2020 Taught Me the Sources of Resistance to Tyranny Come From Unexpected Places
"Only a handful of implausible outposts of resistance that no one could have identified in advance"
Where were the places that did not lock down? It was not the tax havens. It was not the birthplaces of liberty like Spain, Italy, or the UK. It was not among the most highly educated and credentialed populations of Massachusetts or Melbourne. Internationally, it was Tanzania, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, Nicaragua, and Belarus. Even Russia opened up sooner than the US with much fewer stringencies. If I had told you in 2019 to move to Nicaragua right away to preserve your freedom, you would have thought me crazy. And yet that is precisely where we found ourselves, living on a big globe with only a handful of implausible outposts of resistance that no one could have identified in advance.
In the US, there was only one state that fully resisted apart from closing schools for two weeks, and that was South Dakota. That was due to the courage of Governor Kristi Noem, who made her decision to stay open based on an intuition that freedom is better than all forms of government planning. Despite media denunciation, her decision was politically popular in this state that prides itself on the frontier spirit of independence and skepticism toward power. Beyond that, Georgia was the first state to open up after having fully closed. It was accomplished by a Republican governor who defied even President Trump. His decision was widely popular in his state. That further led to openings in Florida, South Carolina, and finally Texas, each one greeted by howls from the media and predictions of disaster that never came true.
Other communities in the US never locked down, defying even their own governors. A major one that received very little attention – other than perfunctory denunciation from the governor of New York – were the Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. They went on with their lives under the conviction that their faith dictated certain forms of community engagement, and they refused to give up what was central to their lives for some claim of a disease on the loose that required them to comply.
Another group receiving almost no attention for their resistance was the Amish of Pennsylvania and Ohio. As the meme said, they were unaffected by Covid because they didn’t have TV or the internet. Yet another community to resist were many people of color in the South. Even now, their vaccination rates are the lowest in the country owing to a deep and justifiable fear of a medical establishment telling them what they are supposed to inject into their arms. These communities of color in the South took to the streets with the George Floyd protests (BLM) but there was plenty of evidence at the time that there was a metatext to these protests: a defiance of lockdowns to which major media could not object. My friends who live here were deeply grateful for the protests and those who pushed them because they knew what was really going on. This was not about BLM; this was standing up to the police power that was enforcing the lockdowns and thus asserting their rights to live freely.
These were the forces of resistance in the US, in addition to the very small intellectual resistance mostly led by a few outposts and led by small research teams. As time went on, once Trump gave up on lockdowns, Red State governors jumped on board, and with that Fox News spoke out too (rather late in the game). Once it was safe, we saw the D.C. think tanks get involved but this was late in the year. The two weeks to flatten the curve turned to 8 and 10 months before the people who had been assigned the tasks of defending American freedom woke up and got to work. Meanwhile, the real resistance had taken place in the least auspicious communities – ones that we could never have predicted and in places that hardly anyone would have guessed would have led the way in standing up.
In addition, there were the disparate people out there in many states who were skeptical all along – a minority to be sure but they were there. In the early days, I saw very few of these people on social media. People fell silent. Those of us who did speak received torrents of death wishes and denunciation.
Gradually, over time, that changed. After a year or so of living hell, people began to crawl out and post their opinions. Today, Twitter is filled with people who say that lockdowns were always a terrible idea and that they always opposed them. That’s probably true but the fear campaigns from the media and government silenced them. They were only emboldened by a consistent voice to lead and give them courage.
I take from these extraordinary examples that the demographics of pushback against tyranny are mixed, unpredictable, and inspired mostly by deep convictions that transcend political categories as we know them. Plus they had to have the courage to act. Tellingly, none of them were part of any well-funded and well-organized “movement.” Their resistance was spontaneous, beautifully unorganized, and stemmed from deep moral conviction.
Source: RealClear Markets