Posted May 26, 2020
By Jim Amrhein
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 Im 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.
Im 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 Americas brave servicemen and women have died protecting over the years.
I realize that these two kinds of risk cant 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 wasnt 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 truepatriot
Memorial Day is (and always should be) a thoughtful remembrance of Americas war dead. Thats 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 years Memorial Day holiday to honor those whove 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.
Thats why I consider the 9/11 victims to be patriots, like Im 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 whove suffered and died from the coronavirus here in the Land of the Free. To me, they should be considered patriots, too. Thats 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, dont get me wrong. It should be hard to limit or prohibit those fundamental rights under the Stars and Stripes. Im not advocating otherwise, and never will.
Im 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, Ive read about folks being beaten, caged, gassed, shot, and sprayed with chemicals for breaking coronavirus rules. But whats the worst thing thats happened to Americans whove defied the various lockdown decrees, stay-at-home orders, state line quarantine rules, and bans on certain types of commerce?
All Ive 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 dont 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, Id argue that those who follow our nations pandemic policies do so largely because theyre 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 governments rules.
Conversely, Id argue that most of those who break these rules do so because they dont 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 thats how freedom rolls, and sometimes theres a price to be paid for it.
Americans have the liberty to follow their governments 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 isnt always pretty. It isnt always noble. It isnt always black-and-white in its interpretation
Freedom isnt always dedicated to the greater good, either.
But above all, freedom isnt 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 dont 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 dont 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 mans 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 Americas 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 thats going to be a hard fight.
I hope were up to that fight and that we remember why its one we need to make.
Jim AmrheinFreedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder