The Internet doesn’t distort things as much as it allows us to keep our blinders on to what motivates others that think differently.
Judging by the postings in the echo rooms of social media those that were willing to spend an hour or so of their time on a warm late Saturday morning after they’ve been legally allowed to venture into Library Park due to a partial lifting of a lockdown to protest the remaining stay at home orders there would be nothing but anti-vaccine folks, COVID-19 deniers, and general Neanderthals.
In short, more than a few bloggers smeared those that planned to gather as selfish heathens that cared only about themselves.
You might be surprised about some that were in the crowd that swelled at one point to nearly three dozen that drew their share of honking horns as they hoisted signs and waved American flags from a park knoll along the edge of Yosemite Avenue.
There was a grandfather who — along with his wife — has been watching grandkids while their young charges’ parents deal daily with the reality of the pandemic as hospital workers.
There was a gentleman who pointed toward the growing homeless encampment on the park’s edge along the Tidewater Bikeway and asserted he was there so others don’t end up “like them.” He noted that while he is considered an essential worker many friends and neighbors aren’t. Try making a mortgage payment or rent for more than a month or so if you are one of the 33.5 million non-essential workers that had your job sacrificed to help flatten the curve or making countless others that had jobs reduced or works gigs nearly dry up.
Another painstakingly described how an adult child had been running a dog grooming business — an illegal act during the past two months. They would leave a crate outside after clients called and said they were two minutes away. The clients would place their dog in the crate that had all human touching points sanitized between uses and leave. The groomers would then retrieve the dog, groom it, and then repeat the process in reverse. He told of some grooming clients who were unable to care for their lifelines — a pet can be that for a lot of people — that may have skin issues and such
In the realm of the original stay at home order the crate gig was a lawless act even though it probably was a heck of a lot “safer” than any protocols in place at supermarkets.
His point was simple. Non-essential stores should be allowed to open by following the same protocols as essential stores instead of barring customers from entering that puts a damper on sales.
Talk with them and you will not find one person that thinks what is happening is a hoax and a conspiracy. Yes, one donned a Trump T-shirt and had a child with them holding up a sign reading “Hey Nancy can I have ice cream.” In some quarters that is proof positive that anything those in the group say or stand for is utter nonsense and therefore should not be heard.
Yet they were social distancing. Many wore masks. A number repeated the same numbers and stats that those who argue for extending the lockdown use. They just see the damage — direct and collateral — from a different perspective.
For some that is enough to cue up 1692 and employ the Salem Witch Hunt model of the town square for those that act or appear different while at the same time professing to be tolerant of all views.
They were all drawn to the park Saturday to protest what they see as government overreach. It is the same basic concept that spurred protest over British tariffs imposed on the colonies, Jim Crow laws and its equal evil cousin rooted in the separate but allegedly equal doctorine, to those questioning America’s immigration laws and policies.
These are strange times. Protests across the spectrum have drawn — and always will — negative reaction from people who disagree in person or from afar. But rarely have you seen people such as a friend who has more than a heathy distrust of the government stemming from his days as an activist protesting the Vietnam War throwing their faith 100 percent behind the government.
Most of us are probably fall somewhere in between.
If those that gathered at Library Park Saturday were “knuckleheads” as those offering commentary from whatever device using screen name aliases say they are for being out and about during stay at home orders doing something non-essential then there were a lot of knuckleheads in Manteca on Saturday. I’d venture to say more than a few who swear we must all support the lock down blindly or otherwise were likely among those moving about who were doing do so for a non-essential reason.
As for protesting in the town square, it is an essential act for a democracy whether you are liberal, conservative, or are taking a view supporting stances that are wildly unpopular or wildly popular.
Regardless of your view of the lockdown policies in place or whether you give deference to scientific models in various degrees, what happened Saturday in the park was a good thing whether you agree with their message or not.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com