It’s a new day in America, that much is guaranteed. By now you’ve been told repeatedly how we’re living in a time like no other. Schools are empty, roads throughout most of our communities are quieter than normal, and the facemask fashion trends were certainly an unexpected twist to this year’s summer wardrobe. It is certainly a new day, but few would say things are better.
Much like America in the days and months following the attacks of September 11th, our friends, family, and neighbors are beginning to ask how far we need to go in order to win the war against the “Invisible enemy” as President Trump has described it. The cost of this war has already cut deep as nearly one in four American adults have found themselves forced out of work. Trillions of dollars in stimulus have been printed, certainly making the stock market appear healthier than ever while the working class has certainly felt anything but “stimulated.” When the price of a barrel of crude oil begins to match the price of items on the McDonald’s Dollar Menu, things are far, far from normal.
Sadly, the only “normal” behavior we can witness is currently coming from the halls of local courthouses, the chambers of state legislatures and governor’s mansions, as well as the quintessential smoke filled “representatives only” marked rooms in Congress. If Americans who witnessed the rise of the police state post-9/11 know one thing, it’s that power-hungry individuals scarcely ever let a good crisis go to waste.
Throughout the country, many Americans have already learned this the hard way. This past week in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s banana republic known as Michigan, a 77-year old barber opened his doors and let the community know he was ready for business. For this small, essentially non-consequential action, he could lose not only his business, but even his very liberty.
Karl Manke, a barber in the town of Owosso, woke up in a new America where his governor issued an executive order stating all “nonessential” businesses would have to close in order to stop the potential spread of the invisible enemy. For Manke, his barbershop was one of those “nonessential” businesses. The decree from up high however ignored an essential truth, that to manke, his shop was essential to his very livelihood.
“I was in despair,” Manke told a reporter from the Detroit News. “I don’t have anybody paying me unless I’m doing work.” As word got around that Manke was open for business, customers from towns over lined up for their first haircut in months since the pandemic began. Word also got around to local authorities. Masked police officers looking more like cops from HBO’s Watchmen than average cops, showed up at Manke’s shop on Wednesday to issue the senior citizen “a civil infraction and two misdemeanors,” said Lt. Eric Cherry of the Owosso Police Department. Manke’s court date is scheduled for June 23, and he faces a “$1,000 fine or more.”
This isn’t stopping him however. “I’m not going to close up unless they handcuff me and carry me out of here,” Manke said. “I’m making a living. If I have to spend it all on court costs, I’ll do it. I’ll recover.”
What a new day it is, where 77-year old barbers are now treated as common criminals because they refuse to starve.
Manke isn’t the only renegade with clippers in pandemic afflicted America. On Thursday, a salon owner across the country in Dallas, Texas defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders in the same way Manke did, but in her case she was jailed for 48 hours until Abbott directly intervened amid public outcry.
Shelley Luther, owner of Salon A La Mode, walked out a free woman and was welcomed by a crowd of supporters who too feel the current coronavirus safeguards have gone far enough. Luther refused to bend the knee by apologizing or promising to keep her business closed to a Dallas judge, who stated that by doing so, he would make an example of her by sending her to jail. By refusing to let her children starve and having the state stand between her and her livelihood, her short-lived jail stint became a rallying cry for Texans, as well as Americans across the country who refuse to let the America of tomorrow be less-free than the America of today.
Whether you think that flattening the curve at all costs is necessary for our long term well-being, or that crushing our otherwise booming economy will create circumstances far worse than any virus, we must ask ourselves now whether it’s worth making criminals out of our neighbors in order to combat an invisible enemy we still don’t completely understand.
Tomorrow is a new day in America, whether better or worse, there are no guarantees.
Gavin Wax is president of the New York Young Republican Club, chair of the Association of Young Republican Clubs, an associate fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, digital director for the Young Republican National Federation, a frequent guest on Fox News, and publisher of The Schpiel. You can follow him on Twitter at @GavinWax.