Freedom or Death?

by Ryan Behren

Only during times of unparalleled crises are the American people able to truly take notice of
the strengths, weaknesses, and values of the society for which they live. At these times it is
crucial that we keep careful watch over the structural integrity of the rights and laws that this
nation is built upon. During the recent outbreak of Covid-19, law-makers, leaders, and the
American people have been forced to make a choice between freedom or death. The states and
federal government have had to make the difficult and extremely important decision as to
whether the right to life takes precedence over the right to liberty.

In my home state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis put in place on March 1, 2020, an
executive order to close all non-essential businesses. This closure not only causes substantial
amounts of unemployment and economic turmoil, within the state, but also the forced
categorization over what is considered an “essential business.” This threatens the existence of
many businesses . Florida has also enforced “stay at home” orders that limit the constituents
ability to work and interact with other people. When millions of business owners are forced to
fire employees and close their doors, it is critical that we ask ourselves whether these orders
and forced closures attack our citizens’ fundamental rights. The Florida “Stay at Home” order is
set to end April 30th, 2020. The order states that these businesses will be classified by the U.S
Department of Homeland Security . The U.S Department of Homeland Security classifies
“Critical Infrastructure” very broadly and states that “This list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor
should be considered a federal directive or standard.” This grey area is where we will run into
problems in the future. The categorization of a business as “essential” or “non-essential” as
seen fit by the state and local governments without express guidance from the federal
government can cause many issues . How can Ron DeSantis classify WWE fights as
“essential”, yet the local book store “non-essential”? This clear bias and indiscretion is what
needs to be explored further. Without clear guidelines that provide information to business
owners and citizens how can the constituent know between right and wrong?

The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment states that, “No person shall be deprived of
life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” While closure of “non-essential businesses”
and “stay at home” orders may protect the people’s right to life, we need to make sure that a
balance is kept so that the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not overshadowed or
forgotten amidst the chaos. When the constitution was drafted, “health” and “health care” were
never mentioned. The founding fathers were more worried about freedom from over-reaching
government. It was only in 1944 when the “Public Health Service Act” became effective that the
government was allowed to enact the measures that we are now experiencing today. The
“Public Health Service Act” allows the Secretary of Health and Human services the right to
declare a public health emergency. When it is determined that a public health emergency exists
the government is then allowed to suspend or modify legal requirements. While the act was
created to protect the American people during times of crisis, it permits the government to forfeit
certain rights of citizens. The “Public Health Service Act”, which was created to spell out
specific legal procedures during times of crisis, does exactly the opposite. It seems to lift legal
responsibility and due diligence during times that we need it most. Having clear procedure and
instruction during chaotic times is crucial to making sure that our country is running as it should
be. It is important that we evaluate what is effective in preserving the life and the health of our people while protecting our liberties as well. This balance is crucial for the existence and
effectiveness of our laws and justice system.

The most recent effort by the federal government to gain control over the Covid-19 outbreak
was “The CARES Act.” Congress passed this Act as a desperate attempt to shield the
American people from the economic turmoil caused by the forced closure of thousands of
businesses. While economic stimulus plans are created for good reason, they are more often
than not constructed hastily and without bipartisan cooperation. This rushed effort created blind
spots within the Act that are hurting the American people. The scrambled response which
caused these blind spots is due to our government’s lack of preparation for setbacks. Why do
we continuously wait till damage is already done to plan a response? During the Economic
Crisis of 2008, President George W. Bush signed “The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.” This
Stimulus Act, was constructed very similarly to the “The CARES Act” and did not do much to
stop the recession. The debt from the 2008 stimulus plan caused massive inflation. Similar to
“The CARES Act”, the checks sent out to Americans in need were tax rebate checks, which
historically don’t cause much stimulus. I am afraid that we will face the exact same problems
today because we did not learn from our mistakes in 2008. We need to evaluate the response
our government has to these crises very carefully. How many times do we need to get hurt as a
nation to learn from our repetitive mistakes? It is due to our government’s unpreparedness,
chaotic response, and repeated ignorance that we are placed in these difficult positions.
America needs to look at the mistakes of the past to give them guidance for the future. Without
this insight we will continuously face the same dilemmas.

In the near future we will have to answer these questions. Many owners of lost businesses
and unemployed Americans will ask who should be blamed. It is during times of fear and
uncertainty that the American people need to keep careful watch over the checks and balances
within our society. We have to ask ourselves if the systems we are using during these chaotic
times are effective in preserving the qualities upheld in our Constitution. It is our responsibility to
ensure that even when we are faced with uncertainty that our fundamental rights will not be
infringed upon. No matter what your opinion is, now is the time to express it. It is during times
like these that we need to take responsibility and defend our Constitution, not only for ourselves,
but for future generations of this nation.