John Whitehead's Commentary
After a Year Under Lockdown, Will Our Freedoms Survive the Tyranny of COVID-19? [SHORT]
One way or another, the majority of Americans will survive COVID-19.
It remains to be seen, however, whether our freedoms will survive the tyranny of the government’s heavy-handed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indeed, now that the government has gotten a taste for flexing its police state powers by way of a bevy of lockdowns, mandates, restrictions, contact tracing programs, heightened surveillance, censorship, overcriminalization, etc., we may all be long-haulers, suffering under the weight of long-term COVID-19 afflictions.
Instead of dealing with the headaches, fatigue and neurological aftereffects of the virus, however, “we the people” may well find ourselves burdened with a Nanny State inclined to use its draconian pandemic powers to protect us from ourselves.
Therein lies the danger of the government’s growing addiction to power.
What started out a year ago as an apparent effort to prevent a novel coronavirus from sickening the nation (and the world) has become yet another means by which world governments (including our own) can expand their powers, abuse their authority, and further oppress their constituents.
Until recently, the police state had been more circumspect in its power grabs, but this latest state of emergency has brought the beast out of the shadows.
Not only have the federal and state governments unraveled the constitutional fabric of the nation with lockdown mandates that sent the economy into a tailspin and wrought havoc with our liberties, but they have almost persuaded the citizenry to depend on the government for financial handouts, medical intervention, protection and sustenance.
This past year under lockdown was a lesson in many things, but most of all, it was a lesson in how to indoctrinate a populace to love and obey Big Brother.
What started off as an experiment in social distancing in order to flatten the curve of this virus, and not overwhelm the nation’s hospitals or expose the most vulnerable to unavoidable loss of life scenarios quickly became strongly worded suggestions for citizens to voluntarily stay at home and strong-armed house arrest orders with penalties in place for non-compliance.
Every day brought a drastic new set of restrictions by government bodies (most have been delivered by way of executive orders) at the local, state and federal level that were eager to flex their muscles for the so-called “good” of the populace.
There was talk of mass testing for COVID-19 antibodies, screening checkpoints, mass surveillance in order to carry out contact tracing, immunity passports to allow those who have recovered from the virus to move around more freely, snitch tip lines for reporting “rule breakers” to the authorities, and heavy fines and jail time for those who dare to venture out without a mask, congregate in worship without the government’s blessing, or re-open their businesses without the government’s say-so.
To some, these may seem like small, necessary steps in the war against the COVID-19 virus, but they’re only necessary to the Deep State in its efforts to further undermine the Constitution, extend its control over the populace, and feed its insatiable appetite for ever-greater powers.
After all, whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America healthy again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.
The war on drugs turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with SWAT teams and militarized police. The war on terror turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention. The war on immigration turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with roving government agents demanding “papers, please.”
This war on COVID-19 could usher in yet another war on the American people, waged with all of the surveillance weaponry at the government’s disposal: thermal imaging cameras, drones, contact tracing, biometric databases, etc.
Unless we find some way to rein in the government’s power grabs, the fall-out will be epic.
Everything I have warned about for years—government overreach, invasive surveillance, martial law, abuse of powers, militarized police, weaponized technology used to track and control the citizenry, and so on—has coalesced into this present moment.
The government’s shameless exploitation of past national emergencies for its own nefarious purposes pales in comparison to what is presently unfolding.
Consider that under the Trump administration, the Department of Justice started to quietly trot out and test a long laundry list of terrifying powers that override the Constitution.
We’re talking about lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level): the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease,” reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die.
These are powers the police state would desperately like to make permanent.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that anything will change for the better under the Biden administration. That’s not how totalitarian regimes operate.
Be warned, however: once you surrender your freedoms to the government—no matter how compelling the reason might be for doing so—you can never get them back.
Blindly following the path of least resistance—acquiescing without question to whatever the government dictates—can only lead to more misery, suffering and the erection of a totalitarian regime in which there is no balance.
Whatever we give up willingly now—whether it’s basic human decency, the ability to manage our private affairs, the right to have a say in how the government navigates this crisis, or the few rights still left to us that haven’t been disemboweled in recent years by a power-hungry police state—we won’t get back so easily once this crisis is past.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government never cedes power willingly. Neither should we.
A year ago, I warned that this was a test to see whether the Constitution—and our commitment to the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights—can survive a national crisis and true state of emergency.
Nothing has changed on that front.