hope, indicating that possibly, just maybe, the tide might have begun to turn. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things that I am thankful for:

The Christopher Columbus statue in Fairfield, NJ

The vicious campaign against Christopher Columbus over the past year and a half has been nothing short of sickening. At the hands of intolerant mobs of protesters and equally intolerant politicians, statues of the brave explorer have been torn down and in some cases violently destroyed, his name has been erased from schools and other places, and his holiday has been obliterated. However, defying this horrible trend, the town of Fairfield, New Jersey unveiled a brand new statue of Columbus on October 9, 2021. The statue, located outside the Hollywood Avenue Recreation Center, was commissioned by the Fairfield chapter of UNICO and was unveiled at a ceremony featuring pro-Columbus speeches by the mayor and other Italian-American leaders. Recent events have been so demoralizing that I believed another Columbus statue would never again be created, and that the only possible outcome was for the number of statues to inevitably decrease bit by bit until it reached zero. The brave decision to create a new statue of Columbus gives me hope. 

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bookmark_borderOregon governor encourages people to call police for social distancing violations

In an effort to eliminate any possibility of Americans being able to do anything remotely enjoyable or festive, governors have been discouraging people from celebrating Thanksgiving in the traditional way, calling family gatherings dangerous and irresponsible. Oregon Governor Kate Brown went so far as to encourage people to call the cops on neighbors who violate Covid restrictions.

“This is no different than what happens if there’s a party down the street and it’s keeping everyone awake,” she said to local news station KEZI. “What do neighbors do? They call law enforcement because it’s too noisy. This is just like that. It’s like a violation of a noise ordinance.”

Brown signed an executive order implementing new restrictions for the next two weeks, including closing restaurants and gyms and banning get-togethers of over 6 people, or people from more than 2 households. Violations are punishable with up to 30 days in jail and/or a $1,250 fine. 

I disagree with Brown’s claim that having a get-together of over 6 people is equivalent to making excessive noise. Noise directly affects other people by assaulting their ears with unwanted sensory input, making it impossible to sleep or relax. Violating the governor’s Covid restrictions, on the other hand, does not directly affect anyone else. Many people argue that actions that violate Covid restrictions, such as get-togethers, do affect other people by increasing the amount of Covid cases in the community. It is true that in aggregate, group gatherings increase the number of Covid cases, which does increase each individual’s odds of contracting the virus. But any particular action or get-together affects other people only indirectly. The fact that an action carries a risk of a bad health outcome is not sufficient reason to ban it. Anyone who wishes to keep his or her risk to a minimum is free to stay home and avoid contact with other people entirely. Those who have a higher risk tolerance should also have the freedom to act according to their own preferences. 

To their credit, many Oregonians are challenging Brown’s authoritarian restrictions. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said, “We cannot arrest or enforce our way out of the pandemic, and we believe both are counterproductive to public health goals.” Clackamas County chair-elect Tootie Smith said that the restrictions make people “second-rate slaves.” Paul Aziz, the mayor of Lebanon, called the restrictions “not fair” to businesses and “devastating to our community financially and on our citizens’ mental health” and said that Brown “acted beyond her authority”

Brown called these comments “irresponsible.” She said: “These are politicians seeking headlines, not public servants, trying to save lives. My top priority as governor is to keep Oregonians healthy and safe.” The top priority of any governor or leader should not be to save lives or to keep people healthy and safe; it should be to protect people’s rights. Additionally, there is nothing irresponsible about pointing out the fact that a government policy violates people’s rights. It is disturbing that implementing totalitarian control over people’s lives is now considered a requirement for acting in a responsible manner and respecting rights is now considered reckless.