Many countries have responded to the coronavirus in a varied but similar way. Countries like the UK, Italy and Spain have been under lock-down since March. While countries have varied in their responses to the coronavirus, there is one country that seems to have been left behind. The US has taken an approach which The Guardian in an article described as that of a “third world country”. Despite having the largest number of coronavirus case, over 855,250, the US has been slow to react to implement safety measures.
Perhaps it is shocking then to find media outlets dotted with Americans protesting the imposed lock-downs. Thousands of American citizens across the country have taken to the street defying orders to stay at home, in order to protest the imposed restrictions. These protests show no form of social distancing and a disregard for official recommendations to keep safe from the viruses.
Why are they protesting?
The answer would a combination of economic poverty with a perceived infringement into their civil liberties.
Americans have a long history of protecting their civil liberties and opposing anything that could threaten this liberty. Freedom is a concept which is entrenched in American society, as a result policies or government action which is seen to be overreaching is rejected by civilians. The Federal government is expected to keep a low profile in civilian’s lives, enabling civilians to be the makers of their own lives. The problem with this approach is it risks a cycle of poverty.
Low economic civilians are not rewarded like high earners, who have better health care and education. Nevertheless the idea of freedom met with a Laissez-faire approach by government is something that is upheld a core value of American society.
Restrictions of movement take away an aspect of freedom for citizens. Americans have a zest for their constitution of which it triggers a deep-set defines of it should any threat emerge. This may seem somewhat bizarre for EU countries who are countries that identify as equal but are not as obsessed as seemingly Americans are.
That is because freedom is the story of America itself. For Americans it is their identity. In 1776, US as it was then was ruled by the king of England until a revolution which brought freedom to the people previously ruled by a despot. The United states was born. Any such infringement on freedoms is not necessarily about human rights. Rather, it is a threat to American identity and must be protected no matter what the consequences. This includes the consequence of contracting a pandemic virus such as coronavirus.
The right of politics has been at the forefront of protecting these types of related infringements on civil liberty. The protest has had an element of support from these conservative groups, pro-gun and trump groups.
Conservatism in America has historically kept back the progress freedoms by opposing planned parenthood and gay marriage. The idea that conservatives are the torch bearers of freedom should be questioned. With the motives behind supporting liberties such as gun laws is merely political trench warfare. Conservative groups use freedom as a weapon against the democrats and socialist groups. Although the protests have occurred in a mixture of democratic and republican governor led states, there is a possibility that this could be a propaganda campaign by the right-wing groups to spread a level of anti-establishment feeling within the states with democratic governors such as Michigan.
However, the conservative’s groups are only half the story. Workers, instead of being given a choice whether to risk their lives by working, are forced to remain home. In a society where the ideal is if work hard enough you make it being told to stay at home is devastating for some citizens. Even more so devastating for lower earners who need to make money to pay their way.
America has had a long past of health inequality. With no free universal healthcare or subsidised health care, citizens who are low-earners do not receive a decent health care. Preventative health care is not an option when you do not have a health care plan because you do not have a well-paid job.
For this reason, Americans are at greater risk of not being able to afford care should they need care for coronavirus, or any other disease. Most of the states are currently under some level of restriction on movement or lock-down. With currently the most cases of coronavirus as a country globally, the federal and local governments have their work cut out.
Due to distanced government from it is citizens the support in the form of welfare is limited. Those who cannot afford to pay rent or bills without an income from their work, they have no choice. Go to work or lose everything. With 22 million citizens claiming unemployment, a record number of claims, the future is looking a little bleak.
When we look at the US from across the ocean, we must remember that the US is a country stuck in a cycle of economic poverty.
The protest in the US are set to continue as restrictions continue to be implemented. In response to these small rallies, some southern republican states have rescinded on restrictions. The governor of Georgia has reversed bans on beach visits and restriction on retail business.
Trump’s own view of the protests seems to be one of agreement, saying that some states have gone too far, tweeting to his followers “liberate Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia”
With Trump’s blessing and the situation of those in low-income background not set to change anytime soon, it looks as if we can expect more rallies from the political right in the US. Only time will tell how far-reaching the implications of such rallies are as we watch coronavirus cases rise at a staggering rate in the land of the free.