Who else could keep us from turning into Australia?
Last summer, when all this Covid stuff really kicked off, I got a call from a friend in rural Virginia. He told me a bunch of rednecks were going to grocery stores and gas stations, tearing down signs asking patrons to wear facemasks.
My friend was annoyed, and so was I. Hey, it’s private property! If Sal only wants to sell pizza to folks dressed like Little Bo Peep, and you don’t want to dress up as Little Bo Peep, go to a different pizzeria. Better yet, cook for yourself. It’s not that hard.
Now, I thank God every day for those rednecks.
A few weeks ago, a friend in Australia called and told me about the country’s new Covid app. Residents of South Australia are required to prove they’re in quarantine by using face recognition and geolocation on this app. If they fail to check in, the app will notify a bureaucrat with the state’s Health Department. That bureaucrat will then call the police. The police, in turn, will go to the citizen’s home and make sure he’s not taking an unauthorized walk so his dog can take a clandestine whizz.
“We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes,” said premier Steven Marshall. Fair warning, I guess.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Victoria, the government has implemented mandatory contact tracing. The state is forcing stores to force customers to “check in” before they shop. According to Victoria’s chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, “everyone recognizes that we have to do absolutely everything in our power to be able to chase down every single person who may be exposed because it is that one person who is not found who may be the one who spreads it.”
And you know what? Professor Sutton is right. Since the vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective, the only way we can be absolutely sure we eradicate the virus is by identifying every single carrier before they infect anyone else. If that’s Australia’s objective, they’re going to need a lot more than a smartphone app. I’m sure they’ll exhaust every resource.
I’m sure the Australians will let them, too; you can tell they’re descended from prisoners and prison-guards. Another Aussie friend once described his country as an ongoing experiment with Bentham’s Panopticon. Folks there are so worn down by constant government interference they can’t even imagine what true privacy feels like. It’s like boiling frogs—and when your country starts out as a penal colony, you’re pretty well used to the heat.
On the other hand, you can tell Americans are descended from free settlers and freed slaves. Our policy is, and always has been, “Leave me the hell alone.” It’s looking pretty good right about now, too, considering the alternative.
Look: we can get into those niceties about private property laws, and I’ll probably agree with you. I’m not saying they’re perfect. But I sleep better at night knowing the preppers, truthers, and talk-radio enthusiasts are out there, just waiting for an excuse to make life miserable for the government.
Seriously, imagine if Ron DeSantis did an about-face and required everyone who shops at Publix to sign up for contact tracing. There would be riots. No, actually, there wouldn’t—because the good folks who work for Publix would refuse to comply. And if the CDC tried to bring out a Covid app like South Australia’s, they would be mooned by thousands upon thousands of Americans every 15 minutes.
When it comes to our civil liberties, the first line of defense is an old Marine with a Coors Light in one hand and a Remington 870 in the other. He’s got his mask pulled down over his chin and a Winston Red dangling from his lips. He has eight Trump stickers on the back of his truck and one that says “Booty Hunter” just to mix things up. He’s got the Confederate flag tattooed on his left arm and—of course—he’s wearing a MAGA hat.
This specter haunts Washington: the specter of Middle America. Call him Old Red.
Old Red looms over every meeting of the CDC, the FBI, the DHS, and the ATF. They never speak of him, but they all see him. And the apparatchiks know the moment they overstep their authority they’re going to have to deal with hundreds of thousands of pissed-off rustics. Really, there’s no telling how many Beltway power-grabs were abandoned for fear of the Great White Rube.
As bad as things are getting here in the States, we can’t fathom how much worse things would be without these down-home heroes. Sure, they might carry their paranoid anti-government theories a little too far. But their paranoia is far from unfounded, and even if they sometimes over-react, they keep America from falling into the opposite extreme: creeping tyranny, Aussie style. You can’t boil a frogs if he flips out every time you reach for the knob.
Like them, I’d prefer the burdens of liberty to a warm, sterile despotism. And that seems like an old-fashioned, all-American instinct to me. I can’t see Davey Crockett “sheltering in place” because the Department of Public Health asked him to. I can’t see Teddy Roosevelt triple-masking. I can’t see Johnny Cash stanning Dr. Fauci.
So, my apologies to those anti-maskers in Virginia. I rushed to judge you last summer, and that was wrong. May you continue to resist any whiff of conformism with righteous fury. May you give no quarter to the elite “consensus” of elite “institutions.” And may you never stop being pissed off. It just might save this republic.