Across the country, protesters condemn police brutality as if it were the new Jim Crow. The newspaper of record preaches about hidden “white supremacy” as if it were more influential than the Declaration of Independence. Politicians cater to the supposedly oppressed masses of women, racial minorities, and LGBT people to galvanize the electorate. All the while, coronavirus double standards illustrate a new kind of American privilege.
When the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic struck the fear of God into Americans in March, many began a voluntary withdrawal from society, followed by government-mandated lockdowns. You couldn’t go into the office unless your work was considered “essential.” You couldn’t send your kids to school because the schools had shut down. You couldn’t go to church in person because that might put you in close proximity with other people. Large gatherings were banned.
The lockdowns aimed to slow the spread of the virus, to “flatten the curve” so that hospitals would not get overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Yet, after it became clear that hospitals would not become overwhelmed, lockdowns lifted slowly, and the increasing cases and deaths scared governments into another round of lockdown.
As PJ Media’s Stacey Lennox pointed out, relentlessly reporting the large numbers of confirmed cases and confirmed deaths is encouraging irrational panic. Many fear they will contract coronavirus by touching something after an infected person touched it, yet CDC data shows that surface transmission is extremely unlikely. Most transmission comes from close contact with an infected person over a period of time — either sheltering at home with someone or living in close quarters like in nursing homes or jails.
COVID-19 also has an extremely low death rate, and that rate is skewed toward the elderly. These and other facts suggest that society-wide lockdowns may not be necessary. Social distancing measures, including masks in indoor spaces and where people may share the same air, are likely still essential to slow the spread of the virus.
It is long past time Americans reconsider the lockdowns, particularly because the lockdowns create winners and losers in a few blatant double standards.
Perhaps the most blatant example of these double standards involves the politicians returning to Washington, D.C. after attending the funeral for civil rights veteran and former Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in Georgia. While D.C. requires anyone who travels to a “high-risk” state to quarantine for 14 days, members of Congress returning from Lewis’ funeral in Georgia (which D.C. considers a “high-risk” state) have been exempted from the quarantine requirement.
“Government activity is essential, and the Capitol of the United States is exempt from the Mayor’s Order,” Susana Castillo, press secretary for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, said on Friday.
In addition to this blatant double standard, public officials like mayors, governors, and public health officials are winners in the coronavirus pandemic, as various emergency declarations give them immense power.
Following the horrific police killing of George Floyd, state governments that cracked down on various kinds of gatherings looked the other way as hundreds of thousands of people congregated in cities across America to protest. Those protests devolved into riots that destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 22 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
Some governors, like Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) actually took part in the protests, and Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) joined riots that involved throwing incendiary devices at the federal courthouse in Portland.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pointed out the glaring double standard in allowing protests while preventing people from going to work, from sending their children to school, and from attending religious services in person. “The ability to engage in your livelihood, the ability to have your kids get an education, the ability to practice your faith are just as important, in my mind, as protesting,” he said.
This double standard creates winners and losers in American society.
The coronavirus lockdown double standard picks more winners than just politicians and the government.
Stay-at-home orders have benefitted people who can continue to work remotely over those who have to work in an office or at a specific site. While the government has provided increased unemployment payments during the pandemic, work is not just important for bringing in a paycheck — it’s also important psychologically. Many workers lose when they are prevented from going to the office. Remote workers, however, have been able to continue relying on a steady income and on adding to society.
Demonstrators who truly have been peaceful protesters and antifa rioter agitators are both lockdown winners. Viral videos have shown the festive party atmosphere at some of these protests, while others have shown the utter destruction of riots.
Teacher’s unions have exercised power during the pandemic. While some teachers are undoubtedly at risk from the coronavirus pandemic, teacher’s unions have shut down most public school districts across the country, even though children are both less at risk from the virus and less likely to spread it. Meanwhile, recent college graduates — who are young and at less risk for the virus — are having trouble finding their first job out of college. An enterprising public official could meet two needs by temporarily employing recent college graduates to tend to classrooms in person while more at-risk teachers teach remotely.
Instead, teachers refuse to go to work, while taxpayers continue to subsidize public schools that have either completely or mostly shut down.
Harvard University announced it would still charge students full tuition, even though classes will be conducted entirely remotely.
On the other side of the ledger, the government has made millions of Americans losers in this pandemic. Thanks to the lockdowns, small businesses find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. Many workers have lost their jobs or seen their hours scaled back. Students who cannot attend college in person, where they make friendships and develop closer relationships with their professors, are held back from these essential educational opportunities.
Meanwhile, parents with elementary and high-school-age children have been deputized as stay-at-home parents and homeschool teachers, even if both parents work. Many are struggling to balance childcare and schooling with work. While public school teachers intend to protect themselves by shutting down schools, they may have inadvertently spurred a massive involuntary homeschool movement across America — a movement that will leave many parents wondering why public schools are often presented as the only option.
Religiously observant Christians, Jews, and Muslims are also losers in this crisis. Lockdowns have prevented many of them from attending in-person services. The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a Nevada coronavirus rule that held churches and synagogues to stricter restrictions than casinos. “There’s no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesar’s Palace over Calvary Chapel,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his dissent. But Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices in upholding Nevada’s ban.
The mayor of Greenville, Miss., banned churches from meeting for drive-in services where parishioners sit separately in their cars with their windows up while listening to the pastor on the radio. California banned singing in religious services. Practicing Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others have been treated like second-class citizens while rioters who steal and kill and destroy get the red carpet.
Police officers have also emerged as clear losers from the lockdowns. The Associated Press’s Mike Balsamo reported the horrific conditions officers in Portland have suffered.
“I watched as injured officers were hauled inside [the federal courthouse],” Balsalmo reported. “In one case, the commercial firework came over so fast the officer didn’t have time to respond. It burned through his sleeves & he had bloody gashes on both forearms. Another had a concussion from being hit in the head w/ a mortar.”
“The lights inside the courthouse have to be turned off for safety & the light from high-powered lasers bounced across the lobby almost all night. The fear is palpable. Three officers were struck in the last few weeks & still haven’t regained their vision,” he added.
Activists and journalists have demonized the police to an absurd degree. Cries to “defund” and “abolish” the police are widespread, while media reports praise violent riots as “peaceful.” ABC News reported, “Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.” Yes, violence certainly represents a “peaceful demonstration” having “intensified.”
As Mark Hemingway noted over at RealClearPolitics, “At this point, it’s insulting to insist that American consumers of news can’t distinguish legitimate protest from violent rioting that has devastated Portland and dozens of other cities. Similarly, there’s plenty of room for criticism of heavy-handed federal and police tactics, while still understanding that we can’t stand by and let violent mobs burn courthouses. But if covering a story from multiple angles used to be the norm in the media, it’s not anymore.”
Police aren’t the only losers in this equation. Law-abiding citizens and innocent victims lose, too. As police have stepped back amid backlash, violent crime has increased.
The anxiety from the coronavirus pandemic likely costs far more in years of life than the lockdowns can save.
The injustice from coronavirus double standards only illustrates how essential it is for the lockdowns to end. Vulnerable populations should remain isolated, but most normal life should resume, with social distancing measures limiting the spread of the virus. Government should not pick winners and losers like this. It is abusing its authority.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.