Columnists, Coronavirus, Jon Caldara, Politics

Caldara: Don’t forfeit freedoms to fear

As we all stumble our way through 2020, we have shared lots of comedy through social media, texts and email. Humor always lightens the load.

But one meme sent to me says it all. It’s the familiar and famed painting of the Founders’ Constitutional Convention. In the large room of delegates stands George Washington proudly holding the newly formed U.S. Constitution. George says, “Just to be clear, none of this matters if there is a virus.”

It is hilarious until you realize how sadly true it is.

In the panic over a virus that is far, far less dangerous than the Spanish flu, which killed over 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the U.S. when our population was a third less (so that would be 2,025,000 dead today), we have willingly tossed aside what generations have fought and died to bequeath us — our protections from governmental overreach, our beloved rights.

The happy acceptance of lockdowns, closures and restrictions is something I thought I would never see in America.

I have never before been so disappointed and depressed at the American spirit, the people who were once the torchbearers of liberty for an entire planet.

I dread that this willing, unquestioning tolerance of “emergency powers” marks a crossroads in the affairs of America.

History may well see this wholesale change of the American spirit as the turning point from a system that protects individual liberty from political power to collectivism where the individual is subservient to those in authority.

We seem just fine in 2020, even comforted, in having our rights to property, to worship, to earn a living, to peaceably assemble ripped away, all because it makes us FEEL more secure.

It is a testament to the power of fear, a media willing to inflame it and a political class happy to exploit it.

Don’t roll your eyes as I say this: I have always wondered how people could cheer in tyrants to control them, how people could throw fellow humans into cattle cars to their certain death.

I always knew it was, of course, fear. But until now I didn’t really UNDERSTAND it was fear.

Think of it. We are not hungry. We all have food in our bellies, roofs over our heads. No one is shooting at us. Armies are not crawling up our coast to enslave us. Our currency has not yet been devalued by hyperinflation. And Netflix keeps us numb.

And still we sit by as our neighbors’ shops and restaurants are shuttered without due process, houses of worship are closed, children go without schooling, and neighbor turns in neighbor to the authorities for having too many of the wrong people in their private home.

Hell, Routt County hired what they call, in their very best George Orwell, “Ambassadors” at $23.50 an hour to spy on small businesses and homes to report back wrongdoing.

I now understand how Nazis took power. Fear.

Before you disregard me as a fringe nut let me state we should NOT take this virus lightly. It is deadly, as many things we routinely deal with are. It makes sense to avoid crowds, socially distance, wear masks and protect the vulnerable. I have older parents and a handicapped son, and I want to keep them safe.

It breaks my heart not to see my parents this Christmas. It breaks their hearts not to see their grandkids rip open presents from Santa. But this is a decision that we as a family freely made. THAT’s why we support it and hope others do the same.

The difference is between convincing another person to act a certain way versus coercing him by force.

We are overwhelmingly sensible people. When left to make our own decisions we usually make the right ones. Government has a vital role. providing the best, most accurate and transparent information possible.

I’d go so far as to say it’s fine when government works to persuade us to make certain decisions — here’s why you should wear a mask, work from home, etc.

Sadly, that’s not what’s going on.

And by being complicit with this media fearmongering and governmental coercion we are conditioning ourselves, and more sadly our children, that when frightened, our First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights are no longer guarantees.

What is the old saying about boiling a frog slowly?

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.

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