Liberty Over Life During Lockdown?



Demonstrators outside the Ohio Statehouse on April 18th protest the state’s shutdown. Similar protests have occurred in many states this month.


On March 23, just a few days after the governors of nearly all 50 states issued lockdown decrees, various conservative politicians, including President Trump himself, began questioning how long it would take until economic activity could resume as usual. In conjunction with an incredibly slow and lackadaisical response to the coronavirus and the skyrocketing of infection and death rates in New York and elsewhere, talk of returning to work was deeply unsettling for many. Several governors and local officials attempted to assuage fears of a premature reopening and a more deadly second wave of coronavirus infections. Others instead declared that older generations should be willing to sacrifice their lives for an economy that would inevitably plummet even further if a sizable portion of the workforce were to fall ill or die from this virus.

For a split second, it seemed as if all had settled, with most of the lockdown naysayers fading into the background for a week or two. However, over the course of the past two weeks, civilians across the United States have started taking to the streets of their state’s capital in order to protest stay-at-home orders. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick returned to Fox News to pat himself on the back, claiming that “there are more important things than living,” and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp moved to reopen many nonessential businesses on April 24. Protestors from St. Paul to Denver to Buffalo — the second largest city in New York at the world epicenter of the virus — showed up to fight against the nationwide stay-at-home orders’ infringements on their liberties. They argued that mandatory quarantines are inherently communist and even faced off with health care workers on the frontlines of the crisis.

This situation is also distinctly partisan; most of the protests have taken place in states with Democratic governors and are supported and coordinated by national conservative groups, which is all the more ironic. After all, haven’t conservatives championed abortion restrictions throughout the United States — even going as far as banning abortions in Texas and Arkansas during the coronavirus — in the name of being pro-life? Protestors have touted signs demanding haircuts, threatening those enforcing stay-at-home orders with their guns, begging for their golf seasons to be resumed and, most importantly, claiming that their health is their choice — a play on the “my body, my choice” chants of abortion rights advocates.

They do not care about the lives lost, so long as these lives are not their own.

Returning to a sense of normalcy in the United States during a time when many states have not yet reached the peak of the coronavirus crisis is a death sentence for many Americans. The truth is that, while their own deterioration of health due to the coronavirus may be their choice, the essential workers in food service, medicine and even certain retail stores do not have the same choice to decide their health. Members of America’s working class must continue to work to feed their families in places that have not closed due to the coronavirus and are still not granting their employees paid sick leave. These workers are also ineligible to receive unemployment benefits if they quit their jobs without “good cause” and will be at an even greater risk than they already are if stay-at-home restrictions are loosened. Moreover, many working-class Americans who have been furloughed for the time being will be asked to return to work if their non-essential place of work reopens, thereby risking the health of an even greater portion of the working class than is already at risk. Every conservative who feels the need to take their health and liberty into their own hands with indifference to contracting the virus themselves must consider that they would also be jeopardizing the health and liberty of their barber or hairdresser, the receptionist at their gym, the sales associate at their favorite retail store and so forth.

The Americans protesting the lockdowns are not truly doing it in the name of freedom for all; instead, they are focused solely upon their own ability to subjugate those most at-risk to their own non-essential whims and desires. They do not care about the lives lost, so long as these lives are not their own. Reopening the economy prematurely in the age of the coronavirus is not only contrary to the Jesuit values that our university holds, but also to the values of Christianity as a whole. At the same time, it highlights the overwhelming hypocrisy of the pro-life movement and the ways in which these faux-Christians’ means always lead to one end — that is, to exercise control over the people they perceive as morally beneath them in the name of their personal liberties.