In light of the recent Supreme Court decision to allow sectarian dogma to override pandemic regulations, this observation about de facto freedom during the pandemic seems relevant (boldface mine):
Here’s a question for all red-blooded liberty-loving American patriots: Who has a greater lived experience of freedom at the moment, citizens of Vietnam or the United States? Vietnam, of course, is a one-party Communist state, with fairly strict limitations on freedom of speech, the press, and so on, while the U.S. has (at least for now) a somewhat democratic constitution and (at least formally) some protections for civil liberties.
But in Vietnam, there is no raging coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to swift action from the government, that nation squelched its initial outbreak, and has so far successfully contained all subsequent infection clusters before they got out of hand. Its figures at time of writing (which have been confirmed as reliable by outside sources) show a mere 1,283 cases and 35 deaths, and no community transmission for the last 75 days. Life for Vietnamese people has returned to normal, with a few sensible precautions. If their success holds for a few more months until a vaccine can be deployed, Vietnam will have dodged the pandemic nearly perfectly….
Meanwhile in the self-appointed “land of the free,” on Sunday the seven-day average of daily COVID-19 deaths was 1,148. The same seven-day average of new cases has increased from about 82,000 on November 1 to over 150,000 on Sunday — numbers that are certainly a large underestimate, because, with very high test positivity rates across much of the country, many cases are being missed. Total recorded deaths in the U.S. are over 250,000, which again is a large under-count. There are many more future deaths already baked in, and infections are mounting exponentially in almost every state. Unless something changes, and fast, the coronavirus pandemic will surpass the Second World War to become the greatest American mass casualty event since the influenza pandemic of 1918.
The bleak irony of American life is our boastful and hyperbolic national conception of liberty has left us as one of the most unfree peoples on the globe. There can be no freedom without government, a lesson currently being inscribed in blood, and stacked up in the mobile morgues that are overflowing with corpses in more cities around the country every day.
As an American, the months since March have felt like living in Airstrip One, the miserable police state formerly known as Britain in George Orwell’s 1984. In that time I have seldom left my house for fear of catching the virus, or worse, spreading it to someone who is at risk and killing (or permanently disabling) them. I have not seen my family since October 2019 for the same reason. In a best-case scenario, I will not see them until the middle of next year — something like 2 percent of my entire lifespan, optimistically speaking. It looks like even the occasional outdoor dining I savored as a small bright spot over the summer will be shut down soon, with cases spiking badly in my home city of Philadelphia.
All the political freedoms I supposedly enjoy as an American citizen are useless in the face of this unending tsunami of death and misery. The plain fact is that the average resident of Vietnam — under a repressive dictatorship, let me emphasize — has more freedoms in the places where, for most people, it really counts: the freedom to leave the house, the freedom to see and touch one’s family and friends, the freedom to go to a restaurant or a bar or a movie or a concert, and simply the freedom from constant grasping fear of invisible death…
Thomas Hobbes noted 369 years ago that if a political sovereign is constrained by absolutist property rights, “he cannot perform the office [the people] have put him into, which is to defend them both from foreign enemies and from the injuries of one another; and consequently there is no longer a Commonwealth.”
I can’t stop thinking about the Maine wedding–and weddings can be religious gatherings–that led to seven deaths, none of whom are involved in the wedding. The Supreme Court’s decision will get people killed.
It didn’t have to be like this.
Rage is the appropriate emotion. Reform the courts. Reform them now.