Everywhere I go I find a pal
Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review
I showed up at Sunday’s protest of Safer at Home rules at IROW in the City of Mosinee industrial park.
My reaction was complex.
I was simultaneously thrilled, horrified, skeptical and unpersuaded.
I was thrilled because the protest was a display of public will, a muscular show of dissent against the system. It had a 1960’s feel to it. People had scrawled banners. They chanted slogans. They pushed boundaries. It kind of reminded me of my college days at UC-Berkeley in California.
But I was horrified, too. The crowd of approximately 1,000 people at the rally observed no social distancing to protect against the coronavirus. There was no way, in fact, that this many people could have fit into the IROW parking lot and kept six feet apart. The event organizer Cory Tomczyk should have capped attendance, but that never happened. A slight breeze at the open air event helped, but surrounding the parking lot with semi trailers didn’t. It created what I imagined was a large petri dish for COVID-19 to fester. I, personally, was scared most of the time. I stayed close to the event stage, keeping social distance, and breathed through my homemade facemask (made of old, discarded work shirts).
I have had people in my family infected with COVID-19 and, tragically, die because of COVID-19 related situations. I was deeply disturbed by the crowd’s careless attitude towards life.
I was skeptical. The event was advertised as a grassroots, non-political affair, but there were telltale signs that larger political forces at work. Indeed, it is now being reported that the Trump administration is helping to coordinate the anti-lockdown rallies across the country and that they are supported by veteran, big-money Republican donors. (It is easy to see how Trump would love the protests…he can have rallies blaming governors for the economy but, as a famous germophobe, he doesn’t have to personally risk infection.) I went unpersuaded. This is because of the side-trip I made prior to the rally. I stopped at Central Wisconsin Airport, Mosinee. What I saw was an empty airport. That jived with the report I had heard at Friday’s Joint Airport Board meeting where I learned that passengers since the COVID-19 outbreak were down 97 percent.
The argument at the rally was that if a public movement could topple Safer at Home rules, our economy will roar back to life and people, once gain, will have jobs. The airport destroys that argument. It is an essential business, unaffected by Gov. Evers’ rules, but its business has been wiped out. This has nothing to do with any government edict. It has to do with consumer choice. So, sure, the state can roll back lockdown rules, but consumers, as a whole, are not going to spend money at bars, restaurants, salons and fitness centers if they think they’ll contract a deadly disease.
The IROW crowd got it completely backwards. In this pandemic, the government is not the problem. It is the solution. It will fall to the government to enforce social isolation and minimize the spread of COVID- 19, and, in the end, fund mass testing of individuals to document the disease’s eradication. Only then will consumer trust return. And only then will the economy recover.