Enforcement of COVID-19 Restrictions, Thanksgiving Gatherings, and Common Sense

In places like Oregon, the ominous prospect of police officers entering the private homes (without a warrant, I might add) to enforce restrictions on the number of people who may gather at the Thanksgiving table should make anyone with common sense shudder.

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Police officers in some jurisdictions in the United States are being asked to enforce restrictions on the number of people who may gather around the Thanksgiving table due to concerns over the possible spread of the COVID-19 virus.

For example, earlier this week, it was reported that Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order stating that earlier signed directives and so-called freeze restrictions on assembly are "enforceable by law."

Brown said she would "work with state police and local law enforcement to encourage Oregonians to comply" with her directive.

"For the last eight months I have been asking Oregonians to follow the letter and the spirit of the law and we have not chosen to engage law enforcement. At this point in time, unfortunately, we have no other option," Brown said.

The subtext was patently obvious. If a household's Thanksgiving table has too many people in attendance or is too loud in singing "Amazing Grace" before the meal is served, citations could be issued or arrests made.

Her announcements, proclamations, and now the threat of police enforcing the seating arrangement at the Thanksgiving table totally lack common sense—a sense that is apparently not very common any longer.

Common Sense

Here are a few fictional—albeit believable—analogies to consider to set the context for the conclusion of this column.

Seat-Belt Man: A man chooses to drive down to the grocery store not wearing a seat belt. He drives the 10 blocks, stops at all the traffic lights, does his shopping, and returns home, again not belted in.

Not wearing his seat belt is taking an unnecessary risk. His actions caused his death because a drunk driver ran the light at an intersection and T-boned his car. He died by shirking common sense, stubbornly refusing to take the most basic precaution against calamity and death. 

COVID Man: Another man chooses to go to that very same store and enter without a face mask. While he's shopping for avocados he encounters a person who is asymptomatic but a carrier of the virus.

Two weeks later he falls terribly ill. Nine days after that he dies on a hospital bed.

It was incumbent on him to do even the smallest thing—like wearing a seat belt—to protect himself. But he stubbornly refused to wear a mask, spoke in close quarters another patron who made the same decision to shed the face mask. No common sense.

Gullible Man: Another man walks from his apartment in quickly gentrifying—but still shady—neighborhood to buy illegal drugs in an even shadier neighborhood 10 blocks away. He's not a "junkie" but it's nearly midnight and his girlfriend wants to get high and he wants to...well, you know.

He's got plenty of family money on hand so he treks down the darkened streets. He's well dressed and his attire screams to any of residents there, "He can't fight."

He ends up dead from a gunshot wound to the head and the $500 in his pocket is gone. The lack of common sense here is worthy of a Darwin Award nomination.

Personal Choices

Please—my friends—this column is not about politics. It is about common sense. It is about the realities we face in this crazy pandemic. It is about personal choices and the ramifications of those choices.

We have seat-belt laws for a reason, and that fictional motorist in the hypothetical scenario above paid the price for not adhering to it.

We have laws against drug consumption (in most places anyway) and that trust-fund kid paid the price for not adhering to them. 

Here's where I will diverge from what you might presently expect to be the final conclusion of this sermon.

First Amendment

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution—written in 1791—reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Police officers swear an allegiance to the Constitution of the United States upon having the badge pinned to their uniform.

I can think of no other venue better than the Thanksgiving table for citizens to remind some "out-of-control" political leaders that such an assembly not necessarily take place in the public square—a private home with the delightful smell of turkey and gravy wafting over the place. Politics will surely be discussed over plates of turkey and fixings.

Uncle George and cousin Susan don't see eye-to-eye, so things might get heated, but in truth they love each other dearly and it'll all be okay.

In places like Oregon, the ominous prospect of police officers entering the private homes (without a warrant, I might add) to enforce restrictions on the number of people who may gather at the Thanksgiving table should make anyone with common sense shudder.

Gathering indoors with friends and family surely presents some dangers and everyone present is voluntarily present to take on that risk. Many will opt out of participation—especially to those who might be most vulnerable—and that's common sense.

Personal Freedom

Making the decision to attend Thanksgiving 2020 is a personal decision, not a right granted by the government.

There is not one law in the United States that prevents people from having supper together in celebration of family, friendship, and most importantly, FREEDOM.

Attending Thanksgiving with friends and family is a basic right and any police interference in this activity is reprehensible and frankly, a little bit scary for what might be to come in the future.  

I realize fully that sometimes in this space I express opinions that are contrarian and controversial.

I think the words in this space today ring the bell on both of those—but also strike a note of common sense.

Final Thoughts

If you're driving down the road, you will vastly increase your chances of survival in a traffic collision by wearing your seat-belt.

If you're out and about in the local grocery store, it's common sense to wear a mask.

If you're asked to go make a drug buy in a tough neighborhood, the best course of action is to politely decline taking that risk.

But the government doesn't have any authority to enter your home to see if there are more than a dozen people reuniting over a table full of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a couple of bottles of wine, and most importantly, a shared love of each other.

Like in so many things, this recent effort to continue to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19 places officers in an impossible position.

Asking cops to enforce such orders as were issued in Oregon is reprehensible.

If officers enforce these restrictions, they will become even more vilified than they are today. If they refuse to enforce them, they will put their own careers at risk.

I'm certain that you will make common sense decisions that are best for you, your family, your friends and your fellow officers.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well and stay safe.

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