One of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s tedious bureaucrats recently slipped into the sports bar I often visit with some of my other journalist friends.
The health official, dismayed that too many patrons were standing in the bar’s outdoor area instead of sitting, slapped the establishment with a $1,000 fine and slunk out shortly before closing time.
The bartender and owner, whose inconspicuous business was already reeling from the city’s reduced capacity limits, was crestfallen but conceded. We offered to publicize what had happened but he refused, terrified of retribution from Bowser’s government. “I’ll just pay the fine,” he sighed as he began to clean up.
There have been many unfortunate consequences to the District of Columbia’s seemingly interminable health orders, but one particularly pitiful outcome has been that even everyday citizens have been reduced to enforcing them. I felt sorry for the bouncer as I watched his anxious eyes dart around the room, looking for anyone who might dare stand up too long or exceed the six-person limit by venturing to a neighboring table. Anyone who has worked at a bar or restaurant knows that this gig is inherently thankless and already stressful enough.
Set against the dreary backdrop of a city disfigured by razor-topped fences and a lingering military presence, the incident at the bar was terribly depressing and infuriating. But it was also frightening. A city minion sneaking around dive bars looking for violations of increasingly arbitrary edicts is bad enough. What makes matters worse is when the one whose neck received the jackboot is afraid to mention it.
Bowser’s rule throughout the pandemic has involved one long train of abuses and usurpations, to borrow a phrase from one of the founding documents that made this city possible. Even in the crowded field of Democrat leaders who flout their own restrictions, Bowser stands out for the contempt she has shown toward her struggling constituents by her unabashed hypocrisy.
When Harry’s Bar, a downtown pub popular among Trump supporters and police officers, was fined $2,000 for mask violations in November, Bowser was busy in Wilmington, Delaware, celebrating at Biden’s victory party. Delaware at the time was one of the mayor’s designated “high-risk states” from which travelers were strictly mandated to self-quarantine for two weeks. Because her trip was “essential travel,” Bowser’s office maintained that she was exempt from her own rules. Her spokeswoman offered a similar excuse for the federal lawmakers who crammed into the pews at Rep. John Lewis’ funeral in Atlanta last July.
Dc @MayorBowser & staff attended @JoeBiden victory speech in Wilmington, DE Saturday. Delaware on the Mayor’s list of “High Risk” states which would require quarantine after returning. Bowser staff says the trip was “essential travel” exempted under Mayor’s order. @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/GOAdajeENp
— Mark Segraves (@SegravesNBC4) November 9, 2020
In particular, D.C. churches have borne the brunt of Bowser. The church I typically attend requires me to register in advance and sit with an entire pew to myself. When the prominent Capitol Hill Baptist Church sued Bowser last fall after she capped outdoor church gatherings at 100 people, their lawsuit explicitly referenced her participation in the crowded Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer.
“The Church takes no issue with [Bowser’s] decision to permit these gatherings, which are themselves protected by the First Amendment, and the Church supports this exercise of First Amendment rights,” the lawsuit said. “The Church does, however, take exception to [Bowser’s] decision to favor certain expressive gatherings over others. The First Amendment protects both mass protests and religious worship. But Mayor Bowser, by her own admission, has preferred the former over the latter.”
A judge ruled in favor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and Bowser backed off, but she seemingly failed to learn her lesson and clamped down yet again on houses of worship in the lead-up to Christmas. This time, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. sued her for capping church attendance at 50 people regardless of building size. In response, she loosened her restrictions and set limits on churches to 25% of their capacity or up to 250 people, whichever is fewer.
That number fell a bit short of the 6,000 people who can fit into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast D.C., but the Church’s attorney considered the mayor’s generous compromise “a Christmas truce.”
As tempting as it is to hope that such onerous preventative measures will end with vaccines, it is troubling that both Dr. Anthony Fauci and the White House asserted last week that masks and social distancing must continue regardless. And sadly, to paraphrase Joseph de Maistre, every city gets the government it deserves. I rarely venture out of my house these days, but when I do, I seldom bother to wear a mask outdoors. Almost without exception, everyone I pass on the sidewalk is obediently wrapped and treats me with the aversion once reserved for Old Testament lepers.
Masks, as well as the manifold cleansing rules and rituals, have become more than just protections from a virus. They are a statement of faith in the bureaucrat worship that has become a key tenet in the new progressive religion, of which Washington is the Mecca. The District of Columbia, therefore, is probably hopeless, but that is nothing new. The land of the free will hopefully retain enough enclaves where future generations can slug a beer in peace.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.