The anti-lockdown movement: a very American protest amid coronavirus pandemic
In a country that treasures individual freedom, and where suspicion of the government is in its DNA, a nationwide lockdown in America was always going to be a tough sell.
There's a reason that a state like New Hampshire has as its official motto, "Live Free or Die."
Many Americans, especially in rural communities, celebrate individualism and a defiance of central authority over almost all other values.
We're seeing the protests spring up across the country. In California, Texas, Idaho, Michigan, and now here in Pennsylvania.
Call it crazy during a pandemic. Or call it prescient that some Americans see government as posing a threat as it aligns with Big Data and announces unprecedented orders about what people can do and where they can go.
My point is that it's very American to see state and federal authority not so much as offering a helping hand, but as potentially something more ominous.
The view of many on the American right is that once a freedom is relinquished it is rarely regained.
And of course it's all amplified this time because the protesters have a cheerleader in the White House.
Donald Trump built his presidential bid on conspiracy theories and on his dismissal of science and expertise. And he sees this moment as an opportunity to rebuild a coalition of the angry, the sceptical and the aggrieved ahead of his reelection campaign.
That’s the reason behind those extraordinary presidential tweets telling Americans to "liberate" states run by Democratic governors.
He was in the bizarre position of urging citizens to defy his own government's pandemic guidelines, but there was method in the madness.
The scepticism of the lockdown is further fuelled by Fox News, talk-radio, and the right-wing echo chamber that is openly doubting the statistics and projections being presented by the scientific establishment.
These anti-lockdown rallies springing up across America are driven by a mix of pro-Trump, pro-gun rights, militias, and anti-government forces.
To be clear: polling suggest the protesters are still in a minority.
Most Americans recognise that following social distancing protocols and putting the economy into hibernation is essential in the short term.
But these protests are likely to grow as millions of working-class Americans face unemployment and the reversal of all the economic gains they have seen over the past decade.
While most people around the world are adhering to sensible precautions and accept the consensus view, some Americans see not the science or the logic.
Rather they believe they are confronting government overreach, and they fear they will be the economic collateral damage.
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