Op Ed: Social Contract

by: Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq

SOUTH FLORIDA – During the last four years in America we have lived through one culture war after the other stoked by the current occupant of the White House.

From  calling career civil servants “Deep State”, to labeling the press as the enemy of the people, to defending Confederate Statues, to labeling Black Lives Matter as a symbol of hate, to the current war of refusing to wear a mask to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus; the signal from the White House has been to encourage everyday Americans to distrust American institutions and to clash with the government.

Unquestionably, deeply entrenched in the United States Constitution is the first Amendment right of the people “. . . to petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Also entrenched in America, is revolution.

As the late Prof Rex Nettleford was fond of reminding audiences in America that unlike Jamaica, America gained her independence through war. And as the July 4th holiday approaches, we celebrate the independence of America gained through a long, fierce war.

However, even deeper entrenched in the society in which we live in America and all over the world actually, is the concept of a Social Contract. The successor to the Renaissance in Europe was the Age of Enlightenment where in the 17th century, philosophers developed political philosophy from which the Social Contract emerged.

Basically, philosophers including influencers on the American revolution theorized that man was born with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  However, if we each embarked on these rights to please only our individual selves, we would undoubtedly harm each other.

So, in order to preserve ourselves and live together and thrive, we surrender some of our individual rights for a government of laws and rules.  In America, we have a representative democracy where we elect officials to make laws and rules.

The elected in turn have a duty to protect the welfare of the public – including the public’s health. Unmistakably, the declaration of rights was flawed on its face because it did not include women, native Americans and Black people – but that’s for another discourse.

What we have seen these last couple months in America is the scientists and medical professionals try to grapple with the ravages of the Coronavirus – the likes of which the modern world has never seen.  The scientists tell us to wear masks to reduce the spread of this virus and to distance ourselves from each other.

The first phase of this iteration of the culture wars saw Americans demonstrating against local and state officials to lift stay at home orders so they could get back to “normal”; i.e. go back to the beach, back to bars and restaurants.

The unintended consequence of stay at home orders is that the economy grounded to a halt, and elected officials struggle to balance the financial needs of their citizens with the public health of all.

For the most part, America arguably emerged too soon from the stay-at-home Orders under pressure from Number 45 and his supporters – despite scientific evidence to the contrary, and instructions from his own Administration’s experts.

As a result, several states and municipalities are now halting re-openings and even rolling back some previously opened businesses.  I saw two people in Texas during a television interview be on the verge of tears asking how the government could take their right to go to a bar, how could the government tell them what to do and that this was a violation of their constitutional rights. “The government has no business telling us how to deal with our health”, said one Texas bar owner who vows to have a big 4th of July celebration including children and without masks and social distancing.

Au contraire, the answer to their questions is simple. Yes, the government does and they can because of the Social Contract.  We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we abide by depending on our mood.  We comply or we do not and face the consequences; or we petition to change the law.  But, when the government acts in the best interest of all for the public health, your need to stand at a bar to drink a beer does not take precedence over the rest of us need to live.

The leader of this country is impotent to influence a certain sector of the society because he has mocked others for wearing a mask and refuses to wear one himself, and they are completely involved in his culture wars. He Tweeted in May that the Governor of Michigan should “..liberate the people” by reopening the state – this after armed supporters stormed the State House to demand that the State government reopen because the Government was imposing on their rights by telling them to stay home and not to open certain businesses.

This horrific mis-handling of the crisis and #45’s complete ignorance of the role and function of government, has brought us to a place where the overwhelming majority of states (37) in America are seeing more positive cases per day than in the middle of the Spring when we thought the virus was at its peak.

It is obvious, if we don’t get the virus under control, we cannot get the economy under control. We are a country yearning for national leadership and direction instead, we have a Tweeter-In-Chief.

 

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq Social Contract

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq.

 

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. is a Jamaican-American attorney who practices Immigration law in the United States; and Family, Criminal & International law in Florida.  She is a Mediator and Former Special Magistrate & Hearing Officer in Broward County, Florida. info@walkerhuntington.com

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