News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Some of your neighbors say your death doesn't matter? Are they terrorists?

Could be terrorists.
For many years I have belonged to an internet discussion group which analyzes current events.  It is a closed group which doesn't allow the stupid and the malicious to be part of its discussions.  Its members are knowledgeable people who like to exchange information and test ideas with other people of education and intelligence.  I remember how prescient a discussion was when some members predicted that O. J. Simpson would receive a not guilty verdict in his murder trial.  Their reasoning was that the trial had been moved to a venue where the jurors lived in neighborhoods with minorities who were abused by the police and mistrusted them.  If the defense introduced any evidence that the police work could be doubted, Simpson would go free, said some discussants.  Such evidence was introduced. To the jurors the actions of police against minority people was a fact of life they had witnessed, so the evidence raised far more than reasonable doubt.  The jurors declared O. J. Simpson not guilty.

The current discussion is about the protests against the quarantine measures meant to limit and eventually control the coronavirus pandemic.  At this writing, more than 1.4 million Americans have caught the disease and more than 87,000 have been killed.  All states have laws which allow, sometimes require, officials to impose a quarantine when highly infectious and lethal diseases sweep through communities.  The question raised in the discussion is about those who protest the quarantine measures.   Can they and will they be held liable if their resistance to quarantine facilitates the spread of the virus.  If their behavior can be shown to directly contribute to someone being infected with the disease, can they be held civilly or criminally responsible? Could they be sued or criminally charged in the case of death?

Some of the contributors to the discussion are people with knowledge of and experience with the law and courts.  They have discussed the destruction caused  by the disease and the ensuing economic hardships it is causing.  Some of those who are protesting the shutting down of the country to control the spread of the coronavirus are claiming that the quarantine is a suspension of their rights and is a violation of the Constitution.  Some have gone so far as to argue that preventing the deaths of people should not be allowed to interfere with their personal liberty.  In the Internet site for The Federalist, some have made these arguments:
Imagine for a moment that the nation were ruled by dictatorship of doctors…”
Is it right for the nation to require our children’s futures be destroyed to keep alive less than 1 percent of our population until the next flu season?”
It seems harsh to ask whether the nation might be better off letting a few hundred thousand people die.”
So the barbaric, panicky elevation of mere life as the only good worth conserving is becoming increasingly shameful.” 
Is death the worst thing that could happen to you?”
However, some of my correspondents on the discussion board point out that those who make those arguments haven't read the whole Constitution.   In particular, the protesters who claim their Constitutional rights  are violated cannot seem to understand that they are violating the rights of others by jeopardizing their lives, as referenced by the 14th Amendment:

  • All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
One of the correspondents says those who are interfering with attempts to protect the public from the coronavirus, particularly those who are asserting their protests with the presence of firearms, could be regarded as domestic terrorists.  He cites the U.S. law:
(a) Offense Against a National of the United States or Within the United States.—A person who, without lawful authority, uses, threatens, or attempts or conspires to use, a weapon of mass destruction
(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States;
A weapon of mass destruction includes this definition:
"...any micro-organism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product that may be engineered as a result of biotechnology, or any naturally occurring or bioengineered component of any such microorganism, virus, infectious substance, or biological product, capable of causing death, disease, or other biological malfunction in a human, an animal, a plant, or another living organism; deterioration of food, water, equipment, supplies, or material of any kind or deleterious alteration of the environment."
Most states have laws which provide the authority of the state to take measures to protect the public from health hazards and to deal with those who interfere.  In South Dakota, the authority is specified:
   34-22-14.   Enforcement of regulations for control of communicable diseases. The department has the authority to provide for the enforcement of regulations for the control and eradication of communicable diseases through isolation, prevention, and treatment
People who interfere with such measures are also defined:
 34-16-1.   Act endangering public health as misdemeanor. Every person who intentionally commits any act which grossly endangers the public health is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
For anyone who facilitates the spread of disease germs, the act is even more serious:
34-16-2.   Release of disease germs as felony. Any person who releases or spreads any disease germs intending thereby to accomplish the infection of one or more persons or domestic animals is guilty of a Class 2 felony. 

This law refers to the intentional release of germs by somebody, but the correspondent who cites it points out that any efforts to prevent the spread of germs could be regarded as intentional.

A number of laws could be applied to those who dismiss the threat posed by the coronavirus:
21-10-1.   Acts and omissions constituting nuisances. A nuisance consists in unlawfully doing an act, or omitting to perform a duty, which act or omission either:          
(1)      Annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others;  (2)      Offends decency;             (3)      Unlawfully interferes with, obstructs, or tends to obstruct, or renders dangerous for passage, any lake or navigable river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway;             (4)      In any way renders other persons insecure in life, or in the use of property.   

 22-8-12.   Act of terrorism--Felony. Any person who commits a crime of violence, as defined by subdivision 22-1-2(9), or an act dangerous to human life involving any use of chemical, biological, or radioactive material, or any explosive or destructive device, with the intent to do any of the following:
             (1)      Intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
             (2)      Influence the policy or conduct of any government or nation;
             (3)      Affect the conduct of any government or nation by assassination or kidnaping; or
             (4)      Substantially impair or interrupt public communications, public transportation, common carriers, public utilities, or other public services; is guilty of an act of terrorism. A violation of this section is a Class C felony.
  22-8-13.   Terrorist threat--Felony. Any person who threatens to commit a crime of violence, as defined by subdivision 22-1-2(9), or an act dangerous to human life involving any use of chemical, biological, or radioactive material, or any explosive or destructive device, with the intent to:
             (1)      Intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
             (2)      Influence the policy or conduct of any government or nation;
             (3)      Affect the conduct of any government or nation; or
             (4)      Substantially impair or interrupt public communications, public transportation, common carriers, public utilities, or other public services;
is guilty of making a terrorist threat. A violation of this section is a Class 5 felony.
  34-16-18.   Remedies against nuisances and interference with private rights unimpaired. Nothing contained in this chapter shall be so construed as to affect the powers of the courts to administer the usual legal and equitable remedies in case of nuisances or of improper interference with private rights.

     34-22-5.   Exposure of self or others to communicable disease as misdemeanor. Each person who intentionally exposes himself or herself or another person infected with any communicable disease in any public place, except in the person's necessary removal from a public place in a manner not dangerous to the public health, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
  34A-6-96.   Unlawful release of infectious waste in fourth degree. A person is guilty of unlawful release of infectious waste in the fourth degree if the person with criminal negligence, engages in conduct which causes the release to the environment of infectious waste. Unlawful release of infectious waste in the fourth degree is a Class 1 misdemeanor. 
22-11-1.   Resisting execution or service of process. Any person who resists the execution or service of any legal process is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

34-22-18.   Refusal to accept diagnosis or treatment or to follow directives as misdemeanor. Any person in the state reasonably suspected of having active tuberculosis, middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), smallpox, or viral hemorrhagic fevers, or any disease or condition which is the subject of a declared public health emergency pursuant to § 34-22-42, shall accept necessary diagnosis or treatment, or both. Any person who intentionally refuses to accept the diagnosis or treatment, or both, or who fails to follow the reasonable and necessary directives of the department issued for the protection of other persons, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
There is quite an array of laws which might apply to those who protest and resist efforts to keep you safe from the coronavirus.  But the major point that comes out of the protests is the way that they dismiss your right to measures for protecting you from a disease with disabling effects and your right to life.  As one commenter took up the situation, a portion of the public perceives the implementation of quarantine measures as a direct denial of their rights to pursue their livelihoods.  Instead of approaching government officials with a recognition of the obligations the officials have to respond to the laws requiring mitigation efforts against the virus and to engage in a reasoned dialogue about how to reconcile control measures with the need to make a living.  As a Washington Post article points out, ",,, the choice between saving lives and saving the economy, the latter of which Trump has endorsed implicitly, is a false one:"
"The dangers of reopening without disease control — or a coronavirus vaccine or therapeutic breakthrough — are illustrated by events at the Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. Smithfield offered workers a bonus if they showed up every day in April. Normally, bonus pay would increase attendance. But in a pandemic, encouraging the sick to haul themselves into work can be disastrous. The plan backfired. Hundreds of Smithfield employees were infected, forcing the plant to shut down for more than three weeks. If we stay the current course, we risk repeating the same mistake across the whole economy."
Those who protest the legal measures to protect people from the virus are flouting your Constitutional right to life and the rights and responsibilities of the state to attempt to preserve it.     A physician on the discussion board expressed his exasperation in treating the coronavirus.  As no treatments or vaccines have yet emerged to combat the disease, he suggested that a triage be applied to hospital admissions which sorted out patients who defied the restrictive measures from those who are unwilling victims to provide the latter with more intensive medical attention.  He suggested that people who think other people's lives don't matter should live or die according to the moral choices they make.  

The discussion centered on the ignorance and stupidity of the protesters and the moral responsibility we have to people who do not have the mental capacity or moral character to engage in responsible conduct, who, in fact, as the comments from The Federalist show, are opposed to the moral precepts  expressed in the Constitution and the Christian religion they often claim.

The consensus was that the pandemic has further defined the divide in America.   As one political scholar put it, the divide is not political in the sense that it is between people who advocate differing policies and political philosophies.  It is a divide between the intelligent, the knowledgeable and the vacuous.  The danger it poses is rule by the stupid and malevolent, and the end of rule by reasoned law.  In the discussion, it was noted that some of the protesters, such as Rush Limbaugh, are bringing up the idea of a civil war.  The scholars of politics and Constitutional law were quick to point out that a war against valid measures to protect the people from a lethal disease would be an insurrection and those advocating and participating in such a revolt fit the definitions of treason and terrorism.  But they were quick to note that the protesters seem too dumb to know that.

So, your protesting neighbors are resisting efforts to protect your well-being and your life.  They aren't trying to work out a way to fight the disease as well as protect livelihoods so that life may continue and go forward.  Who wants neighbors such as these?  And confronting their attitudes may determine the future of American life.

1 comment:

Eve Fisher said...

Ah, but we are dealing with a people who have witnessed innumerable school shootings and have been told - and convinced! - that the violent death of small children is the price that must be paid on the altar of Absolute Second Amendment Rights. To quote Joe the Plumber in 2014: "As harsh as this sounds—your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights ... We still have the Right to Bear Arms ... Any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those."

In other words - their rights are absolute. Yours (and mine) are nonexistent. And they're sticking to that.

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