The guest commentary by Charlotte Coyle in the May 12 edition of The Paris News included a list of issues which elicited her sadness and anger: immigration, alleged manipulation of free thinkers by “power brokers and king makers,” underpaid workers, inadequate health care, etc. All of Ms. Coyle’s concerns are worthy of open minded discussions and debates, but many of those complaints have no connection to the current Reopen America movement.
The title of her commentary, “What (or who) is behind the Reopen America protests?” subtly implies that the movement may be of sinister origins. Indeed, stating that the free thinking grassroots protesters who wish to Reopen America are pawns being sacrificed for the power and influence of the well-funded special interest groups makes a good red meat invective, but it is insulting to the millions of blue blooded, hard working Americans who simply are protesting for their right to return to work. They are not anarchists who thrill at the thought of an ever-expanding pandemic. These patriotic Americans apparently do not think that they are being “exploited by corporate conglomerates.” There are thousands of small business owners who have been unceremoniously locked out of their own buildings by government(s) who, while initially invoking the concern for the good and wellbeing of the country, are reluctant to relinquish their powerful grip on America’s economic engine. The initial prudent approach to the virus was allowed to quickly degrade into a boot-on-the-neck policy of controlling American businesses. Now patriotic American workers are responding with a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude of “Who are you to refuse me my right to work?”
A measured pandemic containment strategy should include fairhanded standards and equitable application of those standards for all businesses or organizations. Can anyone justify the nearly unfettered operation of Walmart while forbidding the gathering of the faithful into their houses of worship? Can one condone on-going sales at Sam’s Club and Costco while forcing the local barber to lock his doors? While individuals and businesses should implement judicious and prudent measures to aid in the lessening of the spread of the virus the burden of proof is on the government to show that there is no other way to prevent the greater catastrophe than to suspend the right to work. The fact that Walmart remained open for the past weeks is proof that closings and long-term lockdowns are not necessary.
The government has no right to promote doomsday scenarios to justify the infringement on the right to put in an honest day’s work; it must provide clear evidence that this is the only way to avoid a grave social or economic evil. And while the government has the responsibility to care for those who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on desperate times, it cannot force people to become dependent on it without good reason. By limiting work, the government has surreptitiously forced many to become overly reliant on federal or state aid. The government(s) must prove that suspending the right to work is the only way to combat the harm associated with the pandemic. Resolutions, mandates, and laws which close businesses and replace the private enterprise system with government cash payment programs are a serious infringement on the rights of hard working, patriotic, taxpaying Americans.
The Reopen America Movement is growing as American workers become weary of being denied their right to work. The labor force, both blue collar and white collar, are standing to protest overreaching governmental control of their lives. With a loud voice they are saying “Let’s get back to normal!” and they are worried about the precedent being set by egregious governmental power grabs. And most certainly they do not wish for an Orwellian “New Normal.”