Americans are an obedient people, especially when summoned in response to a national crisis. Citizens bought war bonds to support U.S. soldiers fighting enemies overseas, submitted to rationing and blackout orders (and cooperated in scrap drives) during World War II, and participated in civil defense drills during the Cold War. An entire generation practiced “duck and cover” and retreating to the nearest fallout shelter in the event of a nuclear attack. Obedience, however, depends on a fragile bond of trust, and our national leaders have recklessly tested the limits of that bond during the COVID-19 pandemic. The limits, although elastic, are nearing the breaking point.
In the guise of fighting a public health emergency, the public has endured a de facto national quarantine (even for healthy adults), business closures (many of them likely to be permanent), the shuttering of schools, bans on worship services, social distancing mandates, and of course the now-ubiquitous—but previously unheard of—command to wear face masks in public.
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