(Image credit – Wikimedia Commons)
If you’ve been watching the political discourse closely since coronavirus came into our life, you probably already feel ten years older.
Our politicians and news media networks have never held up a high standard for discourse. It is hardly surprising to find the same people failing to address the issues that matter.
An interesting question is taking shape now – when do we come back out?
In Michigan, things took an ugly turn.
What Happened in Michigan?
On Thursday, protestors descended on the Michigan Statehouse in Lansing. Some of them were armed, most not wearing any protective mask, while legislators were mulling extending Governor Whitmer’s emergency powers to combat the pandemic.
The armed protestors notwithstanding, we have to talk about opening things back up.
In an interview with Jake Tapper at CNN, Governor Whitmer emphasized the need to listen to epidemiologists and other kinds of healthcare professionals who know what they’re talking about.
“We have to listen to the epidemiologist and health experts and displays like the one we saw at our capitol is not representative of who we are.” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reacts to protesters descending on her state’s capitol, including some who were armed. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/lfPgGnpkGC
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) May 3, 2020
She also said some malicious parties in the protests were not representative of the state itself (i.e., people carrying assault rifles, confederate flags, and swastikas).
Men carrying assault rifles and scaring people with confederate flags and swastikas is nothing new for Americans. Even if the cause they stand for is somewhat relatable, their presence holding guns ends up becoming a roadblock for the cause itself.
The media naturally jumped to call these people idiots (they used some other terms which are, frankly, too complimentary. These people are idiots). Trump, the enemy of the media, was quick to defend the protestors in whom he sees his base. By doing so, he ensured every protestor votes red in November.
This is not just about the election though. The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t care about an election happening in November.
For her part, Whitmer was right. Listening to health experts more important now than ever.
However, despite the dangerous tact used by some protestors in Michigan, their point is not entirely wrong.
Most of the country cannot afford to sit at home.
Dismiss the Protestors at Your Own Peril
A survey in 2017 by CareerBuilder found that 78% of working Americas live from paycheck to paycheck. While some employers are paying their employees’ full salaries even during the pandemic, many are working for a fraction of what they used to earn earlier.
Small businesses that are non-essential are shut, meaning no local diners, restaurants, theatres, and malls are open. Imagine the number of people who are making $0 right now, worried sick about how they’ll pay the rent. It’s not like Congress and the president gave small businesses a lifeline when the passed the stimulus bill in March. They were more interested in helping big corporations. The stock market is back up and roaring, but waitresses, parking valets, receptionists, and other service professionals are preparing for a few years of tragic poverty.
For better or worse, the people hurting the most right now would find the Michigan protestors more relatable than the media crying about swastika and confederate flags.
Working people care about getting by, not political issues the media likes spending all its time on.
The swastika-brandishing armed protestors represent a sickness in American society. But the reason they were in the Michigan statehouse on Thursday is one most working American will relate to.
The Way Forward
These are tough times. The coronavirus has made many geniuses look like fools. Governor Whitmer is right to err on the side of caution and keep the people of her state safe. However, Whitmer and those in power must quickly understand the desperation currently pervading the working class.
The $1200 Trump bucks won’t keep the country silent for long. When their stomachs will growl and their landlords will throw them out, expect more protests then. The media won’t be able to spot swastikas and confederate flags then. They would only see a sea of people marching with anger at those in power.