No doubt about it, my holiday spirit is going to require some extra therapy this year.
Unlike the past, the inspirational Christmas music, sentimental seasonal ballads and cheerful melodies are usually enough to kick-start and sustain a special sort of euphoric gratitude for the present, and optimism regarding the future.
Above all, this was always a time of heightened sense of reverence for religious values, a magical time of indulging child wonderments, a time of coming together with family and friends, a time of shared community goodwill.
So, what's changed?
Quite a lot.
For example: some government mandates have declared authority to restrict attendance at churches, synagogues and mosques; children live in a world of masked unsmiling strangers; travel, and even household gatherings are considered potentially lethal; elderly relatives are forced to die alone in nursing homes; and nervously suspicious people everywhere distance from one another outside six-foot arcs.
What happened to change all of this?
COVID-19 happened … and we collectively allowed it to spook a herd response.
As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito observed in an online speech addressed at the Federalist Society's annual dinner, "The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty."
Citing separate California and Nevada state orders limiting numbers of worshipers at church services, while giving gambling casinos a pass, Justice Alito quipped: "Take a quick look at the Constitution. You will see the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty. You will not find a craps clause."
Nevertheless, Chief Justice John Roberts had voted with the court's four Democratic appointees to allow the restrictive mandates to stand.
More encouragingly, a 5-4 Supreme Court November ruling supported the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and an Orthodox synagogue in challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's occupancy limits on their congregates.
Meanwhile, ongoing restrictions aimed at "slowing the spread," and "flattening the curve" have morphed into a perpetual nanny state of ever-increasing government influence and authority over our lives.
The consequences have been socially and economically devastating. Tragic casualties include children and youth who are being deprived of normal learning and life relationships; travel and hotel industries; and countless small businesses such as restaurants that will likely never recover.
Recognizing, as most of us do, that public health emergencies may sometimes justify certain reasonable curtailments of liberty, under no circumstances should we allow governments at any level to wield unlimited powers, the very definition of tyranny.
Here, we can thank our American Constitution for guidance, at least so long as we have judiciary court scholars at all levels who we can trust to follow and honor it.
Former White House and Justice Department appellate and constitutional attorneys David Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey point out that the U.S. Constitution indeed prohibits many draconian COVID restrictions that we have solid reasons to resist.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, "The Constitution Will Survive COVID-19" (Nov. 28-29), they warn: "Measures taken to deal with this pandemic have imposed severe restrictions on the most basic rights and liberties, often with little consideration of their legal basis."
Federal mandates have different tests than those at state and local levels.
A federal mask mandate, for example, is a nonstarter because it would have to be grounded in one of Congress' constitutionally enumerated powers subject to a clause granting lawmakers authority "to regulate commerce … among the several states."
The same is true for other prospective federal anti-COVID measures, such as a national "stay at home" order or overall economic lockdown. While Congress does have broad authority to regulate business, which it could use to impose workplace safety rules, including mask mandates, nationwide lockdowns are a dubious legal proposition.
Rivkin and Casey note that state and local mandates pose a more complicated question. But unlike the federal government, states have a general "police power" that permits them to enact public health regulations (requiring face masks for example), quarantine requirements imposed on otherwise healthy people, and especially stay-at-home orders and shutdowns of economic activity, are another matter.
Imagine the constitutional and tyrannical travesty of attempting to criminalize, level fines and even imprison vast numbers of people for hosting too many guests at their Thanksgiving gatherings in celebration of gratitude to the earliest brave souls who accepted remarkable hardships precisely to escape oppressive restrictions on their religious convictions and individual freedoms.
Fast forward to a present time in history when states can, as some did, claim powers to impose populationwide house arrest and curfews on their citizens without due process or provisions for basic needs — life-critical medical checkups and treatments, for example — in clear violation of such fundamental constitutional guarantees as freedom of assembly and equal protection.
Federal Judge William S. Stickman IV sounded a warning when he struck down Pennsylvania's draconian anti-COVID measures that included strict limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, stay-at-home requirements, and the lockdown of businesses that aren't "life-sustaining."
In his ruling on County of Butler v. Wolf, judge Stickman wrote, "A public health emergency does not give Governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists."
We can be quite certain that the COVID emergency will subside…recently released new vaccines and therapeutics offer true reasons for optimism.
But when, if ever, can we expect the viral herd insanity to end … a time when we allow government representatives and bureaucrats to establish such arbitrary and capricious edicts as some states have regarding such details as closing health clubs but not beauty salons (New York), or imposing restrictions on the use of sailboats but not motorboats (Michigan) which lack any rational basis?
Perhaps we can hope that time will be ushered in by this season of Christmas and Hanukah spirit, a time when Silent Night, Holy Night is to be honored out of reverence for higher values, not obedience to lower authorities.
God bless us, one and all.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. Larry has written more than 700 articles for Newsmax and Forbes and is the author of several books. Included are: "How Everything Happened, Including Us" (2020), "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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