Thank you America for volunteering your citizens as coronavirus guinea pigs. To be more specific, thank you President Trump and the governors of Florida, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Minnesota, Vermont, Ohio, Idaho, North Dakota, Montana, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
They have decided that the first duty of government is the protection of the almighty dollar rather than the protection of human life. Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, has gone further and proposed that elderly Americans should offer to die to protect the economy.
Because public health and safety is the responsibility of state governments, anti-lockdown measures vary from state to state. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been the hardest hit and are trying to ease back towards normality with a suck and see approach.
Georgia is more dramatic. The governor still advocates social distancing but is reopening restaurants, hair salons, bowling alleys and—my personal favourite—cinemas. Just how hormonal teenagers will manage back row gropes while sitting six feet apart is a mystery waiting to be solved.
South Carolina is reopening its beaches and non-essential retail outlets and Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee has more or less said to hell with it and opened everything.
Meanwhile the anti-lockdown protests continue, spurred on by commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity dubbing coronavirus a “pandumbic.” The first and biggest demonstration was in Wisconsin. An estimated 2,500 people, many of them wielding guns and pro-Trump banners, gathered outside the governor’s mansion in Lansing. The Democratic Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, had angered them by imposing a strict state-wide lockdown. On Thursday it was announced that seven of the demonstrators had been diagnosed with coronavirus.
The anti-lockdown protesters are loud. And with weapons slung over their shoulders, dangerous. But they are a minority. A poll by the Pew Research Centre revealed that 66 percent of Americans support the lockdown. However, they can’t demonstrate because they are self-isolating, thus leaving the streets to be noisily occupied by the minority.
The anti-lockdown movement is based on three beliefs 1- that the lockdown breaches the First Amendment which guarantees “freedom of assembly” along with free speech and freedom of religion. 2- That the economic damage outweighs the threat to human life and 3- the pandemic is a politically inspired hoax created by liberals and Democrats in league with the Chinese and other nasty foreigners to undermine their presidential hero Donald Trump.
On the first point, the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment are constrained by law. For instance, freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the constitution, but an assembly of people who lynch a person are guilty of murder. It can be argued that an assembly of people who flout the lockdown and as a result infect people with a deadly virus from which they subsequently die are also guilty of a serious crime. The second point is a political decision. Personally, I would not want to live in a country that puts finances before the sanctity of human life. As for the third point, that indicates an almost unrivalled blinkered stupidity.
But who knows, maybe the scientists are the stupid ones. After all, Trump had an uncle who taught at MIT. We will know within a matter of weeks if the anti-lockdown brigade are right as over a dozen US governors turn their states into human laboratories. If they are, the rest of the world can breathe easier. If they are wrong, then there will be a lot more dead and dying two-legged American guinea pigs.
Tom Arms is a regular contributor