The iron curtain descends

Soooo, how’s everybody liking their shiny new Police State, eh?

On Saturday, police in Kansas City “intervened” to shut down a parade of elementary school teachers. The staff of John Fiske Elementary School decided to organize the parade as a way to boost the morale of their students and encourage them in their new distance learning adventure. All of the teachers and administrators were in their own cars. There was literally no chance whatsoever of any virus being transmitted from car to car. But a spokeswoman for the police later explained, after the elicit gathering was descended upon by law enforcement, that the celebration of learning was not “necessary” or “essential.”

Two days before the Kansas City community was saved from the threat of cheerful elementary school teachers waving to children from their sedans, police in Malibu arrested a man who was caught paddle boarding in the ocean. Two boats and three additional deputies in vehicles were called to the scene of the non-essential joyride. How could a man out by himself in the Pacific possibly contract or spread the coronavirus? Nobody knows. But orders are orders, after all. And so the man was pulled out of the ocean and hauled away in handcuffs.

Uh huh. Kinda makes one wonder how well those all-important “social distancing” rules were maintained in that patrol car, as well as at the jailhouse. Best not to think too much about that stuff, I suppose.

Officials in other parts of the nation have banned essential retailers from selling non-essential items like mosquito repellent. I suppose the prevention of West Nile and malaria are no longer considered essential. The mayor of Port Isabel, Texas, has decided, for whatever reason, that residents may not travel with more than two people in their vehicles. What if you’re a single parent with two kids? Well, sorry, one of your kids is out of luck. It’s not clear how this rule will be enforced, but some states have made that easier on themselves by setting up checkpoints to stop and question every car that passes through. A driver from New York who gets caught in Florida might face 60 days in jail. I should stop here to remind you that Florida and New York are places in the United States of America, not Soviet Russia.

Sorry, Matt, but that’s become a very difficult proposition to support of late. A distinction without a difference, one might say.

Apologists for our newly established police state will tell me that states and localities have the authority to impose restrictions in an emergency. That is true, but the question of how far their authority actually goes is complicated, and in this case made even more complicated by the fact that these stay-at-home orders, in many cases, are based not on a current medical emergency in the respective state, but on models that forecast the possibility of an emergency in the future. For example, Minnesota is under a stay-at-home order despite having only 29 coronavirus deaths among a population of over 5 million. Perhaps the situation will get worse. Perhaps not. The point is that there is no current emergency in Minnesota or many of the other states currently under lockdown. There is, rather, a model that projects an emergency. And if projected emergencies can justify the effective nullification of the Bill of Rights, where is the limit? Haven’t we now granted the government the power to seize near-total control on the basis of any real or phantom threat?

I would argue that nothing could ever justify such a thing. Indeed, the First and Fourth Amendments — the provisions of the Bill of Rights that seem to be having the worst time of it, recently — serve no purpose and have no reason to exist if they can be canceled or overridden whenever the government might have a specially compelling reason to do so. It is only when the government has a specially compelling reason to violate the amendments that the amendments have any function. After all, we really don’t need them during the times that the government has no interest in infringing on them. It seems that if we toss aside our right to assembly, our right to practice our religion, our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, etc., whenever the government insists that such protections are hazardous to our health, then we might as well not have the rights in the first place. It’s like locking a criminal in a cell but giving him the key to open it along with a stern warning to only use the key if he has a very good reason. Doesn’t the key make the cell a rather pointless accessory? Sure he might remain in it sometimes, but only when he wants to. And it’s precisely when he wants to be behind bars that you don’t need the bars at all.

Funniest thing about it might be that, while we were all keeping a wary eye on FederalGovCo in expectation of the Big Clampdown being launched from Mordor On The Potomac, it turned out to be the states and localities who were the true threat.

But do tell me again all about how the government “fears” an armed populace, as is appropriate and right; that most cops will resist enforcing blatantly unconstitutional edicts; that the 2A is enough all by itself to protect our “unalienable” rights; that all those eleventy bajillion guns out there (kept unloaded and securely locked away as the law requires, of course) will somehow keep us “free” just by their very existence. As bedtime fairytales go, that one’s my favorite.

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