Never in my 20 years as a journalist in Colusa County would I have imagined that our local government would go to such lengths – during a viral pandemic – to overstep their authority to the point they demean, demoralize, and divide the citizens of this community.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said “Laws enacted to be habitually and openly violated are frightful demoralizers of society.”
You won’t find the quote online or even a snippet of Holmes’ 1885 speech since Google started scrubbing what doesn’t serve their political agenda.
For those of us who learned from books (and still have them) and not from the progressive-leaning thought police, we understand Holmes’ full narrative to mean ‘government should probably avoid establishing rules they know, from the beginning, would not and could not be equally enforced. To do so only infuriates those who comply with the rules, just as soon as they see nothing happens to those who don’t.’
I realize in a declared emergency, Colusa County Public Health had the authority to issue the expanded one-size-fits-all “shelter-in-place” order, but where were our elected officials in all of this?
When other rural counties steered the course of a “pressure not punishment” directive from the governor, which had been working locally already, who in Colusa County thought it was a good idea to lead the torch-and-pitchfork crowd on Facebook to believe that people would be charged with misdemeanors if they bought pool supplies from the hardware store, drove by someone’s house to flash a Happy Birthday poster, or didn’t follow the directional arrows in the grocery store?
Did anyone ask our duly-elected Sheriff and the Chiefs of Police of our two small cities if they had the resources to equally and fairly enforce such an order?
Did anyone ask our duly-elected District Attorney, who also raised his hand and swore to defend the Constitutions of the United States and California, if violators could be successfully prosecuted?
Did anyone from Public Health ask our two duly-elected Superior Court Judges if their courtrooms and calendars could handle an onslaught of people entitled to due process under the law?
Why did Colusa County, with its long-established “Home Rule” philosophy, unleash an expanded order on the public after our local elected legislators were already in talks with Gov. Gavin Newsom about a possible soft reopening of our rural counties. The state’s “stay-in-place” order was more than enough and had been working well.
Everyone knows that threatening to cite or arrest people for what a nonresident, unelected Public Health official deemed nonessential activity at exactly 11:59 PM on April 10 served absolutely no purpose but to satisfy the social media mob’s desire to stop a drive-thru religious event on Easter on private property. There certainly wasn’t equal outrage about the drive-thru event the following weekend to hand out yard signs to high school seniors? Both events were organized by people with enough sense – without government oversight or infringement – to keep the public safe, and there had been no community spread of disease with drive-thru school meals and food banks operating day in and day out since the crisis started.
The mob got what it wanted. The first event was quashed; the second event was successfully held on state property with permission from a state employee.
What, exactly, did our elected officials think was going to happen after that?
People shaking in their boots (delivered ‘contact-free’ to their doorsteps by an essential worker) then began demading roadblocks like Nazi Germany because a GPS tracking company reported on Facebook that too many “cell phones” were detected on local roads and highways.
I would have suggested that instead of Colusa County officials self-recording YouTube videos and spreading propaganda for ‘likes and shares,” at the beginning of this crisis, they held Virtual Town Hall meetings to ask for cooler heads to prevail. Why didn’t they, like agencies across this country, hold press conferences (with press in attendance) to answer questions like: Who and how many essential people, including public employees, first responders, and agriculture workers have to travel – in a rural community – from town to town.
Is dividing and demoralizing the citizenry really what the local government wanted? Have we learned nothing from History?
I’m not dismissing coronavirus or the need to keep a little physical distance between people until treatment or vaccines are available. I detest shaking hands and generally keep sanitizer around every flu season anyway. I also travel from Delevan to Colusa everyday (now will cellular turned off) and take every precaution to avoid contracting and transmitting the virus to loved ones with comorbid conditions. I
Why did Colusa County, after making a compelling argument for people to sacrifice some of their Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms for the sake of public health, launch a further attack on our rights?
What compelling argument can Colusa County make for an attack on freedom of the press?
These are stressful times but an unelected official would only launch an attack on me and Colusa County’s only locally-owned newspaper, The Pioneer Review, because self-appointed bellwethers need to control the direction in order to control the sheep.
I’m sorry Colusa County’s Chief Administrative Officer was “disappointed” I didn’t include in my coverage of their expanded lockdown just how hard government employees are working during this crisis. Are we to assume they don’t work hard when there is not a crisis?
It’s not the role of a free and independent press to regurgitate the same self-serving, self-congratulatory propaganda Colusa County spoon-feeds its sheeple on their government-sponsored Facebook page. This isn’t Communist China.
It is not the role of this newspaper to applaud county employees (who are lucky to get a paycheck when many others are not) because they have adapted to working from home. Walking to the front door for Amazon and pizza deliveries is NOT the same as marching across Europe with Gen. George S. Patton.
It is not the role of the newspaper to hand out accolades to Public Health officials for working tirelessly during a public health emergency.
Citizens of this community are losing everything they have worked for their entire lives. Do you think people who have lost their jobs, business owners ordered to shut their doors, and a handful of struggling business owners told what they can and cannot sell really care if Public Health officials are working to assure enough NARCAN is available so opiate junkies come through this crisis alive?
Unless Colusa County Public Health officials are also EMT/firefighters showing up to save someone coughing up bloody lungs or peace officers knocking on someone’s door to notify them that an elderly parent died alone in a nursing home, then I would suggest county bureaucrats wait to pass out awards at the next employee picnic.
Government doesn’t exist to conduct the government’s business. Government exists to conduct the public’s business. Get on with it without demanding unadulterated adoration from us.
We may be “all in this together” but not many of us will come out of this crisis with a paycheck, a pay raise, and a public employee pension.
It’s time for those whom we did elect to rein this in – and rein this in now.
I have my own job to do, and that is to serve Pioneer Reveiw readers – and only our readers. Applause is not necessary. Personally, I would prefer chocolates, drink tokens, a pink sash, and a rhinestone tiara.