July 6, 2020
All of a sudden, America has become persona non grata to parts of the world. The slogan of Making America Great now must include a second phrase: Making America Great but do it alone.
A brief recap: One of the first moves by the current administration was to close America off from parts of the world. The travel ban, which was ordered just seven days into the new presidency, barred citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. After several years of court cases and revisions to the original order, the Supreme Court has allowed a modified version of the ban to remain in effect.
Likewise, the president's desire to erect a wall between Mexico and The United States has seen a similarly tortured development. Where do we stand today? Well, a few hundred miles of replacement and new barricades have been erected. Texas landowners along the Rio Grande are reporting visits from federal officials who are preparing to seize private land to build more miles of the project. Occasionally, judges say stop, while others allow some progress. And, just in case you forgot, Mexico is not paying for any of this, parts of the Pentagon budget are.
Tariffs? Yep. They seem to come and go, stronger or weaker, depending on a tweet. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars go to farmers, while significant disruption in trade has not produced a flood of jobs coming back from overseas, just higher expenses for most of us.
OK, so now, in a perfect example of karma, Americans are finding we are not welcome in certain parts of the world. Planning on a trip to Europe? Not so fast. At least for now, you can't go to any of the EU countries, which includes the ones most of us would want to visit. OK, how about we head north? Nope. Canada is a no-go for Americans.
The reasons are not political or tariff-related. Instead, it is that the U.S. has become the world's hot spot for Covid-19. We are #1 in the world in deaths from the disease. New cases are occurring at more than 50,000 a day. Someone from our balmy shores who enters another country has been determined to be a serious risk to life and limb.
But, wait, we are not done with this unusual twist. Three northeast states have told citizens of sixteen other locales they are not welcome unless the visitors are willing to submit to a 14-day quarantine. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut bore the brunt of the initial outbreak of coronavirus. With over 50,000 deaths in just those three states, their government officials are not willing to put citizens through another round of infection and death. For those from states that believe this is all much to do about nothing, they are not permitted easy access.
Update: As of July 7th New York State has expanded its list of states whose residents are not welcomed without a 2 week quarantine: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Hawaii actually started the policy of required quarantines back in late March. Arrive on one of the islands after that date and spend 14 days in your hotel room or condo...no beach time, no shopping (even for food). Did it work? With less than 1,000 cases and only 18 fatalities, yes, it did.
As I was writing this post comes word that Chicago is taking the same steps: those inbound from states with rising infection rates must quarantine for 2 weeks if the Windy City is where you want to be.
Maybe my mind is a little fried from four months of all this, but a distressing thought occurred to me. What if the restriction on travel between states is seen as an excellent tool for all sorts of reasons. Could Republican-led states tell those from liberal, Democratic-controlled ones to stay away....and vice versa?
What if a state that relies on highly educated workers closed its borders to people with only a high school diploma? Or, if you don't have a particular net worth, stay away, so that state doesn't risk you needing welfare or housing help. Yes, these scenarios are far-fetched. But, much of the last few years would fit that definition.
Consider what these ad hoc decisions by states, and now cities, will do to our struggling economy. Business travel will become impossible if you happen to live in the wrong state. Airlines won't fly from the U.S. to Europe; the only people allowed on board are EU residents, or those willing to be quarantined for 14 days...longer than most vacations.
Lest we forget our high school history, there is the 14th Amendment. It protects the freedom of interstate travel. However, in one rather important detail, the Federal Government cannot enforce this right. The Supreme Court has left that to the states to worry about. So, I assume that means the three states that are telling my fellow Arizonans and me to stay home or spend two weeks in a hotel room, have every right to do so.
Frankly, I support their choice. That part of the country has paid a very steep price to get a handle on the situation. Those from states that view mask-wearing or social distancing as an affront to their personal liberties are not welcome just now.
Likewise, parts of Europe have been severely harmed. While we went our merry way pretending it was a hoax, or would magically disappear, they did the hard work of getting the initial spread of coronavirus under control. Since the first reports of outbreaks, Canada has taken the steps necessary to keep the infection and death rates down.
In terms of travel, national isolation is something that I usually think of from a historical context: Eastern Europe during the Communist era, China during the Cultural Revolution, North Korea anytime, and Cuba.
At least for me, though, this is a first for our country, a first because we are close to last...in recognizing and diligently dealing with this pandemic. Will these isolation orders be lifted? Yes, in time. And, for now, I don't mind not traveling to some far off place.
But, I find it more than a little disturbing and embarrassing that this country's citizens are seen as a life-threatening risk to others because of an entirely preventable outcome.