By Jonathon Van Maren
Just days ago, progressives and government authorities were informing us that the COVID-19 lockdowns were absolutely necessary to halt the pandemic. First we were flattening the curve, then we were suppressing the infection rate, and now we appear to have very little idea what we’re doing. Despite that, most of us are obediently following the dictates of the authorities. My family self-isolated for weeks when we were told the curve needed to be flattened, and we did so both out of respect for government authority and concern for our vulnerable citizens.
It is difficult to exaggerate the onerousness of what the government has been asking of us. Weddings have been cancelled or moved online. Businesses have been shuttered, and many of them have vanished permanently. Family restaurants that have been open for decades have gone under. Essential medical treatments have been delayed, suicides have gone up, and addicts have been unable to access ongoing treatments. The economic toll has been devastating. So has the toll on mental health. But we did all of this because the government told us it was necessary. That is why we have not seen grandparents, and have not gone to church, and have had our lives utterly upended. Now, more than ever, the authorities need to act in good faith because we need to know that this has been worth it.
Patience has begun to run thin, especially as police officers have been particularly eager to hand out fines to people for driving in vehicles together, going to the park, and perpetrating other mundane daily activities which pose no threat to anybody. Many are warning that our civil rights are being curtailed without any specific explanation being given, but we are still told that “we are all in this together” by people who will remain utterly unaffected by the economic devastation. (We even have some “we’re all in this together” snitch lines where one can fink on one’s neighbors if they appear to have too many people over for a family barbeque.)
And then George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, and it turned out that none of this actually meant anything. It turns out that some gatherings are allowed, and that some mass activities are acceptable—as long as you happen to be engaging in a mass protest that the authorities approve of. Consider this headline from CTV: “’Exceptional circumstance’: City won’t enforce gathering limit during Friday anti-racism march.” From the article:
The City of Ottawa says it will not be handing out tickets to the people who attend an anti-racism demonstration on Friday outside the U.S. embassy, despite a provincial limit on public gatherings.
The current state of emergency in Ontario prohibits gatherings of more than five people unless they are from the same household, yet Friday’s event could draw thousands. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Ottawa’s general manager of community and protective services Anthony di Monte said police would be monitoring the event in order to ensure public safety, but would not be handing out tickets.
“The City is not permitting or sanctioning the event, per se,” Di Monte said. “We’re in a state of emergency and groups of [more than] five are not permitted. That said, there’s a balance. We live in a democracy. Groups of people are expressing themselves and they’re allowed to do that. Police won’t be issuing tickets. Our simple role will be to ensure public safety.”
Got that? Because this apparently is, as di Monte noted, “a very exceptional circumstance,” even Ottawa Public Health’s associate medical officer of health Dr. Brent Moloughney told reporters that he “understand[s] that people want to march and express themselves” and asked that protestors do what they could to take “steps to keep yourself and others as safe as possible.”
So let’s get this straight: Protesting the death of a man in another country is permitted. Attending the deathbed of a loved one, even a parent, is not permitted. Being with a loved one in their dying hours is apparently not an “exceptional circumstance,” but the police killing of an American man is an “exceptional circumstance”—despite the fact that no sane person thinks a bunch of Canadians protesting something that happened in America will do anything, for anyone, anywhere. Spouses have been unable to attend the funerals of their partners. Men and women have died alone, their loved ones barred from their bedsides by COVID-19 restrictions. This has created unfathomable pain. All of that was because we were told it was necessary to stop the pandemic.
But the restrictions will not be enforced when it is time to protest an injustice in a different country? That is what qualifies as an “exceptional circumstance”? Not the deathbed of a wife or husband? Not the funeral of a grandparent?
The same authorities and commentators in North America and across Europe who told us that to leave the house was the equivalent of killing the vulnerable are now saying that the thousands of people in packed crowds in major cities across the West are fully justified because as it turns out, the rules aren’t the same for everybody. If you want to protest, it just has to be a cause that the authorities approve of. We can apparently sacrifice the vulnerable as long as we’re doing it for a good cause. Then you’re allowed to flout every rule that has been crammed down our throats for months, and the police will save their tickets for moms taking their kids outdoors for much-needed sunshine.
Maybe the authorities are just afraid of the mob. Maybe they’re just afraid of being called racist. But regardless, those who were kept from the bedsides of dying loved ones and were barred from the funerals of spouses should be very, very angry. If the authorities were serious about the essential nature of the lockdowns, then the protests will, by their accounting, cause another spike and force these draconian measures to drag on for longer—which means that because the government suspended the consequences for these protestors, those who obeyed the government will bear the brunt of the economic damage for this. If there is no spike, then we have to wonder what all of this was for once we’d flattened the curve.
Either way, the credibility of the authorities on the lockdowns is gone. We know now what they consider to be a justifiable exception to their rules. It isn’t churches, weddings, funerals, or even last goodbyes. It is allowing Canadians to protest a murder in a different country. The rest of us will apparently just have to wait until the government sees fit to give us back our freedoms, or perhaps reclassify our church services, weddings, and other events as protests against injustice. Those, it turns out, are allowed.