The Pandemic is Not an Excuse to Suspend Progress in Society pt 1

Opinion by Derek Wallentinsen (part 1 of a series)

The world is undergoing a virus crisis as it attempts to stop a pandemic, if not in its tracks, then before it walks all over us.

Having survived the Hong Kong flu pandemic in the winter of 1968-69, I am all for what I see today – a first global attempt by governments to stop widespread infection through physical distancing. That was certainly not done in 1968. There were vaccines in existence, yet they weren’t widely available, even for a doctor’s family like my own. My family suffered; fortunately none of us died. We treated the symptoms and endured in those days. Many were not so lucky. A million died worldwide.

With physical distancing, the economic effects of an epidemic or pandemic swell in impact. As everyone tries to avoid contact, businesses close, travel stops, manufacturing halts. Besides issuing pronouncements on distancing, here is where government can help. The huge aid packages being passed in Washington are certainly needed by everyone.

However, panic is leading to overreaction, exploitation and regressive moves by those in power.

Let’s look at what’s happening: The Department of Justice wants to detain people indefinitely using the coronavirus as an excuse. Unfortunately, the US has a history of allowing presidents to exceed their constitutional powers by exploiting crises. Now the Trump Administration is seeking letting the attorney general indefinitely detain people without trial in violation of the constitutional right of habeas corpus. Lincoln suspended it during the Civil War, FDR used it to establish Manzanar, Camp Amache and even Camp Santa Fe to imprison 100,000 Japanese Americans in WW2. Just as these past presidential acts have been acknowledged as wrong by history, we must speak up and acknowledge that this present constitutional transgression is not acceptable. In keeping with the DPNM State Platform, we support that the human rights of every person living or working in the US, regardless of citizen status, must be ensured.

Derek Wallentinsen is a naturalist writer-photographer and a longtime New Mexico resident. His pictures and writings have appeared in such places as Planetary Astronomy Magazine, Sky and Telescope, Southern Sierran and in the last 20 years at numerous locations on the World Wide Web.