What (or Who) is Behind the Reopen America Protests?

I’ve been angry.

And then frightened.

And then terribly sad to watch the various protests clamoring to reopen America.

I’m sad that too many of these people seem to be protesting out of selfish motives; protesting their own inconvenience rather than showing concern for the health and welfare of their neighbors.

I’m sad that people who used to tout the rule of law whenever they argued about immigration, now brazenly break the law because they disagree with the legal directives issued by their governors, mayors and county judges. 

I’m sad that these people believe they are free thinkers, part of a grassroots movement, when actually they are being manipulated. Ample evidence and solid research demonstrates that well funded, special interests groups are behind this current protest movement. Power brokers and king makers control the board and they are quite happy to sacrifice their pawns in order to maintain their own power and influence.

I’m sad and angry that – for numerous decades now – too many people in our nation have been living paycheck to paycheck, underpaid and undervalued, while corporate conglomerates exploited them. That too many people have gone without access to adequate health care. That too many American children have been going to bed hungry.

All this while the rich and powerful have steadily amassed even more riches and power.

So during this crisis, with no cushions or safety nets in place, people who already lived on the edge now are teetering on the precipice of disaster. This makes me very, very sad.

And it makes me angry. While I have no doubt that some of these protesters are stirring the pot in bad faith, I believe most of them are truly in distress. Political protest is a natural (and appropriate) reaction to social distress. But what is sad is that they are angry at the wrong people; they are pushing back against the wrong structures.

It is not the governors who are trying to protect their health that are the problem. Many of our state and local leaders across the political spectrum are losing sleep over the multitude of dangers their people are facing. Most of our state and local leaders are navigating these uncharted waters with courage and conscientious commitment to our shared well-being.

No, it’s not the stay at home orders that are the problem.

Our national problem is the behind the scenes puppet masters who think it is their god-given right to rule over the rest of us. Our national problem is the manipulated politicians who are bought and paid for; who have rejected the notion that their constitutional duty is to serve the common good.

This sell-out is what we all must protest. This treachery is what we all must stand against.

We must never go “back to normal.” We the People must create a New Normal together. A New Normal that will work for everyone.


Footnotes

Some of my growing insights about oligarchy come from Boston College Professor of History, Heather Cox Richardson. I recommend her recent book How the South Won the War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America published by Oxford University Press (April 1, 2020).

Some of my insights come from my clergy friend and colleague, Rev. Elizabeth Grasham. Her thoughtful Facebook post on April 23 challenged my anger and softened my cynicism. “I’ve been thinking about the stay-at-home protesters, and realized that I mostly felt very sad for them,” she said. “The gospel of Matthew came to mind: “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

See here a review of Dr. Richardson’s book by Ryan Boissonneault

See here a recent interview with Dr. Richardson by Gillian G. Gaar at Book and Film Globe (May 2020)

See here an op-ed written by Dr. Richardson for The Guardian in 2019: “The Impeachment Hearings are a Battle Between Oligarchy and Democracy.”

Here are some articles on some of the special interest groups behind the protests

Security Researchers Say the Reopen America Campaign is Being Astroturfed

Who’s Behind the Reopen Domain Surge

Trolls and Bots are Flooding Social Media with Anti-Quarantine Disinformation

The April 18 protest at the Texas state capital was organized by Alex Jones and InfoWars, an Austin-based website that promotes conspiracy theories, and has a massive online following.

Here is an interesting overview by Snopes: What are the Reopen Protesters Really Saying?

Nearly half of the ‘reopen America’ Twitter accounts are bots, researchers say

Photo shows protesters gathered outside Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s official residence in St. Paul in early May, calling for him to loosen stay-at-home restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus. Photo from NPR.

Charlotte Coyle submitted this blog as a Guest Column for The Paris News on May 11, 2020

7 thoughts on “What (or Who) is Behind the Reopen America Protests?

  1. I can’t agree with you concerning the reopening of our communities. It is not selfish or self centered to work and provide for our families and for the good of our country. To live in fear is not the course in life that we should impose.
    As far as a “new normal” I would like to remind you of the words of Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes; “ what has happened before will happen again. What has been done will be done again…There is nothing new under the heavens.”
    To suppress freedom is to enslave a people. Work is good, rearing a family is good. To give these over to “government” is the forsaking of what life is about.
    As a retired minister, you should fully understand this.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Sarah. Here are just a few quick thoughts:

      “It is not selfish or self centered to work and provide for our families and for the good of our country.” Of course not. I didn’t say that it is selfish to work and care for our families. But it is “selfish” to be willing to sacrifice others’ well being on the altar of money and profits. My point is that this country – for many years now – has not looked out for the good of its own citizens.

      “To live in fear is not the course in life that we should impose.” Of course not. I didn’t say we should live in fear. In fact, “Perfect love casts out fear.” If we Christians are “loving God and loving our neighbors” we will be courageously following the way of the Christ who sacrificed his own good for the good of others. If we are people of faith, we will make those sacrifices joyfully and lovingly – not out of fear.

      “To suppress freedom is to enslave a people.” People of God have been oppressed and enslaved for much of human history. Nevertheless, faith is a way of living that recognizes true freedom exists within us because of the work of God in our lives. Faithfulness to God’s way releases us from the enslavement of our own sinful selfishness and allows us to live freely for others.

      I would like to remind you that the work of God has always been to make things new. I want to participate in that work.

      These are things I fully understand as a minister and as a Christian.
      Thanks for the conversation. Peace, Charlotte

  2. Thank you for your thoughts.

    It is readily apparent that this nation is in for a rough road.

    The failure of our national leadership to speak the truth to the American people will cause untold suffering in the future.

    Please continue to speak out!

    1. Thanks so much, Michael. I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve been sad and angry and sometimes overwhelmed. But I think I’ve found my voice again and I’m recommitting myself to speak out. We all must. Peace that passess understanding to you and yours, Charlotte

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