Our COVID-19 Victims Died for Freedom, Too
In the weeks preceding this surreal and especially poignant Memorial Day, I found myself preoccupied by something I’m sure many American civilians — especially those over a certain age — have been grappling with, on one level or another…
The sobering realization that they could conceivably end up dying for their country.
I’m not talking about the mortal risks involved in military service. I mean the mortal risk that now lies in the everyday exercise of those basic freedoms so many of America’s brave servicemen and women have died protecting over the years.
I realize that these two kinds of risk can’t be directly equated to one another. But the irony of the contrast between them cannot be denied, either.
Our soldiers fight and die to keep us safe, free, and unafraid at home — but now our home is a deadly and fearful place in which freedom itself is in mortal danger, and those same soldiers are powerless to stop the threat.
As the coronavirus case-count steadily multiplied and the COVID-19 death toll started to go parabolic here in the U.S., it became increasingly apparent to me that if I wasn’t careful, I could end up a casualty in the war against this foreign virus that has invaded, terrorized, and paralyzed the nation I love. Millions of other Americans are no doubt feeling the same way.
But that disturbing revelation made me ponder the reasons why this was the case…
And the bittersweet answer I kept coming back to was, “because of freedom.”
American soldier, citizen, or spirit-in-kind — liberty is the beacon and bastion of a true patriot
Memorial Day is (and always should be) a thoughtful remembrance of America’s war dead. That’s “altogether fitting and proper,” as Lincoln said during the conflict that sowed the seeds of this great and solemn holiday back in the 1860s.
But parallel to this national day of honor for our fallen soldiers, I also thought it was right to take the occasion of this year’s Memorial Day holiday to honor those who’ve perished of COVID-19 in America. Because to my way of thinking, many of them have died as patriots to the cause of freedom as well.
Most dictionaries define the word patriot in pretty generic terms, like “one who loves and supports his or her country.” Some also include variations on the theme of being willing to defend or fight for that country.
But my own definition of the word also includes any citizen — or non-citizen for whom America holds true meaning beyond simple opportunity — who suffers, sacrifices, or dies for the freedoms this nation stands for, or because of them.
That’s why I consider the 9/11 victims to be patriots, like I’m sure millions of my countrymen do as well. All those innocent people were killed, injured, and sickened on that terrible day because America is free, and because we attempt to foster and facilitate freedom in other places around the world.
I feel similarly about those who’ve suffered and died from the coronavirus here in the Land of the Free. To me, they should be considered patriots, too. That’s because undoubtedly, the spread of that virus within this country has largely been due to our ingrained and codified freedom to assemble, travel, worship, socialize, and interact with each other.
Those are hard things to put the brakes on in a country like the United States that values individual liberties above pretty much everything else. And rightly so, don’t get me wrong. It should be hard to limit or prohibit those fundamental rights under the Stars and Stripes. I’m not advocating otherwise, and never will.
I’m simply pointing out that unlike China and other places, which can bring the iron fist of a terroristic ruling regime to bear on its frightened masses at will, governing in a nation like ours requires the willing consent of the people. Brute force will not work. The 2nd Amendment ensures that — and the proof is in the pudding…
In places where liberty does not abide, I’ve read about folks being beaten, caged, gassed, shot, and sprayed with chemicals for breaking coronavirus rules. But what’s the worst thing that’s happened to Americans who’ve defied the various lockdown decrees, stay-at-home orders, state line quarantine rules, and bans on certain types of commerce?
All I’ve really heard about is a lot of slap-on-the-wrist warnings and orders to disperse — with a few arrests and fines here and there. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone has even been locked up yet for more than a brief period of time over violating coronavirus rules here in America.
Point being, I’d argue that those who follow our nation’s pandemic policies do so largely because they’re willing to temporarily forfeit their own freedoms for the perceived good of the community and nation, for their own safety, or both…
Not necessarily because they fear punishment for violating the government’s rules.
Conversely, I’d argue that most of those who break these rules do so because they don’t consent to be governed by restrictions they feel are unjust, too extreme, or in violation of their personal right to exercise various freedoms under the law.
A few, however, are clearly just narcissistic Covidiots who deem their social lives more important than the lives of their grandparents — or all the residents at the nursing home where they work.
But that’s how freedom rolls, and sometimes there’s a price to be paid for it.
Americans have the liberty to follow their government’s guidelines, and participate in what they consider sensible measures to curb the spread of a killer pandemic…
And they have the liberty to resist or defy those measures if they feel justified in doing so, even if it means potentially putting themselves and others at risk.
They also have the freedom to be total selfish ass-hats, too.
The bottom line is that freedom isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always noble. It isn’t always black-and-white in its interpretation…
Freedom isn’t always dedicated to the greater good, either.
But above all, freedom isn’t free. It costs thousands of lives to maintain and defend.
Not just the lives of our soldiers, but sometimes of our people, too. The coronavirus pandemic is proving that to us right now.
For true American patriots, though, freedom is always worth fighting for — even if you don’t always agree with some of the ways others are exercising it.
Voluntary, temporary self-sacrifice and restraint for the good of your neighbor, your community, and your country is undeniably patriotic…
But so is civilized defiance against overreaching laws or decrees. Resistance against such things is the very bedrock of the American ethos.
I don’t pretend to know what the perfect blend of these approaches is for this moment in time. Even if I did profess to know, it would just be one free man’s opinion among millions of others of equal weight.
I do know this much, though: After this crisis is all over, however it resolves…
All of America’s surviving patriots, regardless of their stance right now, will have to unite in taking back the legal, economic, and philosophical ground our government at every level has seized in the name of beating this pandemic.
We’ll have to reclaim a lot of lost liberty, folks. And that’s going to be a hard fight.
I hope we’re up to that fight — and that we remember why it’s one we need to make.
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder