Published by Cap City Hues on March 7, 2022
When I heard that 500+ semi-trucks and other vehicles were going through Wisconsin, it provoked another recent image. It was that of the 40-mile Russian military convoy of tanks, armored vehicles and other weapons of mass destruction poised to assault the Ukraine capital of Kyiv. Angry truckers demanding freedom from mask mandates while the Ukrainian people prepared to defend their country from a bullying superpower seemed, well — seemed trivial. Petty. Even silly.
This is not about curtailing people’s right to protest. As an organizer, the right to protest, to peacefully assemble in a way that lifts up your issue, is fundamental. It’s a fact that this fundamental right is currently under attack in Republican-dominated state legislatures.
In a democracy, there’s always the tensions between individual and collective rights. Those tensions have to be talked through and worked out to benefit the majority. I can’t think of a scenario where the collective rights should be subordinate to the individual rights. This is based on the scale of impact and consequences. People in this country who have refused to adhere to protocols that would put the pandemic in control have caused unnecessary deaths, put a strain on our healthcare system and negatively impacted the economic system. These misguided people are asserting their individual rights at the expense of the many.
The so-called Freedom Convoy originated in Canada earlier this year when truckers were outraged about pandemic restrictions. The Convoi de la Liberté, as it’s known in the French-speaking province, caused major disruption as trucks blocked key bridges and border crossings for nearly three weeks. The protests paralyzed the Canadian capital of Ottawa, forcing city officials to declare a state of emergency after some protestors started to engage in violent and harmful actions. This was more than just a pain-in-the-butt traffic jam. This civil disobedience came at a disruption of Canadian life and $500 billion dollars in lost trade.
The cost of Russia’s actions can be measured in human lives and futures. Cities are being bombarded, religious and cultural treasures destroyed. One million Ukrainians have become refugees, fleeing their homeland for their lives as more cities come under siege. It’s generally women and children who burden the toll of dislocation. The consequences are devastating —both in the short term and the long term. The scenes of crying children being separated from parents to be sent to a foreign country is gut-wrenching. Meanwhile in the West, particularly in the U.S., people are rebelling against safety measures that would put a deadly pandemic in check.
I don’t know how the Russian invasion will end, no more than I know how the COVID-19 will end. I do know that Americans’ social and political immaturity has cost lives. I know that Russian imperialism is realigning nation-states and global power.
I also know that nothing is black and white; there are always nuances in shades of gray. Conquering COVID-19 is complicated. The Russian-Ukraine situation is complex. I see the common thread of arrogant bullying in both. At stake are real lives, guaranteed freedoms and fragile democracies.