Twenty years ago Friday, Americans went to sleep never imagining the next morning would change our lives forever. We woke up to a once-in-a-generation nightmare carried out by extremists who despised our way of life, our liberties, and our God. Their hatred killed 3,000 innocents that day, but it did not kill America.
Unfortunately for the terrorists, the people of this country were resilient -- even in unspeakable tragedy. We mourned, flew bigger flags, and rebuilt. It would have never occurred to us then that two decades later, one of the greatest assaults on our sovereignty would come from our government itself. That the man we'd elect as president would one day tell us that confronting a deadly threat is "no longer about freedom and personal choice."
When Joe Biden looked into the camera and told us that we had lost the right to make our own health care decisions, no buildings exploded, no lives were lost. But it was still an attack on America and our core values. In many ways, it has the very real potential to do what 9/11 didn't: destroy the free foundations of our country. The White House will say that its vaccine mandate is about public safety and common sense -- and that to beat the pandemic, we all have to give up some liberties. As John Daniel Davidson writes so insightfully for the Federalist, that's a lie. This is about government coercion and raw power -- and nothing, Biden made clear Thursday, will stand in their way of either.
"The 9/11 hijackers hated our freedoms, to be sure, but the pandemic has revealed that the Left hates those freedoms at least as much as the terrorists and would like very much to stamp them out." He rattled off a list of overreaching mandates, lockdowns, and expansions of government power that the nation has endured for the last year-and-a-half. "When it comes to tearing down America, brick by brick, the Islamofascists have nothing on those who now command the heights of our culture...." Even the New York Times, ever the cheerleader of this sort of totalitarianism, warned that "forcing vaccines on a minority contingent of unwilling people is a huge error that risks shredding the social fabric of a country already being pulled apart by [politics]."
For a president who pledged to bring unity to the country, this order -- "get the shots or lose your job" -- will only bring more of the same: division and distrust. And, in an irony that even the liberal media can't ignore, his heavy-handed approach will almost certainly turn more people against the very vaccine he claims to promote! But unfortunately, Biden, who was an honors student at the Obama School of Mandates, never learned that the more control government exerts, the more resistance it creates. Even now, dozens of governors, attorneys general, and conservative leaders are rallying their troops for an all-out legal war. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) spoke for a good number of Americans when he vowed, "We will fight them to the gates of hell!"
And he'll have plenty of company from his counterparts in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and every other state that understands this road will lead to an endless string of intrusive dictates that will have far-reaching consequences for civil liberties, conscience rights, religious freedom, human dignity, parental rights, and more. Already, employers -- who were already suffering under the weight of Biden-caused worker shortages, inflation, and a sputtering economy -- are ringing attorneys' phones off the hook, desperate to stop the runaway government from destroying their businesses.
"It really puts me in an awkward position," one employer fumed. "I am pro-vaccine, but also pro-people's rights. [What happens] if we don't comply? Are they shutting us down? Giving us a financial penalty?"
On Capitol Hill, Republicans fumed that the administration has no power to do either. Tweet after tweet from members' offices cry, "Unconstitutional!" and "Medical tyranny!" On social media, any scrap of credibility Biden had on the COVID debate is gone, as users post soundbites of the president (and then-candidate) insisting there will be no mandate. "You couldn't enforce that," he told George Stephanopoulos in October of 2020. Even two months ago, his mouthpiece, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, insisted a vaccine mandate is "not the federal government's role." Obviously, the president felt as strongly about that as he did about the Hyde amendment, life at conception, refugees, fossil fuels, and every other "deeply held" policy position he's chucked since running for president.
What's worse, nothing about these unilateral actions has anything to do with the actual facts. Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, argued on "Washington Watch" that this isn't about "following the science." It's about following "the dictatorial whims of whoever is talking to President Biden. If we were following the science," she said, "we would have open discussion. We would have all of the evidence put out in front of people so that they can make the decision. We would stop trying to obstruct, forbid, ban, intimidate people from getting early treatment for COVID. We would be getting some of our facts straight." There's plenty of evidence, Orient pointed out, "to show that people have recovered from the illness, have a robust immunity, at least as good as some of the vaccines." And yet, there's no accommodation for early treatment and no acknowledgement of natural immunity. It is, as so many experts have agreed, "about politics" -- nothing more.
That infuriates doctors like Johns Hopkins' Martin Makary, who says that regardless of what people think about the president's Afghanistan withdrawal, one thing that's "abundantly clear" is that "the White House is creating daily COVID headlines to distract from [it]."
"The use of medical recommendations as a smoke bomb from other political problems is an unprecedented violation of the public trust in the medical profession. Please stop playing politics with COVID," he urged.
Until then, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) insists, Americans need to be on guard. Individuals and their doctors should be making health care decisions, she argued, not the government. It may be easier to institutionalize one side's opinion -- "But you know what? We call that communism....We are a nation of freedom, free people, freedom of choice...[the Left wants] power and control." And yet, as long as these troubling questions go unanswered, Americans have a responsibility to draw a bright red line and resist -- otherwise, it will only be the beginning of the end of our rights. As a nation, we must decide: do we want to accept this soft despotism? Or will we work for freedom?
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on the Family Research Council.