When we finally loosed our British yoke in 1783 after a 5-year war, we wanted to make sure we didn’t get locked in a new one with central government control of our lives. So we accepted considerable federalism in our Constitution, but also stipulated that all things not reserved for the feds would belong to the states.

That’s marvelous — sometimes. Not necessarily during an emergency, which is what we have now with the Covid pandemic. Washington recommends that states follow protocols of the Centers for Disease Control, but the final decision rests with 50 governors. They are under pressure from the Don’t Tread On Me quarter. Don’t close my bar or restaurant. Don’t tell me I have to wear a mask. Don’t tell me I have to have a vaccination. This is the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

That makes it nearly impossible to totally knock out Covid-19. It’s virtually gone in China (where it did start), in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand. That’s because people either followed orders-or-else in authoritarian nations, or just have a history of following orders in democratic nations. South Australia went into hard lockdown over just 17 virus cases!

We don’t much like following orders, and now some of our conservative press is encouraging that independence behavior.

Of immediate note is the Wall Street Journal. It’s editorials basically encourage an uprising against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her effort to bring Covid back under control with a new lockdown. The Journal writes: “The Democrat has found a new statutory justification to continue her arbitrary emergency rule of one.” In other words, a leftist dictator who should be tossed.

The editorial board supports those merchants who object to state government saying who’s essential and stays open, and who’s not and stays closed. There’s a lawsuit pending which says “restaurant, bar, cafe and brewery owners have lost the ability to use their real and personal property in any meaningful economically beneficial manner.

The Journal eggs it on. “A pandemic doesn’t negate the Constitution.”

Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito eggs it on. He says the longer emergency powers are in effect, the more they become questionable under the law.

We in Hawaii are catching this Don’t Tread On Me virus. Bars are closed for the good reason that bar patrons want socialization, not distancing while they drink and talk. So they want the same open-okay as a restaurant which also serves alcohol so long as its annual income is at least 30% from food.

We have a gang that refuses to wear masks except briefly when required to enter a store (and not willingly then, either.)

We have a gang that disbelieves the CDC and WHO and thinks this pandemic will quickly blow over and that officials are over reacting. Some deaths? Sure, but you get those in car and plane crashes, too, but don’t ban cars and planes. History will record that President Trump helped stoke those attitudes.

No small number of Americans believe that government is acting in a capricious, sporadic and selective way in closing bars or gyms or restaurants or unessential businesses. There’s some substance there, of course. Why is Walmart  or a camera shop essential? Or a manicure salon? Or a mattress store?

But overall, with some horrible mistakes, the pandemic restrictions target our alarming indifference to the spread of the virus, the rising hospital cases and the rising death toll.

Sometimes you have to accept being tread on for a brief period. I don’t want to die while shouting “freedom!”


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

10 replies on “Our Tradition & Our Achilles’ Heel”

  1. Yes, people should wear masks in public places where they are likely to be in close proximity to others. But what’s up with TV reporters wearing masks when doing their “stand up” in front of a camera in the field? Masks make them hard to hear and understand, and sometimes have distracting designs or patterns. Are they really that close to other people? It rarely seems so. Are they keeping their cooties off the microphone? Are they demonstrating their social responsibility? Are they afraid of being criticized? Or are the masks just for dramatic effect? It often just looks silly.

  2. Thanks, Bob. Yesterday I encountered two young maskless (military)runners, as we waited for the walk light. I asked where were there masks. One replied, “ don’t you know it’s a hoax?” A rather heated discussion occurred. I’m adamant about masks being warn. It’s common sense.A HPD car was in the left lane, observing. I pantomimed my mask, pointed to the two non-masked runners. As the light changed, the police officer gave a 🤘, the runners crossed, as did I. The Walk-street Journal is a biased paper, as is NYT, Washington Post, SA. Look at the ownership.It’s a hell of a mess!

  3. There are exemptions to the mask rules; therefore, not all people are required to wear a mask in a public place if they are social distancing and have a medical exemption.

    1. I can’t see any reason to have a medical exemption. Shouldn’t be out in public. You are very vulnerable! How well is that social distancing working? Not well, is my observation.

      1. Some people have no choice. We aren’t providing free delivery of groceries
        or free home medical visits. But the bigger point is what you can legally do. And government always has to modify its policy due to a disability under the ADA.

      2. Re Medical exemptions. Correction, I meant to say medical conditions. According to Governor Ige’s Fifteenth Proclamation Related To Covid-19 Emergency, those with medical conditions and disabilities are exempt from wearing masks. It is my understanding that this exemption follows the CDC’s guidelines and recommendations.

  4. “That’s because people either followed orders-or-else in authoritarian nations, or just have a history of following orders in democratic nations.”

    Or they may have a culture of consideration for others.

    In some other countries, long before the pandemic people would wear masks while sick out of consideration for others.

  5. Wall Street Journal . . . they’re so backward they didn’t have photos in their paper until sometime in the 21st Century. Even the 9/11 attack reporting featured a grey outline of the East Coast with a dot marking the site of the attack.

  6. Let’s cut to the chase. This mess we are in should be blamed on the fundamental lack of a qualified leader, AKA, the Screw-Up-in-Chief, President Donald TeleTubby…not a major revolt against “federalism.” If we had had a LEADER of the PEOPLE in the Oval Office, there would have been a Smart, Safe, Science-based policy within weeks of the initial outbreak, which would have set the nation on a very different course. While there certainly would have been debates and discussion within State Governments about some policy issues (eg: school openings), there would not have been the insane, anti-science, “let’s try drinking bleach”. “screw everyone but me” , “this will be over by Easter”, ” Gone by July 4th”, message from the top which has broken this country into pieces. A REAL President would have created a national plan based on Science and experience for the States to follow, some achieved through law, the rest through policy. Compare this to WWII. When WWII began, the mainland was a fractured place. Isolationists and even Nazi sympathizers held strong sway in Congress. President Roosevelt had spent more than a year fighting against the appeasers and preparing the Country for what would come. After we were attacked, Mr. Roosevelt worked with Congress and the States to consolidate plans and most important, sent a cogent message to the Nation. Roosevelt made it about the People and the Country. Trump has made it about himself and his ego. Bob, the issue revolves around leadership, not how our Government is set up.

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