It’s time to say a word about the “Re-Open America” movement. Throughout the country – and here in Connecticut as recently as Monday – small gatherings of self-proclaimed “patriots” are protesting the continued stay-at-home orders and physical distancing.
Far from being brave freedom fighters, these people are reckless, selfish and unwise. They are putting themselves, their families and all of the rest of us at risk with their symbolic shenanigans. They should be ignored.
I appeal to everyone who thinks these protesters speak for you: Are you aware that some are actually blocking ambulances, nurses and doctors from getting to hospitals? In some other states, nurses have actually blocked protesters’ cars with their own bodies so patients could get the treatment they need. While the Hippocratic Oath prevents medical professionals from refusing the protesters treatment once they come down with the illness, the rest of us have every right to express outrage over the unnecessary burden these louts are putting on our already overtaxed system.
To everyone who sees the American flag as a sacred symbol of independence: Are these bombastic rallies where you want to see it waving?
To every responsible gun owner: Do you really believe that closures aimed at stemming an epidemic have anything to do with the Second Amendment (especially since here in Connecticut, gun shops remain on the “essential” business list)?
To everyone who is against vaccines: When researchers finally create a safe, effective vaccine against coronavirus, will you refuse it and risk infecting your children?
To everyone who still insists this is “no worse than the flu:” Have you read the obituaries lately? At this writing, 1,137 Connecticut residents have died. By the time this is published, that number will undoubtedly have climbed.
And I appeal to everyone who wants to “restart the economy” by letting businesses open their doors before it is safe to do so: What good is an open door if consumers are too frightened to walk through it and workers are still too sick to show up? Are you prepared to shoulder the responsibility for causing a spike in the infection rate just as it is starting to trend downward?
Finally, please remember these protesters represent a very small fraction of the public. They are egged on by the ultra-conservative alt-right, conspiracy theorists like the discredited Alex Jones, are fueled by the President’s reckless tweets about “liberating” states, and are pawns of the shock-jock media figures whose stock-in-trade are self-interest, fear, and faux outrage.
In fact, these protesters are the very small, very vocal, very unenlightened minority. The vast majority of Americans believe the stay-at-home orders are valid and are abiding by them. In fact, the Pew Research Center this week reported that 66 percent of Americans fear we will reopen too soon. Discouraged and financially hurting as most of us are, none of us will come out of this OK unless we put community before self, trust medical professionals who are working day and night, and understand (however reluctantly) that it is government’s responsibility to put public safety over temporary profits.
That’s why I support Gov. Lamont as he continues to work with governors of neighboring states in a coordinated, mutually respectful and sensible plan to reopen the states when it is the right time, and in the right way.
Please stay home, stay safe, stay hopeful, and be patient.
Christine Palm is the state representative for the 36th General Assembly district, covering the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam.