Dear Governor Whitmer,

It appears the “non-essentials” are gathering to protest again today. Unfortunately, this third protest – termed “judgment day” by some, makes it a little hard for you to enjoy the contemplative life that government-mandated quarantine would seem to afford us.

Yet given that this is your decision, and you have a guaranteed paycheck, I am sure this isn’t hitting you as hard as it is hitting the rest of us Michiganders; especially the aforementioned workers you’ve deemed “non-essential.”

This distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” is curious. You have rendered countless mothers and fathers, who relied on their sources of income to provide for their families, “non-essential.” However, you have deemed Planned Parenthood “essential” and fought to keep them up and running (I thought the whole point of this lockdown was to reduce the number of people getting killed).

I understand that certain industries need special treatment because of their benefit to the common good of the state: the military for instance, or domestic manufacturing. But why Planned Parenthood or marijuana dispensaries? Could it be that these are essential because they make sense for you politically?

That’s surprising, because you vowed to The New York Times that you are “not thinking about politics.” Were you also not thinking of politics when you ignored the legislature, vetoing their legislation preserving expanded unemployment benefits and continuing the quarantine by executive fiat?

Putting politics aside, is this quarantine really healthy for our state? “Friendship seems… to hold states together,” wrote Aristotle, “and lawgivers to care more for it to than for justice.”  The ancients understood that one of the chief roles of the lawmaker was to foster concord in the state and drive out faction. We agree, admit it or not. This is why our lawmakers created federal holidays, a national anthem, a national flag, and a pledge of allegiance. What are these if not attempts at creating concord and driving out faction?

Madame Governor, does it not seem you are doing the opposite? You are driving out concord and creating faction. Because of your order, we are not working and collaborating with one another but living in isolation. This is not only harmful to the state but to the souls of those within it.

Men need friends in order to live virtuous lives. For instance, it is difficult to perform just acts without others (viz. friends). What’s more, men learn by example and virtue is easier to observe in others. “We can contemplate our neighbors better than ourselves and their actions better than our own,” writes Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics.

We may feel like we are taking a hiatus from virtue during this shutdown, but men’s souls never rest. Men cannot help but make moral decisions every day, thereby habituating their souls. Unfortunately, the longer this shutdown goes, the more we encourage the poor habituation of men’s souls.

Additionally, why did you lockdown the entire state? Detroit is a hotspot for the virus, but Holland, Michigan is not Detroit. Your decision to implement a one-size-fits all solution has caused countless small businesses throughout our state to close shop. Ask any small business owner and they will tell you: cash flow is paramount. If a restaurant doesn’t have cash coming in, it can’t order more food, and it will go under. It is true, you have allowed restaurants to re-open their carry-out services, but without indoor dining they are still hurting. Do you really think shutting down the whole state is absolutely necessary?

I am not denying that this virus is real. Nor am I denying that government should respond. But Madame Governor, shouldn’t we establish a common goal before we can deliberate about the means to reach said goal? This requires that we be honest about the nature of the issue at hand.

Whenever a foreign entity (be it a person, microbe, or commercial good) enters America and kills innocent Americans, the response from members of the managerial elite (yourself included) is always an abrogation of our legal rights: “we need secret trials,” or “we need expanded powers of search and seizure,” or “we need a stay-at-home order,” etc.  If the virus moved from without our nation into our nation, then perhaps we should start deliberating over how to restrict the inflow of foreign goods and people so as to prevent this from happening again. Neither you, nor any of your colleagues, seem interested in having that conversation.

If you are correct in your estimation of the lethality of this foreign virus, then it seems that globalism carries a large price tag. Until you and your colleagues admit that, it is clear that you do not take this virus seriously.  


Your fellow Michigander in quarantine,

John Howting

[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons-Julia Pickett, CC BY-SA 4.0]