Monday, April 20, 2020

The Bill of Rights and the Loss of Freedoms

The right of assembly is closely linked to its more famous companion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: freedom of speech. Both rights have been at the heart of controversies for much of our country’s history, from picketing strikers in the 1930's to civil rights sit-ins in the 1960's, from KKK rallies in the 1920's to white supremacist marches in the 2010's. But the right to gather with others isn’t limited to political protests. It can also include simply hanging out with friends in public—or, as the U.S. Supreme Court put it, the “freedom to loiter for innocent purposes” (Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999)).

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which regulate an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

When the first stay at home orders were issued and public places were closed along with social gathering places, I was uneasy. Many thoughts ran through my mind. The most important was a sense of violation of my rights as an individual to come and go freely in this democracy in which I live and to put my own limits on the coming and going based on assessment of risk. As the virus spread and hospitals and care facilities were overwhelmed, I started to understand the need to put aside my rights in order to help keep the health care facilities from being overwhelmed. To keep the hospitals functioning, however, has meant great sacrifice by the engine that runs this nation's economy and is the source of most of the jobs - small businesses. Those who serve the tourist and travel industry have also been greatly affected. I am one of those people since I operate an air b&b in Charlotte. When business declined, I was grateful that I had enough in reserves to pay my mortgage and take care of the overhead until the crisis passed, and I complied with all the restrictions, even though I disagreed with them. When Congress acted to "oil the economy" until the crisis had passed, I was encouraged that maybe when the crisis passed, our country would be better and stronger and less divided. I am now extremely upset at the political divide that is happening that is causing many fear ridden people to lose their common sense and actually applaud those who are threatening the right of people to protest-the basis for maintaining a free society.

Small businesses are suffering and despite the influx of money through the Paycheck Protection Program owners are seeing the writing on the wall. They need the government to open now if they are going to survive. What good is saving lives if there is no life to go back to when Governors decide they will allow businesses to reopen? At least Henry McMaster (Governor of South Carolina) has a little sense. He knows where most of the state's economy is grounded - Myrtle Beach. The owners of retail stores along the Beach have said they have survived hurricanes but this threat may shut them down entirely. When people are suffering due to the activities of the government it is their Constitutional right to protest and petition the government for redress. I am concerned about the activities of some who disagree with them being lauded as reasonable. Yelling and screaming and attempts to shut down the protest are not laudable and can lead to violence in this heightened atmosphere. It seems those who form the basis of our economy are at the breaking point and they should be listened to as much as the health care professionals who were protesting the lack of Personal Protective Equipment and life saving items such as ventilators. I am compassionate and understand the anger of some people who have been working so hard to save lives but lashing out against others who are also strained and threatened with bankruptcy is not the way to go about it and those who praise this type of behavior are showing their ignorance and compassion for other's points of view. Justifying the behavior of those who violate someone else's civil rights only lead us down the path of loss of freedom for everyone.