When the mayor of Myrtle Beach was interviewed for our state news, her voiceover aired with images of trucks carrying caution cones to various public access entry points to beaches. Governor McMaster had issued an executive order to close the beaches and the city government was executing the order.
The mayor said they hadn’t seen large gatherings on the beach in weeks, that traffic to the coast had been slow and people were observing social distancing suggestions.
Even so, the beaches had been closed by executive order.
While the local authorities thought the order unnecessary, the mayor claimed it was her job to follow it.
We are now fully in a time where three things are true:
- People don’t know how our government works.
- Politicians are misusing their authority in an attempt to exhibit leadership.
- Citizens are willing to surrender their rights for the illusion of safety.
Let’s start with the third because it’s not new. Since 9/11 and the Federal government’s strict regulations on air travel, U.S. citizens have been willing to allow searches and seizure of their private property. One TSA agent dug through my suitcase looking for a blade – it was a wine tool – and held it up triumphantly before throwing it in the garbage.
I once tossed a full, unopened tube of toothpaste still in the box into the garbage at security before leaving on a 12-hour flight and a 3-week stay in the Philippines because federal regulations had decided what amount of liquids or gels are permissible for air travel.
“The illusion of security,” I told the TSA agent at the time. “Thank you for maintaining the illusion of security.”
My toothpaste wasn’t going to kill anyone. But that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t. As we’re now seeing, had I boarded a plane while contagious with a virus, I could have caused more destruction than my Crest.
Every day we have new reports of government agencies and legislators enacting regulations meant to curtail the spread of COVID-19 while simultaneously erasing our right to peaceful assembly. And we’re willing to surrender it because we’re being told it’s for our own good.
This is not leadership. Leadership convinces you to sacrifice for the sake of others. It doesn’t threaten you if you refuse. Leadership provides a vision for what life will be on the other side of action. It doesn’t frighten you into compliance.
Every day we have politicians taking action in lieu of exhibiting leadership and their actions will have long-lasting effects. Legislators work with the only authority they have: lawmaking. They enact more policies, draw upon more debt, and generally behave like indulgent parents to millions of spoiled children.
We are not children. We can and should understand the risks associated with a $2.2 trillion bailout. Take the time to explain the options to us before mortgaging our future for your short-term fix. Weigh possibilities that won’t ruin us economically. Debate. Discuss. Vote. Do your job.
Except we are children right now. We are currently powerless against those who hold office. And we are demanding that they do something because we believe we can’t. Or we don’t think there’s anything wrong.
The real authority we have, elections, won’t occur for another six months. Until then, we can only watch as our politicians fumble, defraud, and bankrupt their way through this crisis. As they continue to legislate from the executive branch and try to centralize a supply chain through more federalism, we watch our rights erode.
Every time a governor says they’re frustrated to be bidding against other states for supplies and asks for FEMA or some other federal intervention, pay attention to the subtext: I can’t do my job because it’s too hard.
Then, come November, vote those who are incapable of leading out of office because if Tom Brady had come to the sidelines and told his coach that things were tough out there and he needed the league to fix the game, Bill Belichick would have benched him.
It’s time voters understood what exactly the government is empowered to do and what it absolutely should not be expected to do. It’s time we stop asking governors and senators and presidents to do the work of citizens. All those decades of being told what our government can do for us? We believed it. But those were campaign promises.
Don’t ever take a civics lesson from campaign rhetoric.
When the mayor of Myrtle Beach said it was her job to follow the governor’s executive order closing public beaches and preventing gatherings of three-or-more people, it became obvious that not even the people in the job know what they’re allowed to do.
At the Daytona 500 this year, President Trump made a lap in the pace car and commentator Jeff Gordon said, “He’s allowed to do that. He’s the President.”
Except he’s not the king, Jeff Gordon. He’s not granted divine rights over the rest of us. So, no, he’s not “allowed.” He may have been invited but more than likely he told NASCAR what he would do and NASCAR stepped aside and let it happen.
Did anyone else blink when Gordon made the claim? Not any more than the mayor of Myrtle Beach blinked before she sent city workers to tape off public access.
We just let those in power do whatever they want and the more they get away with, the more they try to get away with. Until eventually central control has become the standard.