Intimidation and authoritarianism, revisited

As I wrote about in an earlier blog post, I have been thinking a lot about the topic of bullying and how it relates to the political and policy disagreements going on today. In my opinion, policies such as restricting individual freedoms in order to fight against Covid-19, as well as destroying statues of historical figures who do not meet today’s standards of political correctness, are examples of bullying. Both these things involve a powerful, majority group taking something away from a less powerful, less popular group. In the first example, those who value safety over freedom take away the rights of the minority who prioritize freedom. In the second example, those who dislike certain statues take them down over the objections of the minority who love and admire the statues.

It is disturbing and upsetting when those who fall into the bully category in these policy debates twist the truth by falsely portraying those on the opposite side as bullies. For example, I came across a column in my local newspaper by Reverend John F. Huston in which he claims that those protesting against stay-at-home orders are the true bullies. “It has been an ugly, ugly campaign season and an ugly, ugly year for human behavior in our land. Who could have imagined the image of armed protesters, bullies, storming the state capitol in Michigan this summer in response to the lockdown? The blatant disregard, even contempt, so many of my fellow citizens have shown for science and public health, that folks would actually see the rejection of mask wearing as a symbol of liberty, patriotism even?”

These sentiments are deeply wrong. The armed protesters who went to Michigan’s capitol building to voice their opposition to the stay-at-home order are not bullies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who enacted the stay-at-home order, is a bully. State legislators and public health officials who expressed support for the stay-at-home order are bullies as well. The stay-at-home order, by taking away individuals’ freedom to move about and associate freely, was an act of bullying. The armed protesters were standing up to bullying. It is disturbing that someone would think that the people fighting back against bullying are the true bullies. The Reverend has things completely backwards.

This has definitely been an ugly year for human behavior, but it is those who cravenly sacrifice liberty for safety who are the source of the ugliness, not those with the courage to stand up to them. The true problem facing America is the worship of science and public health and the resulting blatant disregard, and even contempt, for individual rights.