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Microtyranny

Although I work in virtual self-isolation in my law office and, unlike so many others, have been able to maintain what passes as a normal routine, I am sitting here at my kitchen table wondering when the country will begin to return to normal business and social intercourse.  I have lost track of how many weeks have passed since the President recommended that Americans follow the all too familiar CDC guidelines on social distancing, etc.  Since then state and local governments have implemented a patchwork quilt of “Declarations of Emergency” and “Stay at Home Orders,” which have resulted in closures of restaurants (except for takeout), parks, and businesses that they deem to be non-essential and so forth.  Violations of these orders are usually punishable as a misdemeanor.

So when will it end?  The President was hopeful that we could have begun the return to normalcy by Easter, but Easter has now passed.  Some states have extended the restrictions through the end of April and into May, but others feel that it should be a lot…a lot …longer than that. Ezekiel Emanuel, the vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania and a special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, wrote in the New York Times that no one but essential workers should be outside until approximately June 1. More recently, he told ABC News that we cannot return to normal until a vaccine is developed, thought to be 18 MONTHS. Emanuel defined “normal” as “the kind of normal where we go traveling, we go to restaurants, we go to concerts, we go to religious services, we go on cruises, until we have a vaccine that protects everyone. That’s 18 months, it’s not going to be sooner.”  I’m sorry, but I just do not believe that Americans are going to put up with anything close to that.

Another thing that Americans are not going to tolerate is the tendency of some elected officials to stray into tyrannical behaviors which unnecessarily restrict people’s activities so as, in their minds, to save lives.  The examples are well reported: Chasing down solitary beach goers, taking down basketball hoops in parks, arresting parents playing with their children in a park.  However, there are two examples that just might lead Americans, who are, theoretically at least, a free people to begin to push back.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has taken it upon herself to determine not only what businesses are or are not essential, but also to determine which products are or are not essential. Under her new Order, no longer can one buy garden seeds or a can of paint.  However, the Michigan lottery is still open for business.  Maybe it’s just me, and I am not being facetious, but that sounds a little like the British government taxing tea back in the day, and we know how that turned out.  Gov. Whitmer’s new order also restricts residents from visiting relatives or friends.  Some Michigan residents are wondering whether Ms. Whitmer is more focused on flexing her political muscle than protecting the citizens she has sworn to serve.

The bridge too far may have been the effort by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to ban attendance at religious services over the Easter weekend – even “drive-in” services where people stay in their vehicles without interacting with other congregants.  On the other hand, drive through windows at restaurants and liquor stores as well as Walmart parking lots were still open.  Fortunately, a federal judge made short work of the Mayor’s power grab, calling the Mayor’s attempt “unconstitutional beyond all reason.”

Both Gov. Whitmer and Mayor Fischer took oaths in which they swore to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States.  Both should probably pull out a copy and review it, because their actions do not protect and uphold the Constitution. Rather, they dishonor it. And, if this type of “microtyranny” is allowed to continue, it will only get worse.

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