Representative John Lewis was laid to rest at a funeral in Georgia on Thursday. The funeral — attended by dignitaries, former presidents, and politicians from all over the country including 50 members of Congress — was the culmination of several days worth of memorials and public remembrances for the late congressman and civil rights icon.
The journey began with a service in an Alabama chapel and another at Troy University. The congressman’s body was ceremonially escorted by a military honor guard, via horse-drawn carriage, over a bridge in Selma with an audience watching. Lewis was then laid in state in DC for public viewing before being brought back down south, to Atlanta, for a series of memorials followed by the funeral. In all, there were more than ten ceremonies across five different cities. The final ceremony, the funeral, was invite-only, but many of the pews were still filled with people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t begrudge a prominent figure his memorials and posthumous celebrations. Lewis obviously is not the first such figure to get this kind of send off. John McCain, who died two years ago, had a similarly packed schedule of memorial services. But the difference between two years ago and today is, obviously, the coronavirus and the accompanying lockdowns and restrictions.
For months now, many Americans have either been prohibited from holding any funeral service at all for their deceased loved ones, or have been forced to hold very small gatherings attended only by immediate family members. The CDC labels large or medium-sized in-person funeral services as “highest risk” events, and in many places, such events are still banned. As a funeral director wrote in The Washington Post, saying goodbye to a loved one has become a lonely affair. But not for everyone.
A whole series of exceptions were made for the congressman, just as they were made for George Floyd’s various memorials and funerals. And the exceptions don’t just apply to the events themselves. As Buck Sexton points out, DC regulations require that travelers coming from Georgia must self-quarantine for 14 days. Will the 50 congressmen who attended Lewis’s funeral in Atlanta proceed directly to self-quarantine on their return to the capital? Somehow I doubt it.
And this has always been the problem with the coronavirus policies and restrictions. It’s not just that they represent infringements on our constitutional liberties — though they do — but that they are blatantly arbitrary. From the beginning, exceptions have been granted in service to politics, ideology, and elitism, rather than sound medical and scientific reasoning. Why can John Lewis have a dozen memorials in 5 cities while you weren’t allowed to have even one for your beloved grandmother? The answer is, quite simply, that your grandmother’s life wasn’t as important as the life of a Democratic congressman — at least according to the Powers That Be. Why can’t you go to church even while thousands of left-wing demonstrators and rioters cram together on the street? Because the same authorities don’t care about your church or believe in its message. They do care about left-wing movements and their messages, however. So one is allowed but not the other.
This arbitrary imposition of liberty-infringing policies is a true outrage and a disgrace. This is perhaps the most explicit case of “rules for thee but not for me” that we have seen in modern times. It is the very definition of tyranny.
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