Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Coronavirus vs. civil liberties

We’re in an odd time, some would say a dangerous time, when public health concerns and civil liberties collide. A pastor in Tampa was arrested for holding a church service. What’s interesting is not one of the parishioners was arrested. Personally, I think it’s irresponsible to organize a large gathering these days, regardless of the purpose. I’m also troubled that governments that claim over and over that they’re not declaring martial law are behaving like governments that have. If you’re arresting someone for leading a group of people in a worship service then martial law is already here.

It does appear that stay-at-home measures are working. Kinsa Health produces internet-connected thermometers (a little concerning in and of itself). Their national tracking map showed fevers holding steady or dropping all across the country with two notable exceptions, parts of New Mexico and a ring around New Orleans. The latter is believed to have been set off by Mardi Gras. Fevers have been dropping rapidly in the West, and with stay-at-home orders in those two hot spots of New Mexico and Louisiana they’ve seen those regions start to cool.

Which brings us back to civil liberties. I completely understand the concern over governments enforcing restrictions on your movements. The governor of Kentucky is prohibiting anyone from leaving the state unless you’re going to visit family members or crossing the border for groceries. How in the world he expects to enforce that on every interstate and highway in Kentucky is a mystery. I suspect it’s more bluster than anything else. I can just imagine Kentuckians being smuggled under tarps in the trunks of cars into Tennessee in some dystopian COVID-19 underground railroad. Such measures only serve to scare people rather than offer any real solutions.

What’s also interesting is the same folks who have advocated open borders between the U.S. and Mexico are all of a sudden hellbent on restricting travel from state to state. Many of the same concerns of the spreading of dangerous diseases have fueled the push for stricter border control with Mexico. Now border control is all the rage.

But what about that pastor in Tampa? Should he have been arrested? There’s an old saying with civil libertarians that “my liberty ends where your nose begins,” meaning you have full and unfettered liberty as long as you don’t infringe on mine. Exposing someone to coronavirus literally fits the description of “where your nose begins.” Yes, you have the right to congregate for a religious service, but you do not have the right to expose me to a potentially deadly disease. It’s curious that no one in the audience of that church service has been required to quarantine just in case they were exposed.

We may look back on this time and realize that we all overreacted. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of hindsight. Were it up to me I would urge all who are elderly and/or experiencing underlying health issues to shelter in place and refrain from contact with the outside world. I’d send the rest of us back to work. But I’m not in charge. Those who are are doing everything they possibly can to keep the death toll as low as possible.

At some point tough decisions will have to be made. Is it worth destroying a country in order to save it? That becomes the reality at some point. Where that point is nobody really knows. One thing is clear. We all must learn a lesson about preparedness. That’s if the country survives to learn the lesson. 

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning talk radio show, 
The Phil Valentine Showon SuperTalk 99.7WTN in Nashville. He's also co-host of The PodGOATs podcast and I'm Calling Bovine Scatology.

1 comment:

  1. When the baby boom starts after the current situation, they should be referred to as the the nineteeners