John Whitehead's Commentary
This Is a Test: How Will the Constitution Fare During a Nationwide Lockdown? [SHORT]
This is a test.
This is not a test of our commitment to basic hygiene or disaster preparedness or our ability to come together as a nation in times of crisis, although we’re not doing so well on any of those fronts.
No, what is about to unfold over the next few weeks is a test to see how well we have assimilated the government’s lessons in compliance, fear and police state tactics; a test to see how quickly we’ll march in lockstep with the government’s dictates, no questions asked; and a test to see how little resistance we offer up to the government’s power grabs when made in the name of national security.
Most critically of all, this is 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.
Here’s what we know: whatever the so-called threat to the nation—whether it’s civil unrest, school shootings, alleged acts of terrorism, or the threat of a global pandemic in the case of COVID-19—the government has a tendency to capitalize on the nation’s heightened emotions, confusion and fear as a means of extending the reach of the police state.
This coronavirus epidemic, which has brought China’s Orwellian surveillance out of the shadows and caused Italy to declare a nationwide lockdown, threatens to bring the American Police State out into the open on a scale we’ve not seen before.
If and when a nationwide lockdown finally hits—if and when we are forced to shelter in place— if and when militarized police are patrolling the streets— if and when security checkpoints have been established— if and when the media’s ability to broadcast the news has been curtailed by government censors—if and when public systems of communication (phone lines, internet, text messaging, etc.) have been restricted—if and when those FEMA camps the government has been surreptitiously building finally get used as quarantine detention centers for American citizens—if and when military “snatch and grab” teams are deployed on local, state, and federal levels as part of the activated Continuity of Government plans to isolate anyone suspected of being infected with COVID-19—and if and when martial law is enacted with little real outcry or resistance from the public—then we will truly understand the extent to which the government has fully succeeded in recalibrating our general distaste for anything that smacks too overtly of tyranny.
This is how it begins.
The coronavirus epidemic may well be a legitimate health concern, but it’s the government’s response to it that worries me more in the long term.
Based on the government’s track record and its long-anticipated plans for instituting martial law (using armed forces to solve domestic political and social problems) in response to a future crisis, there’s good reason to worry.
This is not a government with a rosy view of the future.
To the contrary, the government’s vision of the future is particularly ominous if a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command is anything to go by.
The training video, which provides a chilling glimpse of what the government expects the world to look like in 2030, says a lot about the government’s mindset and the way its views the citizenry. Even more troubling, however, is what this military video doesn’t say about the Constitution and the rights of the citizenry: nothing at all.
In typical fashion, the government seems to consider the Constitution only when forced to do so. It complies with the dictates of the Constitution even less frequently. Indeed, the government’s efforts to systematically lock down the nation and shift us into martial law have not been stymied one iota by the restraints imposed upon it by the Constitution: when it’s not bulldozing its way through the Fourth Amendment, the government just sidesteps it (with the help of the courts).
So what should you expect if the government decides to declare a national state of emergency and institute a nationwide lockdown?
More of the same of what we’ve been seeing in recent years.
After all, like the proverbial boiling frogs, the government has been gradually acclimating us to the specter of a police state for years now: Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality.
This is how you prepare a populace to accept a police state willingly, even gratefully.
We have made it way too easy for the government to lockdown the nation.
It won’t take much more for martial law to be declared, a nationwide lockdown instituted, and the American people to be terrorized into compliance by the government’s latest and greatest scare tactic, even if it means being stripped of one’s constitutional rights at a moment’s notice.
This continual undermining of the rules that protect civil liberties has far-reaching consequences on a populace that not only remains ignorant about their rights but is inclined to sacrifice their liberties for phantom promises of safety.
It may be that we’ve already gone too far down this road. However, don’t let this latest “crisis” cause you to panic to such an extent that you relinquish your fundamental right to make decisions for yourself and your loved ones and willingly surrender what remains of your freedoms.
This too shall pass.
Remember, a police state does not come about overnight.
Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, no matter how it starts, with a questionable infringement justified in the name of safety or a nationwide lockdown to guard against a global pandemic, it always ends the same: by pushing us one step closer to a future in which the government has all the power and “we the people” have none.