Look, we all know that the modern conservative movement is so obsessed with money that many of its adherents are willing to kill off huge swaths of Americans just to keep the stock market humming along. They are not shy about these priorities.
Of course, there are other factors motivating the irrational demand to “open America back up,” other than the love of cash. Supporting motivations include the GOP’s desire to hold on to power, the bizarre appeal of American exceptionalism, the prevalence of twisted conspiracy theories, and the quest to avoid further embarrassing the most bumbling, incompetent president in history.
Now, those are all fantastically bad reasons to risk the lives of thousands of Americans.
But at least things can’t get any darker, can they?
Recently, thousands of protesters gathered in cities across the country to demand that their respective governors ignore medical advice, statistical models, scientific evidence, economic fundamentals, common sense, and basic compassion in favor of, I don’t know, the right to get a haircut or something.
You see, the tree of liberty needed to be watered with the blood of patriots. Or maybe it was the garden of freedom needed the tears of the righteous. Or perhaps it was the creepy-crawly vines of emancipation required the bodily fluids of the overly zealous. Who can remember all those jingoistic slogans, anyway?
The point is that these super-patriots don’t care if they catch Covid-19 (and they really, really don’t care if you catch Covid-19). They don’t care about flattening the curve or keeping old people alive or overwhelming hospitals or that touchy-feely bullshit.
They are (supposedly) protesting the denial of their civil rights and the crushing of their freedom.
So for this crowd, ethnic minorities being denied the right to vote is no big deal. But keep some suburbanites from hitting the beach or going to their lake cabins, and suddenly it’s all constitutional and shit.
No, I don’t remember any of these people getting upset about black men being arrested just for walking through the park. However, for these protesters, the mere possibility that they might get ticketed for walking in that same park is grounds for a massive demonstration where guys show up with assault rifles.
Of course, if hundreds of black or Latino men showed up at a state capitol brandishing guns, we all know there would be a lot less pontificating through bullhorns and a lot more sprinting through tear gas.
In any case, these highly agitated neo-Tea Partiers aren’t protesting the total failure of our government to deal with this pandemic, or screaming for affordable healthcare, or raging against the myriad injustices that actually exist in this world.
Instead, they are furious that rich people are losing money. They are protesting their inability to go golfing. With the exception of those who have lost their jobs—an apparent minority in these demonstrations—the protesters are shrieking about being inconvenienced for a few weeks.
This isn’t exactly MLK on the National Mall.
The truth is that “none of the people so desperate to re-open the country that they’re going out to protest—possibly infecting themselves and others with the virus—are asking why the United States of America still can’t figure out testing after months.”
They aren’t asking why other nations have had more success in containing the virus, “and whether the president might have some responsibility” for America’s botched response.
And they aren’t asking why their revered leader says he supports them—to the point of casually endorsing armed revolt—but then says, “Hey, don’t look at me, cuz it’s up to the governors.”
Such questions might get in the way of all that Confederate flag waving, and swastika displaying, and gun-toting—all of which are irrelevant to the issue at hand, but which help ascertain what we are really talking about here.
Because these protests are just an excuse for right-wingers to wrap themselves in principle while they bemoan their supposed oppression. It is in their nature to shriek “Freedom!” every time anyone suggests doing something for the common good. And their latest temper tantrum is a “symptom of a nation that has decided that what you want to be true might as well be true, and can become true if you just say it loud enough.”
These demonstrations tap into the delusions of many conservatives, who “imagine themselves as heroic figures in a make-believe drama, as if demanding the right to go to a bowling alley or a nail salon during a pandemic makes them modern-day Thomas Paines.”
At worst, the protests are an opportunity for white supremacists with AR-15s to shout, “Boogaloo,” or “Paparazzi,” or “Taco Tuesday” or whatever random rallying cry they’re employing to call for bloodshed.
It’s fair to ask how these “liberators” would behave if they lived in England during the Blitz?
We would likely hear, “Yeah, we’re supposed to keep our lights dim and curtains drawn after dark. But that infringes on my freedom! So I’m lighting up my whole house, and if the Nazis bomb my neighbors, too bad!”
Looking at the protesters—primarily middle-aged white men—one gets the impression that they are used to getting whatever they want, and now, without ever being told no or asked to share. And like full-grown Veruca Salts, they are throwing massive hissy fits whenever their selfishness gets called out.
The protesters “are not distinguishing themselves by making finely calibrated points about epidemiology or offering up more refined social-distancing plans.” A bellicose demand to open everything right now, damn the consequences, is simply “lashing out in frustration and in anger, frustration and anger that is being incited by the president.”
Most Americans are trying to work together, and overwhelmingly support continued lockdowns. But while “health-care workers are risking their lives to save others, the president and many of his most devoted supporters are fomenting chaos, division, and antipathy.”
In essence, they want all the rights, but none of the responsibilities.