For most of us, the term “civil disobedience” brings to mind images of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and lunch-counter protests during the civil rights movement, or Lech Walesa climbing a fence at the shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, to join striking workers and ignite the Solidarity movement, or the lone “Tank Man” of China’s Tiananmen Square.
These individuals’ bravery in the face of possibly losing their livelihoods — and their lives — are shining examples of civil disobedience, defined as “the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.”
So forgive us if those protesting stay-home orders, who wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism and civil disobedience, come up wanting in our eyes.
Strapping on an automatic weapon and marching on Olympia over closed martial arts academies or barbershops does not equate to putting one’s life on the line to promote basic human rights and dignity.
Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, has been active in protests against Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders. She told a crowd during a May 1 rally at the Clark County Courthouse, “The majority in Olympia are not listening.”
But it seems it’s Kraft and those who share her views are the ones not listening. KIRO-TV reported April 24 that a new poll from Crosscut/Elway found the majority of people in Washington are more concerned about the coronavirus’s threat to public health than to the economy. According to the poll, 76 percent of respondents said the restrictions put in place by government agencies have worked to control the spread of COVID-19. That poll also found that 61 percent of respondents were more concerned about lifting restrictions too early and putting public health at risk than they were about lifting restrictions too late and putting the economy at greater risk.
That tracks with polls from across the country. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released April 22, for instance, found that 76 percent of participants said Americans should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy.
Patriotism, per Merriam-Webster, means “love for or devotion to one’s country.” It seems to us, then, that patriots should support their leaders’ efforts to contain a disease that we still know precious little about. Instead, as columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. has opined, these “patriots” have declared they refuse to be governed.
Speaking out against government policies with which one disagrees is a fundamental right. The lawsuit filed by Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, and some of his colleagues against the governor’s stay-home order is an appropriate way to respond. So why do these protesters feel they must put on a show of force?
Well-reasoned persuasion is an infinitely more compelling way to win hearts and minds than armed intimidation. The most effective practitioners of true civil disobedience know this.