In a turn of events that should surprise no one, thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets to protest the draconian lockdown measures that have destroyed the economy and millions of lives along with it. Many in the media seem to be perplexed about this development. They are doing quite well, personally — still pulling an income, still able to do cable news hits from their home studios — and they can’t imagine why anyone would be so upset about being asked to stay home and watch Netflix and play video games, as Patton Oswalt put it in a tweet that has half a million likes.
But those who lack the privilege of a media personality or famous comedian may find that Netflix and video games are paltry comfort when they return home after spending six hours in line at a food bank. Agree or disagree with the methods of the protestors, but any reasonable and decent person should at least understand why they are protesting. In the past month, 22 million people have lost their jobs. Plus another several million who didn’t qualify for unemployment or couldn’t apply because the unemployment sites are crashing. Contrary to how Dr. Fauci has characterized it, these numbers represent more than a mere “inconvenience.” Many Americans have lost everything. And not because of some natural disaster or act of God, but because the government has forbid them from going to work.
A woman at a protest in Maryland held a cardboard sign saying she wanted to save her business. “I need to work to live,” the sign read. Democrat politicians would call that woman “selfish.” Talking heads on MSNBC would say she is part of a “death cult.” But it seems to me that she’s just a woman who wants to salvage the business that she has poured her sweat and tears into. And she wants to survive. Both of these seem like perfectly reasonable goals. Disagree with her approach if you want — though, honestly, I can’t see the problem with the approach — but to sneer at her and the other protestors, as so many in the media have done, is morally repugnant.
I would like to propose an unofficial rule for any further discussion of these protests and the lockdowns that prompted them. Before you give your opinion, you should first reveal whether you still have an income. The rest of us would like to know if you are earning an income while you smear your fellow Americans for wanting to earn an income. Indeed, it’s rather striking that the loudest voices in favor of the shutdown are primarily people who have lost nothing because of it. It is bad enough for those who’ve lost nothing to wag their fingers at those who’ve lost everything, but to call them selfish? Well, that level of hypocrisy is just too much to bear.
Since I am the one proposing this rule, I should probably disclose that I myself am a media personality who is still earning an income. In fact, the lockdown has been a relatively light burden for my family. I’m sill making money, we already homeschooled, and we live out in the country with plenty of space for our kids to go out and play. And I tend to be a bit of a hermit, so isolation from the general public is no great horror to me. If the economy continues to crater, and we wind up in a full on depression, I certainly will not be immune from the suffering that is coming our way. As of right now, though, I’m doing alright.
But I realize that not everyone is in my shoes. Not everyone can work from home. Not everyone can so easily isolate themselves from society. Some people have real jobs that require them to go out and do things. And many of those people have been legally barred from doing those things. What has been a light burden for me has been a crushing weight for many others. Who am I to call people selfish for wanting income and stability? They are protesting for the right to reclaim what I already have. If I am going to be outraged at anyone, my outrage will be directed not at them but at the government that has done this to them.