It’s safe to say that a year ago, none of us thought we’d be where we are now. The last few months have wrought havoc on all of us in some way or another, whether we’ve been personally affected by COVID-19 or felt the consequences of the economic turmoil as a result of the pandemic.
But many of us are now beginning to look forward. We’re going out, albeit carefully, and trying to regain confidence in ourselves and in our communities in what is admittedly still a stressful, uncertain time. Many states are beginning to slowly loosen stay-at-home restrictions and reinstate policies like reopening retail spots and dine-in restaurants.
And yet, there are some who urge, even insist, that there’s no way we can ever go back to normal. These groups include the likes of politicians and celebrities, but the loudest proponents are the media. All of them stand to gain something from this declaration and are peddling a dangerous yet pointed narrative — one we should be quick to distrust rather than promote.
Caring about Safety and Our Rights
It would be unrealistic to think that some aspects of our lives can return to exactly the way they used to be pre-pandemic. This virus has changed so many things about our society and has done so irrevocably. But that’s no reason to believe that as the scope of our knowledge of the virus and safety precautions increase, we can’t create a new kind of normal, wherein we’re concerned about our safety and that of others, while being equally concerned with the protection of our civil rights.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not a zero sum game. We can be concerned about both the coronavirus and the genuine threat to our civil rights at the same time. A quick look at news headlines across the country gives us every reason to acknowledge why both are important.
We can be concerned about both the coronavirus and the genuine threat to our civil rights at the same time.
As the number of affected in Michigan surpassed 50,000, the state government recently announced that it will cancel its legislative session due to its concern about the possibility of protestors in the state House. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been the target of warranted criticism for her treatment of the pandemic, which includes many arbitrary restrictions meant to narrow the rights of citizens. It’s natural to be skeptical of protestors who may put the health of others in jeopardy while exercising their rights, but it’s also natural to question why Whitmer felt it necessary to issue executive orders so strict that they received national backlash.
Michigan, which currently has the third highest number of cases in the U.S., is only one example of questionable restrictions that many see as necessary and others as ineffective. Whitmer’s uncompromising stay-at-home orders have been implemented despite pushback both from the public and state legislation, yet the number of the state’s affected continues to rise.
The Next Crisis after the Coronavirus
Other states, such as California and Illinois, have implemented similarly stringent orders. The climbing numbers of those with the virus are no doubt being used to justify these restrictions, yet it will be some time before we actually see if they’ve been successful or not.
It’s not unreasonable to think that this may be used as a future justification for the violation of civil liberties that we’re seeing from many lawmakers.
In the interim, we continue to hear this mantra that normality is now a thing of the past. That restrictions may be loosened and policies amended but going back to normal is not and will never be a possibility. However, it’s not unreasonable to think that this may be used as a future justification for the violation of civil liberties that we’re seeing from many lawmakers, which is applauded by many in the media.
When we actively believe in this narrative, we begin to believe that our current circumstances are what’s normal. We believe it’s justified for the mayor of America’s most populated city to pointedly attack a religious group gathered to mourn and bury their loved ones. We believe it’s okay for churches to remain closed while Costco reopens. We think it’s natural for the National Guard to be deployed to keep people from going out after 8pm.
In times of crisis, there will always be some who manage to somehow profit from the struggles and suffering of others.
When we are repeatedly and emphatically told that we can never return to normal, we begin to see the unprecedented (and in many cases unlawful) responses to a global crisis as logical and something we should condone. We begin to rationalize the continued dismissal of our most basic rights, which were codified generations ago at the founding of our nation.
In times of crisis, there will always be some who manage to somehow profit from the struggles and suffering of others. While we may think of big-name companies as those who will come out on top of this, it also includes opportunists who see the advantages that restricted rights may offer their authoritarian designs.
With the current crisis, it’s understandable that we’re motivated to prioritize safety above all else. But to paraphrase a popular adage, you never know you miss something until it’s gone — and that includes the Constitutional rights. As we begin to slowly redefine our new normal post-quarantine, we should be quick to call out the dismissal of our rights and freedoms because they may be threatened now more than ever.