Commentary: COVID-19 lockdown gives Americans a taste of tyranny

By Ingrid M. Sigler

I am an immigrant and a naturalized citizen. My parents brought me to the United States of America from war-torn Europe when I was ten years old. My parents and older brother lived through World War II. My father was taken into Germany as slave labor, my mother survived by fleeing her home with my older brother, living in the countryside, hiding with a farm family until the Americans liberated Holland.

We came here to be free. My parents lived the American dream, rising from abject poverty to build their own business, free to make their own way and to pursue happiness – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just like it says in the Preamble to our beloved Constitution.  I have experienced the “Blessings of Liberty” and I am thankful for each and every one of those “blessings.”

Ingrid Sigler

As I write this, is my birthday. I wish I could say that it is a “happy birthday”, but it’s not. This birthday, in the year 2020, is like no other. Our country and our state are in virtual lock-down. People are fearful for their safety and the health of their families, and our government has given us a small peek at what totalitarianism must be like. I fear for my adopted country, and I fear for our constitutional form of government.

I remember years ago, soon after I was married, I became interested in reading the writings of our country’s Founding Fathers. I was reading a compendium of letters exchanged between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson when I realized that those gentlemen were more free then as English subjects than we were when I was reading that book over 40 years ago  – and they fought a revolution – amazing. And, look at us now.

Let me be clear, I fully appreciate the seriousness of COVID-19 and I pray that our state and our nation will soon recover from its impact.  But, perhaps this pandemic-era through which we are living has a silver lining.

Perhaps this panic and the resulting confused reaction from our political elites have shown us what the future could bring if we are not careful – perhaps they have given us a taste of tyranny from which we can learn that it can happen here just as it has happened elsewhere.

The Constitution says that government cannot interfere with private contract rights – but it has.

The Constitution says that government cannot interfere with free speech – but it has.

The Constitution says that government cannot interfere with the right to assemble – but it has.

The Constitution says that government cannot interfere with our right to associate with others – but it has.

The Constitution says that government cannot interfere with the right to worship – but it has.

The Constitution says that government cannot take what is ours without just compensation – but it has. Just ask the business owners who are losing their businesses.

The Constitution says that government officials cannot stop you without a warrant or without either probable cause or a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a crime is being, has been or is about to be committed – but they are doing it every day, in the name of “safety.”

The Constitution says that government cannot infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms – but it has,  first by closing gun stores against their will and then by limiting their hours of operation and the number of people who can enter those stores ( 2 per ½ hour) during those limited hours of operation.

And now they want to open Congress and various state legislatures including our own, but deny citizens the right to enter, to hear and be heard, and to actively interact with their elected officials and representatives – all in the name of safety. Our Constitution says they can’t do that – but they will, just watch. They did it in Maryland and now over 600 bills are constitutionally suspect.

No, today is not a “happy birthday” – my adopted country that I love so much is in trouble. The freedoms I hold so dear have been eroded and may be in danger of disappearing forever.

I am an American, and I am proud to be an American. But the America I came to so many years ago is very difficult to recognize.

During the American Civil War, Lincoln ignored the Constitution and suspended Habeas Corpus, and a number of other Constitutional safeguards – and the Supreme Court let him do it.            I wonder what the Supreme Court will say about what is happening today? Will it do what it did in the Dred Scott decision, Plessy v. Ferguson and Korematsu v. U.S., ignoring constitutional safeguards and just “go along to get along”?

Or will the United States Supreme Court do its job and stand up against governmental overreach as it did in Brown v. Board of Education, Mapp v. Ohio, Miranda v. Arizona, and the Heller and McDonald decisions? How about the Delaware courts – will they do their jobs, or will they buckle under pressure from the other two branches of government and the so-called popular press?

And when will our Senators, Representatives and other elected officials wake up and recognize the damage they are doing to American freedom? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? Ever?

I am not as smart as a lot of other people, and I don’t have a bunch of degrees hanging on my wall. I don’t have the answer to the ills and threats facing our country right now. But I do know that Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.”

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. Maybe it is a “happy birthday” after all. Maybe this current taste of tyranny will cause America to wake up an appreciate the freedoms our Constitution guarantees us, and maybe Americans will fight to ensure that we never taste tyranny again.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked “what hath ye wrought?” as he was leaving Independence Hall upon the signing of our Constitution, he is reported as replying “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

            Perhaps we should heed Ben Franklin’s warning.

Ingrid M. Sigler lives in Dover.

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