U.S. opponents of lockdown are tired of being told what's good for them

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"Liberate Minnesota" protest at the governor's residence in St Paul, Minnesota. Image: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

What's with those U.S. protesters? The ones out to end the lockdown so they can return to work and get fatally infected. Crazy? That's not very empathetic. The best explanation I've heard is, they're people who've been lied to by experts for 40 years about what's good for them, like free trade or privatization (as in senior care), and it was all dishonest verbal garbage that destroyed jobs and communities.

The lingo sounds similar: this may hurt at first, but once we ship that dirty factory work to Mexico/Asia/Mars, it'll be replaced by rich, clean, high-tech jobs where you play ping pong on breaks.

They aren't multitudes. The protests are smallish, there's far more support for strict measures. But many of them represent despairing blue-collar workers in the Midwest who gave Trump his victory, although he lost the popular vote. They've had it with being talked down to by Clinton, Bush, Obama and their "really smart" advisers, as Obama liked saying. Fire Fauci, they chant back.

Nothing hurts like being played for an idiot, as they were on economics. The truth eventually broke through -- undeniably as they saw their lives crumble -- but it took decades. That happens when you've invested your trust.

Trump saw it, with his feral smarts, and used it. Eventually, perhaps after more decades, the self-serving purpose behind his own lies will emerge too. It's not just truth that matters, it's motive.

Bernie Sanders would've been a far better bet for them to make, and they might've, with the chance. He's denounced those deals all his life, not opportunistically, like Trump.

Not much has exposed the free trade mythology, for instance, like those two Canadian planes that flew to China this week to pick up crucial medical gear and returned empty. What's the solution? Make that crucial stuff yourself.

In 1988's free trade election, Liberal leader John Turner was ridiculed for criticizing the agricultural parts of the deal. A self-respecting country protects its food supply, he insisted, on the way to losing. Now it's PPE and swabs -- and food. Free traders like Justin Trudeau are sudden Turnerites; words like reshoring and stockpiling spring up like flowers.

Unlimited global free trade would be fine IF there were a global government responsive to humans everywhere who could rein them in when they're corrupt or inept. In this life though, it’s nation-states that can be at least somewhat held to account. The snafu with the planes wasn't basically a supply problem; it was a philosophy-of-your-economy problem. It's the neoliberalism, stupid.

Trump's biggest lead over Biden is among whites without college degrees (two to one). Those people, I'm guessing, have already been made to feel not smart, then they feel totally conned by the expertise they bought into on matters like trade. It's not crazy, it's painful. Who wouldn't feel infuriated?

The "race" for a vaccine. This too is about neo-liberalism, speaking of plagues. Under the orthodoxy of the last 40 years, competition benefits everyone. So last month the U.S. tried buying exclusive rights to research by a German firm. A German minister said, "Germany is not for sale." How any of this speeds up actual vaccine research, nobody even tries to explain.

"Big Pharma" wants billions in public money or they say they won't be able to develop vaccines, on which they'll then make obscene profits without sharing with the governments that made them possible. This is the charitable model on which Apple acquired all the innovations that created the iPhone. Meanwhile, the UN wanly calls for "equitable, efficient and timely" access to any vaccines developed, knowing exactly how these things get distributed and in what order.

Where's Jonas Salk when you need him? Shaking his head in the afterlife? He insisted his vaccine for polio not be patented, so it would be available to all.

Slivers of light. With daily briefings by prime and subprime ministers, journalists have taken to starting questions with a Canadian, "Prime Minister" or "Minister," versus the U.S.'s "Mr. President." Is this too part of the revival of national self-respect? A Bloomberg reporter sounded off-key with, "Mr. Prime Minister." I was hoping the others would egg her but she was on the phone.

Rick Salutin writes about current affairs and politics. This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Image: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

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