Over the past couple of weeks we have seen millions of people come together around the World to march against racism. The fallout from the murder of George Floyd has brought together people from all walks of life, from across the political spectrum, to call for change that’s been long since due. Even though we’re in a global pandemic, people have decided to put on their masks and risk the crowds to do it, in some cases night after night for two weeks now.
But where some have seen a moment where progress could be made on long standing problems in our society, others have decided to focus on the crowds themselves. At home, that’s involved both the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois leaders attacking the Prime Minister for attending a rally on Saturday on Parliament Hill, which I voiced my issue with on the radio Monday. You can check those thoughts out here because they speak for themselves. While some have decided to concern troll on the issue of crowds to their own perceived political benefit, others have tried to use the protests as a lever for something else. That led me to this story from a publication I’ve yet to quote on this site, Autoweek, which left me shaking my head:
You know everyone, I have serious empathy for the vast majority of business owners out there who have had to close their shops and stores during this pandemic for the sake of public health. I know that many people have lost or are losing their life’s work, being helpless to stop it from happening. It’s all kinds of crappy and they are suffering like many others out there. When I hear about businesses wanting to re-open to try to save what they can, I feel for them and understand that desire. Most of those businesspeople understand and accept why we need to take these public health measures. They know that this is about saving lives and as much as they are hurting, most are willing to do this to stop people from needlessly dying.
But my empathy and concern is not limitless and without boundaries. It does not extend to a certain, small minority of business owners who have taken the position that their ability to run their business trumps public health. Some in that minority have denied there is even a public health problem and are alright with letting more people die, as long as it does not affect their bottom line. It’s a ghoulish approach that goes beyond the pale.
And yet somehow this story from North Carolina manages to find a new depth that I thought would be impossible to find. As Autoweek reports, the Ace Speedway in Alamance County, North Carolina has been operating in opposition to their states public health measures. North Carolina has orders in place limiting gatherings to 25 people, yet this race trace “has averaged nearly 2,000 fans packed shoulder to shoulder without masks over the past three weeks”. Governor Roy Cooper has tried to enforce the measures there, but Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson has refused to do so, claiming that Cooper’s orders are not constitutional.
Here’s the thing, the sheriff’s contentions are BS, but it seems to stem from an attempt by the owners of the racetrack, Robert and Jason Turner, to find a loophole in the public health orders of the state. When they saw the crowds of people gathering all over to protest the murder of George Floyd, instead of seeing a moment to stand up against racism they saw a potential moment to make money. They came up with an idea of offensive that it blew my mind. They declared their most recent event (a race of the CARS Late Model Stock Tour) a peaceful “protest” of injustice and inequality. Yes, they declared their race to be a “peaceful protest” as an attempt to skirt public health measures.
I have a hard time fathoming just how twisted your mind needs to be to not only think this idea up, but then to actually act on it. Not only is it offensive on it’s face, it’s legally just wrong. They rationalized that the Governor joined a march against racial injustice, so they should be able to have “a peaceful protest” too. They pointed to the American Constitution & the First Amendment, the right to assemble and protest, and rationalized that would protect them as long as they called themselves a protest. And those are the grounds the sheriff in this case is standing on when he says he won’t uphold the public health orders.
But here is the thing that totally blows that argument right out of the water and shows just how disingenuous their “loophole” really was. The State of North Carolina sent Sheriff Johnson a letter last week that clearly pointed out why their “loophole” was nothing more than B.S.:
“The recent races conducted by Ace Speedway, however, constitute commercial events, rather than gatherings filling under the auspices of the First Amendment, and therefore do not fall within that exemption. The Governor has broad authority to restrict commercial operations to address emergencies, like the public health emergency posed by COVID-19”Source: https://www.autoweek.com/racing/more-racing/a32805420/nc-short-track-defies-spectator-limits-calls-racing-a-peaceful-protest/
There are so many times this year when I have found myself thinking “I shouldn’t need to point this out” when seeing stories like these, yet here we are again. I should not need to point out that holding an event where you sell tickets, concessions and alike to make money for profit is not the same thing as a peaceful protest just because you call it one. Real protests do not involve making a profit, period. If this speedway really wanted their races to be protests, they would be taking all of the money they collected from those races, the tickets, the concessions, and all, and given them to charities. They would give that money towards fighting the cause they are protesting against. They would not be looking to line their own pockets while delivering a backhanded slap to the face of those who are actually protesting to improve society.
Of course, it probably won’t shock you to discover that Robert Turner himself is quoted saying that “people are not scared of something that ain’t killing nobody. It may kill .03%, but we deal with more than that every day, and I’m not buying it no more.” Yeah, over 112,000 Americans dead is nothing according to this guy. The fact that the county where he lives in one of his states biggest hotspots, meaning that more of his neighbours and patrons will likely die too, also apparently means nothing to him. No you see in his mind, he’s justified because when he cannot run his business and “can’t go to my job and make a full paycheck, I’m in jail already.” Yep, he actually said that as he tried to use the death of an innocent man at the hands of police brutality as a convenient loophole to make money.
I could go on about this because it’s got me so steamed, but I’ll close on this. There are many good businesspeople out there are suffering and deserve our consideration and help. Many of them are sacrificing right now for the public good, even though it’s extremely difficult for them to do so. They deserve our support, care, and everything we can do for them in this time of need. On the other hand, there are a minority of businesspeople like the Turners, who have no such civic duty or basic care for their fellow citizens. They care of nothing but their bottom line and apparently to Hell with the rest. Those people deserve our scorn, heaped on them in large portions. They deserve our contempt, the same contempt they are showing for the lives of those who they are willing to sacrifice to make a buck. They deserve that and more.
If someone losses a loved one because of their actions, I do hope that they decide to sue the Turners into oblivion because that’s exactly the kind of consideration they deserve. Given the lack of compassion they have shown others here, it feels totally justified that they should get that same level of consideration in return. You get what you give and, in this moment, where others are giving of themselves to help the greater good, there are people like these out there too, dragging society down and putting the lives of others at risk. Those people do not deserve our consideration of sympathy, so I hope they aren’t shocked when they don’t get it.