It's our right — and duty — to question those deciding America's fate

It's our right — and duty — to question those deciding America's fate
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When in the United States of America did it become objectionable, or considered outright wrong, to question the wisdom and policies of our politicians, bureaucrats and “experts”?  If “we are all in this together,” as people have been declaring about the fight against COVID-19, then shouldn’t we all have a say in our collective fate? That should be the right of every American citizen, even those who disagree with states’ shelter-at-home and business closure orders.

When did it become wrong, or a crime punishable by arrest, for Americans to peacefully protest a governor’s stay-at-home order, as happened recently in Raleigh, N.C.? Evidently our right to peacefully protest has become a “non-essential activity” to be broken up by the police. In Lansing, Mich., protesters against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order used vehicles for their “Operation Gridlock.”

To curb the spread of COVID-19 in America, we have temporarily surrendered our lifestyles, livelihoods, life savings, mental health and even our very freedoms to the dictates of politicians, bureaucrats and public health experts. “For our own good,” they have put in place orders to control the movement and actions of most of the nation’s 330 million people.  

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No one can deny that COVID-19 is a dangerous, highly-infectious virus. That said, the solutions to curb the contagion seem to be holding Americans hostage. Are we still allowed to contrast what’s happening with this pandemic to those of the past and ask logical questions?

For starters, will “locking down” the nation become the new norm going forward with each epidemic, or will we look to our past responses to viral outbreaks for guidance?

To those of us who disagree with today’s shutdown, an important question seems to be: Is COVID-19 more or less lethal than previous pandemics, such as the Hong Kong flu (H3N2) of 1968? That outbreak infected millions of Americans, hospitalized hundreds of thousands, and killed approximately 100,000. Worldwide, between 500,000 and 2 million people died from the virus between 1968 and 1970.

The H3N2 flu strain continues to infect people, and the virus has evolved since the pandemic 52 years ago that held similarities to COVID-19 — highly contagious, and fatal primarily to people older than 65 or those with pre-existing conditions. 

Yet, four months after China reported the first case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, we have many researchers and public health experts studying the novel coronavirus but Americans still hear from policymakers that “We don’t know enough about it yet” and “We’re still studying it.”

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They are “still studying it,” but knew enough to shut down business across the nation, likely ending thousands of small businesses and costing millions of Americans their jobs. It’s a step our experts and politicians did not take in 1968, at the height of a severe flu pandemic. Nor did President Eisenhower and governors order businesses to close and ask people to stay home during the 1957-1958 Asian flu pandemic (H2N2) that infected millions of Americans and killed approximately 116,000. More recently, President Obama did not “close” the country during the 2009-2019 Swine flu pandemic, which infected nearly 61 million Americans and resulted in more than 12,000 deaths.  

Not surprisingly, anti-Trump politics has infected today’s debate over post-pandemic economic recovery and some media coverage of COVID-19. Talking points often morph into groupthink.

But some Americans still believe they have a right to question any groupthink, on any issue, without being labeled “suspect,” “dangerous,” or “a threat.”  It’s not unlike Americans who believe that liberal thought dominates many genres — media, academia, science, medicine and entertainment — and crushes many debates.

As Americans, no matter our political affiliation or ideology, we have the right to question anyone who holds dominion over our fate. We should not allow a pandemic to worsen our situation by stripping us of our inalienable rights.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He is the author of “The Forty Days: A Vision of Christ's Lost Weeks.”