By long American tradition, protest movements manifest themselves most fully in gatherings in Washington, D.C, starting at the Washington Monument and culminating in speeches at the Lincoln Memorial. At long last, after two years of astonishing attacks on fundamental rights that most everyone once believed were protected by the U.S. Constitution, this happened today, January 23, 2022.
It didn’t just happen actually. It wasn’t spontaneous. It was paid for, planned, organized, put together, and broadcast on online media. There was nothing but sincere love of what we used to call liberty behind these efforts. The speakers, organizers, and people who showed up took huge risks in order to salvage what is left of the Founders’ vision. They deserve every credit for this. Bless them.
The enduring question is: why did it take so long? Why did people not pour out into the streets on March 13, 2020, when the government first issued its lockdown directives that were put into place the next week and lasted for months after? How is it possible that governments around the country could have locked up the churches on Easter 2020, smashed 100K-plus small businesses, and kept many schools closed for the better part of two years and yet protests against lockdowns were few, far between, and mostly unattended?
Let us not forget that “social distancing” rules were structured to “keep people separate,” in the words of the crank doctor Deborah Birx who concocted all these protocols and talked Trump into accepting them. Combined with capacity restrictions, they amounted to a ban on public meetings. In many states, you could not gather with more than 10 people. This was enforced by the police and cheered by mainstream media.
So let us not be too hard on people for not living a life of utter defiance. In addition, in those days, people were utterly shell-shocked. They feared not only the virus (which data had already shown was not a threat to most people of working age) but aIso arrest, doxxing, and shaming. The George Floyd protests got the green light from the same institutions, so people used the occasion to let off steam, but that light quickly turned red thereafter.
The lockdowns gradually mutated into another attack on basic freedoms. The vaccines seemed like they might emancipate us from the panic and tyrannies but the beast of tyranny had already been unleashed. What seemed like a promising way of dealing with a disease revealed itself to be an unprecedented attack on individual choice and biology. People who have not complied have seen their lives utterly upended.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this whole trajectory of decline, the harms multiplied seemingly without limit, affecting every aspect of life quality for people of all ages. The political establishment and public-health officials have been stunningly obtuse, refusing to apologize and often only doubling down on the insanity, even though everyone knows they are lying. To everyone’s amazement, Big Tech and Big Media have not only gone along but allowed themselves to be enlisted in what amounted to a war against life and liberty.
So, yes, after two years, we finally have it, the DC protest we’ve long needed. I very much admire the speakers for keeping their composure in the midst of all this. After all, do we really need to explain that something has gone fundamentally wrong? Is it not unbearably obvious that we’ve been lied to, abused, and played very hard by a fascist-style regime that is utterly foreign to American ideals, institutions, history, and aspirations? We should not have to, but we do, and with the eyes of the world watching.
Many of the speeches spoke not only to the vaccine mandates but to the lockdowns, which seem perhaps like ancient history, but which are very much present day with cultural, economic, and public-health damage that has been inflicted.
The spirit of the event was striking. It was diverse in terms of religion, ideology, and demographics. The theme of every speech centered on that beautiful word freedom, even if there were a range of different perspectives heard from the microphones. And surely, freedom is a theme on which everyone can agree. And surely most people, once it is explained, understand that a medicinal mandate of limited public utility and questionable safety, as a condition for participation in public life or even for getting paid for one’s job, is contrary to the ideal of freedom.
Why, then, were not millions present at this rally? Yes, there should have been. My answer: because this is not 1963. Consider:
- D.C. has a vaccine mandate in place, so anyone not vaccinated, or anyone who refuses to participate in the new segregation, would have to stay and eat across the borders in Maryland or Virginia.
- We live in very dangerous times when social-media trolls can wreck your life if you are targeted by them: showing up to an edgy, anti-regime protest in D.C. is very likely to enliven them.
- Facial recognition technology allows anyone with a camera, including the major media, to capture a pic of any face and identify and discover everything there is to know about you, which means basically that there is no privacy anymore in public spaces.
- The media had already spent days pre-reporting the event and characterizing it as a bunch of Trump-deluded anti-vaccination activists with dangerous associations with unseemly ideological movements.
- Plane travel these days is a huge pain in the neck, with loudspeakers endlessly blaring patronizing messages about masking and social distancing, and filled with threats that non-compliers will have their lives ruined.
- Plus, anyone could watch and listen to the speeches from laptops at home instead of braving the very cold weather.
- The corporate media has spent the better part of a year doxxing and smearing absolutely anyone who showed up to the January 6, 2021, pro-Trump rally at the Capitol even if they didn’t participate in the unruly entry into the building. They all became and remain suspects to this day. Do you really want to protest in DC?
Given all this, it strikes me as remarkable and a sign of great strength that several thousand people managed to show at all. And while anyone can criticize this speaker or that, this line in a speech or that, I’m reluctant to do so simply because I have no idea of the herculean effort it would require to organize something on this scale and the anxiety that would be associated with all the landmines planted in such a terrain.
My attitude is: respect for those who did this.
The question is: for every person in attendance, how many people did they represent? I hope that every person there represents one million more. Ten million more. I do not see that as entirely implausible. We needed this rally if only as a show of what could be. And the overarching spirit, what was it? It was the most fundamental thing, the aspiration for simple freedom. That is what is at stake. It’s more important than ideology, partisanship, religion, race, or any of the other things that previously divided us.
When foundational postulates of civilization itself are sweeping to destruction, what do we do? We do what we can in every way that is possible. If that means organizing a rally, or slogging to D.C., or pulling up an app to watch it on TV, great. Or maybe it means donating to a good organization like Brownstone. Or perhaps saying no whenever or wherever it is possible to do so. We are out of the habit of resistance, but if there is another way to fight against the end of human rights, I do not know it.