- - Sunday, June 7, 2020

The argument is over. The lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it turns out, were never about providing safety and security in the face of COVID-19. They were just about exercising political control over a society stubbornly jealous of its freedom. 

How do I know? Because for the last week, I’ve watched the very same liberal Democratic governors and mayors who demanded that their constituents cede their constitutional rights and stay home under pain of jail and fines to slow the spread of the coronavirus now encourage those very same constituents to engage in public protests that require them to take any guidelines about maintaining a six-foot radius and throw them right out the window.

Remember Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot? In early May, she said, “We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we have to, we will arrest you … We will take you to jail, period.”

Or New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who famously declared, “To all the jackasses out there, who we now have to carry to make sure they don’t make life worse for the rest of us, we know who you are and we will not relent … So to all the jackasses and to all the knuckleheads out there, get with the program. We will not relent until we have 100% compliance.”

Or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who averred, “[T]he executive orders have the force of law. They are not just a suggestion, or helpful hints. It is the law …”

Or D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who tweeted, “Our police force is here to protect your First Amendment rights.”

Oh, wait. That last tweet was from just a few days ago, in response to protesters downtown. Clearly, Miss Bowser — whose earlier shutdown orders, like all the others issued across the nation, closed her city’s churches and denied her constituents their First Amendment rights to practice the religion of their choice — has had a change of heart. Apparently, exercising dictatorial control and denying one’s citizens their First Amendment rights is OK in some instances, but not in others.

She’s not the only one. Mr. Murphy supports the protests, too, and so does Ms. Whitmer, and so does Ms. Lightfoot, even though the protesters’ behavior makes a mockery of social distancing.

Face it: The nationwide reaction to an instance of police brutality has brought the lockdowns to an end. After the activities of the last week, there is simply no way the public will accept going back to sheltering in place.

Ironically, it’s the very lockdown orders that have been in place for the last two months that created the environment in which the public protests — many of which have turned, sadly, from peaceful protests into violent uprisings, featuring private property destruction, looting and arson — could have taken place.

The lockdowns led to 40 million newly unemployed Americans — 40 million Americans who no longer have a job to go to. They don’t have the dignity of work, they don’t have the pride of earning a livelihood and providing for their families, they don’t have the comfort of knowing they’re pulling their own weight. They’re dealing with emotional insecurities many, if not most, have never had to deal with before. They are under stresses they’ve never encountered before. They have no place to go all day and hours of time to fill.

Further, the lockdowns denied them the ability to engage socially. In some states, the lockdowns were so severe that neighbors were told they could not enjoy each other’s company at each other’s homes, in private. No nightclubs, or restaurants, or even churches were allowed to remain open and functioning in anything approaching their pre-lockdown protocols. The human desire for socializing was denied.

The result? They were a tinderbox, waiting for a lit match to be dropped.

The riots we have witnessed for the last week were predictable. In fact, they were predicted, by some of us who at the very beginning of the lockdowns believed our leaders had just launched us on a downward spiral to anarchy. We warned from the start that such draconian stay-at-home orders were sure to be resisted, and would eventually result in a loss of respect for the law.

That’s exactly what we’ve seen play out on cable news for the last week — a total loss of respect for the law. And, like the dysfunction our society has suffered for the better part of the last three months, we brought it on ourselves.

We are nearing — if we’re not already at — a tipping point. Either our leaders recognize this and take the steps necessary to turn back toward our constitutional underpinnings, and restore our rights and our way of life, or we will continue to spiral downward, giving up more and more of both our liberty and our security. Which path will they choose? Which path will we?

• Jenny Beth Martin is honorary chairman of Tea Party Patriots Action.

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