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Can the government tell you when to shut off your lights?

If it did, would that be considered tyranny?

Heck yes! I have the right to keep my lights on whenever I want! You’ll have to pry the light switch out of my cold, dead hands!

OK, but what if we were at war? During World War II, East Coast cities routinely had blackouts at night to thwart either German submarines lurking off-shore, or, less likely, German bombers. Even Detroit, a city nearly 600 miles inland but home to factories vital to the war effort, had blackouts.

Was that tyranny? Or was that patriotism?

Ideally, we can all agree it was the latter, right?

So how can we explain the nearly 100 people who showed up at the Bedford County Board of Supervisors last week to oppose Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest restrictions on crowd sizes as a way to slow the spread of coronavirus? Among them was Isaiah Knight, who is challenging incumbent Kathy Byron for the Republican nomination for the House of Delegates. He brought a “no shutdown” resolution for the board to adopt that, according to The News & Advance, called for arresting Virginia state troopers and health officials who enforce the governor’s order.

“Today, we’re on a razor’s edge between liberty and tyranny,” Knight said. “Fear isn’t the only thing that’s contagious, though. Courage is contagious. Be courageous. Defend the Constitution. The time is now that we the people take back the power and restore Virginia to her rightful place as a bastion of liberty.”

What utter nonsense.

There is so much bizarre foolishness there it’s hard to know where to begin deconstructing it, so let’s move on and come back to it. Instead, let’s look at what one of the Bedford County supervisors said in response. Quoting from the account by reporters Sarah Honosky and Shannon Kelly:

“District 6 Supervisor Bob Davis raised the topic [Nov. 23], encouraging the ‘nullification’ of what he called an ‘unconstitutional and illegal decree’ from Northam pertaining to crowd size restrictions, saying the mandate violates the First Amendment right of peaceful assembly.”

Really? Really?? Nullification? As you serious? It’s 2020 and here’s an actual elected official trying to channel the ghost of John Calhoun from the 19th century (as if that worked out so well). The supervisor is free to object to Northam’s restrictions. But they are neither unconstitutional nor illegal, no matter how much Davis may wish they were. By Davis’ logic, fire code restrictions on how many people can fit in a building should be unconstitutional, too. Don’t they violate the right to peaceful assembly? Safety? Don’t talk about public safety! I want the liberty to pack the house!

The supervisor is not a judge and the Bedford County Board of Supervisors is not a court. Actual judges in actual courts have instead generally upheld the type of restrictions on crowd sizes that Northam has imposed.

If you want to argue that Virginia’s restrictions are misguided or too draconian, have at it. But telling the local board of supervisors that they’re unconstitutional seems unserious at best — if that’s what you believe, you ought to be making that argument to a judge, not county supervisors. The fact that these “no shutdown” advocates are going to a county board instead of the courts underscores that they’re really doing this for the political spectacle of it all. And suggesting the county board should “nullify” the governor’s order and start arresting police officers and health officials is farcical — the conservative equivalent of liberal “sanctuary cities” that don’t want to cooperate with federal immigration officers, except not even Berkeley is proposing to arrest ICE agents. It is difficult to believe that an elected official — and one who hopes to be — are trafficking in this kind of silliness. These are not people to be taken seriously.

Knight goes on about how fear and courage are contagious. You know what else is contagious? Ideally by now you do. Knight prattles on about “tyranny” with no apparent understanding of what real tyranny actually is — or what a real contagion is. He seems to be arguing for the freedom to jam as many people together as he sees fit without any regard for the consequences — consequences that would impact some of the constituents he hopes to have. Apparently his “liberty” is more important than their lives. That self-centeredness is a useful thing for voters to know. Especially the families of the 19 people in Bedford who already have died from the virus.

Knight may as well have been arguing he should have been able to turn on the lights in New York in 1942 if he wanted to — never mind about those German U-boats. If someone had made that argument then, we’d have said — rightly — they were effectively collaborating with the enemy. That’s essentially what this “no shutdown” crowd is doing here — collaborating with the enemy, the enemy being a contagious virus.

A few facts that apparently never made it before the Bedford Board of Supervisors: The county’s infection rate isn’t simply one of the highest in the state — it’s one of the highest in the world. If Bedford were its own nation — something that the nullifiers apparently wish it were — the county would be on a par with Colombia and Oman. No offense to Colombia and Oman, but that’s not exactly the company we ought to be keeping when it comes to measuring public health scores.

For comparison purposes, Canada — a country next door, a country very much like our own — has an infection rate about one-fourth that of the U.S. Why does Canada have one of the lowest infection rates in the world while we have one of the highest? Quite possibly because Canadians have been far more serious about the virus than Americans have been. This absurd protest before the Bedford County Board of Supervisors stands as an example of why we’re so sick.

“No shutdown” advocates likely say they’re being good conservatives. They’re not. Virginia’s rules — imposed by a left-of-center governor — actually are less restrictive than those in Australia and Great Britain, both countries run by proudly conservative prime ministers. (And Australia’s virus rates are far lower than ours). Conservatives generally can be counted upon to be in favor of a strong national defense. Here, the enemy already is among us and some want to do the very things that will further facilitate its spread. That’s not conservatism. That offering aid and comfort to the enemy.

— The Roanoke Times

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