By John Rolfe / Red Hook, N.Y.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” that created a state of emergency on Canada’s border with the U.S. drew supporters who were enthusiastically resisting Covid-19 prevention measures such as mask mandates, lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings. Nearly 90% of Canada’s truckers are reportedly fully vaccinated but some angrily object to a two-week quarantine if they aren’t and they blocked the border.
This loud, obnoxious minority and its American counterparts have enormous power to wreak havoc on the economy and public health. Their movement is growing in other countries such as France, where a recent convoy protest drew a tear-gas response. It’s threatened to become more aggressive in America, where Senator Rand Paul expressed hope that furious truckers “clog up” our cities.
All of this is typical of a mindset made worse by the pandemic: rules, regulations and laws you don’t like are for other people. Rage against even sensible restrictions is everywhere now: in stores, hospitals and restaurants, on airlines, trains and buses, and at schools and school board meetings. Insults and even assaults are common in all these places.
Oh, the tyranny and discomfort of having to wear a mask! A reasonable choice — get vaccinated or take a free weekly test — is an outrage if it means having to do something to protect others from being infected.
To me, this “freedom” movement is more about freedom from rules, even sensible ones.
Disdain for law and tradition wasn’t created by Donald Trump, but he personified and encouraged it while taking incivility to new lows. In office, he snubbed his successor, brazenly violated the Hatch Act and Emoluments Clause, used his position to pursue a political vendetta against Joe Biden and his family, ordered his administration to ignore Congressional subpoenas, and tried to overturn the 2020 election on bogus grounds of voter fraud. Upon departing office, Trump illegally removed and allegedly destroyed classified documents. All of this on top of chiseling on his taxes in the time-honored tradition of the super wealthy.
I have to suspect this thought has occurred to more than a few people who admire and support Trump: “Hey, if he doesn’t have to follow rules and laws, why should I? Look where it got him! He’s filthy rich, famous, adored by millions, and one of the most powerful people on Earth!”
Thanks to Trump and the misinformation industry, truth itself has become just another annoying obstacle. Don’t like reality? Make something up that you like better.
Outrage has reached the point of utter mindlessness. Exhibit A is the anti-vaxxers, who would rather catch Covid and die from it than simply take the jab. Then there is the daily whack-a-doodle-ism of the kind I witnessed while driving home from work the other night.
I was in a line of traffic on a two-lane road, much of it marked with a double yellow line that made passing illegal. My lane was moving under the 55 mph limit, because the lead car was doing about 35 with its hazard lights on. Eventually, the cars directly behind it began pulling out and passing, double yellow be damned. But one clown stayed in the oncoming lane next to the struggling car, as if taunting its driver. After a half minute or so (during which I was sure a head-on collision was inevitable and found myself shamefully hoping for a near miss), the idiot slowed, pulled in behind the blinking car, and suddenly darted around to its right side. Now the moron was on the shoulder, gesturing until he finally cut out in front and slowed before finally roaring off.
What was going through that guy’s mind, assuming he still has one?
I often wonder the same thing when people tailgate me with their high beams on or run the red lights and extended stop signs on the school bus I drive as my day job. The violation carries a $300 fine and five points tacked onto your license. Kids have been hit and killed after exiting a bus. Thankfully, we now have cameras that automatically record and report such illegal passes but they still happen much too frequently. And I still get the finger from angry motorists indignant at having to wait a minute or two while I pick up and discharge students.
The trucker protest in Ontario has been fraught with potential for violence, and it supposedly underscores how sick people are of Covid and its related restrictions. Well, too bad. We can rant and rage all we want, but the bug is boss. Being hospitalized or dying makes you free, I suppose, but in a very perverse way. I fail to see how millions of sick people make for a healthy economy.
What’s truly ominous is the rise in violence and shooting incidents, hate crime and the brazen looting of stores around the country. There are an estimated 400 million guns in the hands of Americans and legislators in states such as Texas are pushing open carry laws with no requirements for licensing or safety training. Florida has its infamous Stand Your Ground statute that cost Treyvon Martin his life while it made his killer George Zimmerman a celebrity. Feel threatened? Just ventilate your possible assailant.
Meanwhile our polarized political atmosphere threatens to boil over and probably will after the midterm elections in November and the presidential contest 2024.
Where and how does this madness end? I shudder to think.
John Rolfe is a former senior editor for Sports Illustrated for Kids, a longtime columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal/USA Today Network, and author of The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life. His school bus drivin’ blog “Hellions, Mayhem and Brake Failure” is parked on his website Celestialchuckle.com (https://celestialchuckle.com) with the meter running.