I am writing this column upon returning home to California after five days in Florida. For the first time since my first trip to Los Angeles in 1974 and moving there two years later, I dreaded going to California.
That first trip, as a 25-year-old New Yorker, I experienced the palpable excitement looking at the American Airlines flight board at JFK airport and seeing "Los Angeles." For most Americans, the very name "California" elicited excitement, wonder, even envy of Californians, and most of all ... freedom. While America always represented freedom, within America, California exemplified freedom most of all.
Yet, here I am, sitting in a state where corruption reigns (one of the leading Democrats of the last half-century told me years ago that politicians in California are window dressing; the real power in California is wielded by unions) and where, for nine months, normal life has been shut down, schools have been closed and small businesses have been destroyed in unprecedented numbers.
During these last five days in Florida, a state governed by the pro-freedom party, I went anywhere I wanted. First and foremost, I could eat both inside and outside restaurants. At one of them, when I stood up to take photos of people dining, a patron who recognized me walked over and said, "I assume you're just taking pictures of people eating in a restaurant." That's exactly what I was doing. I even took my two grandchildren to a bowling alley, which was filled with people enjoying themselves playing myriad arcade games as well as bowling.
None of that is allowed almost anywhere in California. It is becoming a police state, rooted in deception and irrationality.
Restaurants have been shut down (except for takeout orders), even for outdoor dining, for no scientific reason. After ordering Los Angeles county restaurants closed, the health authorities of Los Angeles county acknowledged in court that they had no evidence that outdoor dining was dangerous; they ordered restaurants closed, even to outdoor dining, solely in order to keep people home.
The left's claim to "follow the science" is a lie. The left does not follow science; it follows scientists it agrees with and dismisses all other scientists as "anti-science."
Science does not say that eating inside a restaurant at least six feet from other diners, let alone outside a restaurant, is potentially fatal, but eating inside an airplane inches from strangers is safe.
Science does not say mass protests during a pandemic (when people are constantly told to social distance) are a health benefit, but left-wing scientists say they are -- when directed against racism. In June, Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, tweeted: "In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus." She cited the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden: "The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health."
Even The New York Times, in July, acknowledged the double standard: "Public health experts decried the anti-lockdown protests as dangerous gatherings in a pandemic. Health experts seem less comfortable doing so now that the marches are against racism."
Science does not say, "Men give birth" or, "Men menstruate." But the left routinely argues that "science says" such things and that "science says" there are more than two sexes, many more.
The last time I felt I was leaving a free society and entering an unfree one was when I visited the communist countries of Eastern Europe. As a graduate student majoring in communism, during the Cold War, I would travel through the countries known as Soviet satellites: Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In the middle of my trips, I would stop in Austria to breathe free air.
Never did I imagine I would ever experience anything analogous in America, the Land of the Free, the land of the Statue of Liberty and of the Liberty Bell. But I did yesterday, when leaving Florida and returning to California.
There is no question that America is becoming, if it hasn't already become, two countries: one that values liberty, from small businesses being allowed to operate to people being allowed to say what they believe, and one that has contempt for liberty, from eating in restaurants to free speech.
I am asked almost daily by friends around the country and by callers to my national radio show whether I intend to stay in California. Were it not for all the close friends who live here and the synagogue I and a few friends founded, the answer would be no. But at a given point, I am sure that I will leave this Soviet satellite for a free state. The bigger and far more important question is: How long will the Soviet states of America and the free states of America remain the United States of America?
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in May 2019, is "The Rational Bible," a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, "No Safe Spaces," was released to home entertainment nationwide on September 15, 2020. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.