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