My home state of Michigan is a dystopian nightmare. Armed posers marched on the Capital building and blocked the emergency entrance to a nearby hospital in an act of domestic terrorism under the watchful eyes of Michigan State Troopers who did nothing.  A few days later a group of thugs entered the Senate chambers with long guns to push their point a little further. Meanwhile, hospitals in Detroit are still reeling from a lack of morgue space—having had to stack corpses like cordwood on shelves or seated on chairs. 

A third protest, hampered by rain, turned ugly when some of the protestors took umbrage to a Barbie doll suspended by a noose apparently meant to imply that Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmore should be lynched. In an act of irony lost on the crowd of dullards, a portion of the protestors attacked the other protestors.

Michigan has been hit hard by COVID and people have been told to stay at home and stay safe until…well that date keeps moving.  People hoarded toilet paper and soap, apparently because it was their first experience with the use of these products and they honestly didn’t know how much they would need, but that’s me giving them the benefit of the doubt and not simply dismissing them as greedy, selfish, panicked fools; I’m kind like that. People are feeling helpless, hopeless, and well…terrified.

There appears to be two responses to terror: either one overreacts or one simply pretends it isn’t real and ignores the threat. Sense would seem to dictate the middle road on this one—recognize that the threat is real and take prudent precautions but don’t freak out because someone in the grocery store isn’t wearing a mask.

In Owosso, MI a 78-year old is being hailed by the Right as a hero, a modern-day Patrick Henry because he is giving haircuts in direct violation of the Governor’s Shelter In Place Order. Frankly, he’s more a cross between Sweeny Todd and Typhoid Mary. 

At first blush, the poor old guy seems to be a sympathetic character. His claim was that he couldn’t get unemployment (despite provisions allowing for small business owners and sole proprietors to get COVID relief funding) and he needed the money.  The fact that at 78 he qualified for full Social Security benefits and either did or should have, accumulated some retirement savings in the past 50 years (assuming he didn’t chew through it all on hookers and blow) seems to have conveniently slipped his mind. 

As he basked in his 15 minutes of fame, it came to light that the real reason he violated the emergency order was that he was lonely, not needy.  If we live in a “police state” as some in my state claim, then we live in the worst police state ever conceived, If you can’t stop a line of people too stupid to avoid getting their haircut illegally from a man a whisper from being an octogenarian (would YOU trust him with a straight razor at your throat?) then can you really be considered an effective fascist? I think not.

But all this aside, what I find most troubling is a social media post made by a family member: “It’s not the role of the government to keep me safe.”  Really?

If it is not the role of the government to keep the citizens safe than why do we have a military? Whenever I have questioned why 61% of our budget is spent on the military, nobody ever says “to intimidate other, weaker countries into doing our bidding and protecting our business interests”. No. I get some version of the same response: we need them to keep us safe. Okay, so the role of the government is to keep up a strong military presence in the world to keep us safe from Albania or whoever, but it is still acting in the role of savior of the citizens.

There are all sorts of examples where the role of keeping us safe—individually and collectively—falls to government.  One can drive from Sault Ste. Marie on the U.S.-Canadian border in Michigan’s upper peninsula to Miami, Florida without being set up by brigands or highwaymen, again thanks to agents of the state, local, or federal government.

As a point of fact, government agents protect us from all manner of hazards from the health inspectors who make sure restaurants don’t make us sick, to OSHA inspectors that respond to workplace fatalities and worker complaints, to policemen who keep our neighbors from killing us, to firefighters that keep our homes from burning down, to the IRS who make sure the deadbeats who don’t pay their taxes get fined or jailed.  I can’t think of a single safe-keeping role that the government doesn’t play.

We also have a codified set of norms that we call laws, statutes, and regulations that we call laws, and once again many of these laws are designed to keep us, as individuals safe.  There are laws against taking drugs, for example. There are limits to where we can build fires. We have to be licensed to operate a motor vehicle and must abide by the laws that govern their use, why? To keep us safe. The government’s role—whether you like it or not—is primarily to safeguard our well-being.  You may not like that it plays this role and if so you have the right to legally and nonviolently protest against it, and while you are doing so the government will continue to play the role of the safe keeper by preventing someone from shooting you in the head while you are protesting.