Just Say No

In 1938, one year before the outbreak of World War II, Winston Churchill gave his famous “the lights are going out” speech, in which he said, instructively: “Alexander the Great remarked that the people of Asia were slaves because they had not learned to pronounce the word ‘No.’ Let that not be the epitaph of the English-speaking peoples.” 

In 2021, the world takes stock of its freedom and finds out just how little is left. In Australia, Melbourne has been locked down for 19 months and the police are shooting violators with rubber bullets. In New Zealand, citizens testing positive for COVID-19 were quarantined by force in government camps run by the military: “I cannot allow the gains we have all made to be squandered by processes that are not followed,” said New Zealand’s prime minister. 

In Great Britain, the National Health Service built an app that “pings” people who have been near a person with a positive COVID test and requires those people to leave work. Last month the app was “pinging” more than half a million people every week. Boris Johnson’s spokesman says the app is doing “what it’s designed to do.” 

In America, New Yorkers will not be allowed indoors anywhere—no bars, restaurants, museums, movie theaters, gyms—without their “Key to NYC” proof of vaccination. This despite the fact that the vaccine only inhibits one from developing symptoms, but does not at all affect the likelihood of having the virus in one’s system or passing it to others. 

This year, much of the world discovered that its freedom was illusory: Nothing more than words and slogans to soothe the credulous, feeble public. But not in Florida, where I happen to be at the moment. When “Key to NYC” was announced by Bill de Blasio, I knew it was the right time to visit some friends in the south and see how the other half lives. 

And down here, under the calm guidance of the best governor in America by far, and with no masks, no restrictions of any sort whatsoever, life is free and normal. The press reports a high number of COVID cases in Florida without showing the inconvenient truth—that despite the number of people testing positive, the outcomes are extremely good. Hospitalizations are rare and deaths exceptionally so, despite the Mayo Clinic’s estimate that only half the people down here are vaccinated. 

The reality in Florida exposes the worldwide response to the novel coronavirus for what it is: An exercise in oppression. A precious opportunity for governments to see just how far their tentacles can intrude into peoples’ daily lives. An excuse to grant governments across the world extraordinary, emergency powers that, once granted, will become normal and then permanent. It’s an excuse—that’s all it is. A phony pretext for everything the government wanted to do anyway. 

Coronavirus may have been the careless, Fauci-funded mistake of criminally inept Chinese researchers. But governments everywhere saw COVID as a gift. It is the global equivalent of Putin’s Russian apartment bombings, or Hitler’s Reichstag fire. Out of panic, power. 

It is chilling and sobering to see how aggressively governments will subjugate populations of whom they are not afraid. In almost every country in the world, people are coming up against the unfortunate realization that, when push comes to shove, they are utterly helpless.  

And they allowed themselves to become helpless: In 1996, Australia enacted a mandatory “buyback” for semi-automatic firearms and confiscated 650,000 rifles over the next year. Britain banned all handguns in 1997. New York City has the most restrictive gun laws in America. It is no coincidence that gun confiscations have preceded other government abuses of power. A gun ban renders a population defenseless and—perhaps even more importantly—it tests a peoples’ inclination to obey. If you’re willing to give up your firearms, you won’t say no to anything else the government tells you to do.  

When the Nazis invaded Western Europe, the first act of the occupation government in every province of Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and France was to demand the surrender of all personal firearms. Failure to comply was punishable by death. These confications were followed, in the cities, by mandatory curfews. 

Most people in most places complied. Many—especially in France, to their eternal shame—cooperated actively and eagerly with the new authorities by turning their resistant neighbors over to the police. These neighbors, they felt, were making life more dangerous for everyone else. Incidentally, New York wants you to know that if you suspect someone of trying to use a fake proof of vaccination, you should please email the COVID Gestapo at STOPVAXFRAUD@health.ny.gov

A people disarmed is a people enslaved. Enslaved not only by their lacking effective means of resistance, but by their having shown their willingness to surrender those means to the authorities. When you look at American states with the freest gun laws, you know you’re looking at states with the freest people: Not simply because these people have guns, but because they had the strength of character to keep them. They were the ones who, when the government came around to lock them in their homes, said “No.” 

If America is to enjoy a new birth of freedom, as I believe it will, it starts with those Americans who believe there are some things more important than safety, some things dearer even than life. To those in less-fortunate circumstances and places, it may fall to you to take the first step towards freedom regained: The government will ask you for your papers. You know what to say.

About Dan Gelernter

Dan Gelernter is a columnist for American Greatness living in Connecticut.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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