Last Wednesday when I saw reports of protesters in Lansing, Michigan calling for their Governor to end the state’s stay at home order, I laughed. “How could anyone be so stupid,” I thought to myself as I watched maskless protestors donning Confederate flags and chanting “lock her up” in reference to their governor.
On Friday morning, however, my laughter quickly subsided after the man in the White House tweeted out: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” I felt a sense of dread set in as similar protests erupted around the country, including in San Diego and Encinitas.
As someone who has participated in a number of protests over the years, I fully understand the push to demonstrate when you feel that your rights and liberties are being taken away. That being said, the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic warrants strict stay-at-home orders that simply cannot be dismissed.
We have already seen the repercussions of not following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines in regards to social distancing. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem refused to implement a stay-at-home order because she felt her state did not compare to hard hit urban areas. Now, South Dakota is one of the biggest hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks.
Likewise, a week after a stay-at-home order protest took place in Kentucky, the state experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases. Looking at Kentucky, it is objectively clear that violating these orders causes an increase in the virus’s spread
One thing I could not seem to wrap my head around at first was why there was such a large turnout at these protests. There will always be those who want to “stick it to the man,” but seeing hundreds of people show up and risk the health of themselves and those around them, in my mind, would require an enormous catalyst.
Speaking about the protests on an April 20 episode of The View, conservative political commentator Meghan McCain explained how frustration can arise among the average American when mainstream figures equate their experiences to those of the average American.
“I’ve seen media figures complaining and talking about their fear, and again I want to say ‘check your privilege,’” McCain said. “You are not someone … who [will] be impacted in the same way as someone making minimum wage in the middle of the country is, and I think part of [these protests] is people reacting to a lot of the commentary that we’ve been seeing.”
There is a perception held by the average American, and predominantly in the middle of the country, that the “liberal elite” are out of touch with the average American. Therefore, it is unsurprising that every one of these stay-at-home order protests has taken on a right-wing tone. It is clear that this “out of touch” perception compounds the desperation some of these protesters to take to the streets. They feel protesting is the only way their experiences can be heard by those in power.
To those of you who want to go out and protest: Your frustration with the system is valid, but channel your frustrations into activism that will not affect the health of yourself or your neighbors. Create at-home letter writing campaigns to encourage your elected officials to pass more stimulus packages. Stay informed on the number of COVID-19 cases in your area, but be weary that spikes in the virus can occur without warning. Be a good neighbor and help those around you who are in need of assistance and support.
To those of you staying home, who come from a place of socioeconomic privilege: Do not equate your experiences in quarantine to that of those who were already struggling to make ends meet before this pandemic started. Likewise, being able to work from home or afford to live for several months without a job is a privilege in and of itself. Equating your experiences to those of others only frustrates those who have been struggling, and does nothing to change the situation you find yourself in.
This pandemic is one of the greatest challenges most of us will ever experience. But if we want to get through this pandemic as quickly as possible, then we all need to do our part and stay the f— at home. Only when we all work together to social distance will the curve flatten and our lives slowly stabilize.
Photo courtesy of Chris Stone for the Times of San Diego.