Civil Disobedience during a Pandemic

Pandemic Diary Day 34

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April 27, 2020

My girlfriend Jasmine, and I were talking about people protesting against the shutdown, and we began wondering how other generations handled demands from their government that they found onerous.

Civil Disobedience is described by Merriam-Webster as the refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government.

While the anti-Shelter in Place protestors may meet the definition of civil disobedience, they are really doing the work of Typhoid Mary.

The Great Influenza of 1918 was ravaging the world while it was embroiled in WWI. During this time the Sedition Act was passed which made it illegal to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the government of the United States”.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote the Supreme Court opinion that upheld the Sedition Act said that the First Amendment was not violated “if the words used…create a clear and present danger”.

This egregious lockdown of civil liberties was the first of its kind in the United States and effectively put the sword of Damocles over the press. But these were aimed at war efforts not the pandemic.

Laws regarding the pandemic were fairly well obeyed. Maybe because of the way they were policed. In San Francisco one deputy health officer shot a man in the leg and arm for refusing to wear a mask, the gentleman was taken to the hospital where he was arrested for violating the mask law.

In Los Angeles armed police “flu squads” kept people moving in public places to keep groups from congregating while others stood guard outside of closed bars.

In 1968, during the War in Viet Nam the H3N2 pandemic killed more US citizens than the combined total number of American fatalities during the previous Korean War and the war in Vietnam. The only civil disobedience of that time was against the war itself.

None of these difficult periods in history, however, required that the populace stay locked in their home unless they were deemed essential.

It is not hard to figure out that the protests we see today are about the economy. The fear of the virus is overshadowed by the economic downturn, and the terror of personal economic collapse as a result of a long drawn out shutdown.

Francesco Rocca, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told a United Nations (UN) news briefing, “We have a lot of people who are living very marginalised, in the so-called black hole of society.”

“In the most difficult neighbourhoods of the biggest cities I am afraid that in a few weeks we will have social problems.” “This is a social bomb that can explode at any moment, because they don’t have any way to have an income.” His discussion was focused on Europe, but it applies world wide.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) which is a UN agency, that compiles a Social Unrest Index to monitor hot spots, economic growth and the unemployment rate are the “two most important determinants of social unrest,”

The National Guard has been activated in 33 states thus far. At this point in time they are there to aid local officials with needs in fighting the virus, but it is within their powers to quell civil disobedience, something they have not done since the LA riots in 1992.

This may turn ugly in so many ways. The act of opening up a state too soon exposes more citizens to the virus which will lead to once again over-whelming hospitals and increased deaths.

The protestors I have seen scare me just as much as they stand on State Capitols dressed in body armor and wielding AR-15s, while gun stores are considered an essential business.

For now these people are a small fringe movement, and they have the right to express their opinions, but these are extreme times. I keep thinking of the adage “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”.

Our freedom of the press and other liberties have kept Americans well informed of what is happening throughout our country thus far, and that is not only a good thing, but an imperative. But with more people dying than all those killed in the last six wars, it may be time to actually treat this as war and temporarily limit some of our individual rights. The problem there is drawing the fine line between over-reaching by the powers that be and protection of the populace.

I will admit, this scares me. I do not trust our present administration to curb their heinous appetite for power, and I know that there is a radical fringe out there just waiting to throw the first Molotov cocktail.

As a San Franciscan I have only been locked down for a little over one month, and while I will go on as long as I am told, I have that luxury. I truly believe that those that are trying to make ends meet through all of this are good people that will continue to put their nose to the grindstone, because economically they must. They are the people I salute and admire. Sadly there are always people with an ideology that will exploit that situation. Due to the extreme polarization of this country…those are the ones I worry about.

So Jasmine, did I answer your question? I really do not believe that there has ever been a time like this in our modern history, and how we as citizens behave will shape the future of our country for good or bad.

Trivial Things

My Horoscope for today: Give yourself a few days to regroup. When you reenter the arena, you’ll be savvier than you were before.

The NYT Crossword Puzzle: Very very easy

San Francisco weather: 64 degrees and windy

NYSE DOW opened at: 23866

Italian word of the day: abbordare (acost)

Spanish word of the day: el caudal (the flow)

OED word of the day: mimesis (Imitation of another person’s words, mannerisms, actions)

Days under Shelter In Place: 45

Reading: The Gay Metropolis by Charles Kaiser

Reading Canto I, II, III of Dante’s Purgatorio

Something Special: The village of Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn is projecting flags from countries around the world onto its slopes.

Light artist Gerry Hofstetter is illuminating the mountain side with flags, in solidarity with countries that have been hit hard by Covid-19, and the village has been sharing the stunning photos on Instagram.

My Black and White Picture of the Day

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Something Silly From the Internet:

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