The Constitutiom is a fine document most of the time. Early on, though, when thoughts were floated about “sheltering in place”, I mentioned that inalienable rights we hold close are a human construct and might not apply to the pandemic, and guaranteed civil liberties might become a luxury.
In the US of A, we traditionally regard our Bill of Rights as an absolute. And, all decisions and actions are run through the constitutional filter first to ensure our direction is righteous and sound.
These are days where academic debate of constitutionality is a practical hindrance. A fine example is how Disability Rights New Mexico has little clout and sway in past weeks. The immediate need of telehealth for peers outweighed DRNM’s reflexive “We need to slow down and make sure peer rights are protected first.” In days past, DRNM could muscle their delaying agenda through legal acrobatics. I “sat in” on a telehealth advisory meeting a few weeks back and was pleased DRNM was all but ignored as obstructionists. My belief is DRNM’s adherence to an ideal robs peers of services they need RIGHT NOW. It’s been this way since I began my fourth career in peer advocacy.
And now we have an unavoidable crisis where the vast majority of peers need services RIGHT NOW. And providers freed themsrlves from the threat of litigation to do the right thing for peers. Many providers went telehealth within days without asking for permission first.
The concern I have with considering constitutionality first and practicality second is this mode of thinking defies common sense. What good does it do to champion “You are violating my rights by insisting I stay home”? Is it to prove a point? Is it paying homage to the American spirit of rebellion laid down by our founding fathers? And here’s the common sense part that’s missing in the reason: Do your constitutional rights outweigh the need to curtail this panademic?
All it takes is cooperation. We don’t have time for the conceit “You can’t tell me what to do!” Like peer services, the need is now and stepping outside the confines of our civil liberties to ensure the safety of those in our community is reasonable. It’s not a huge sacrifice for our government to ask that we stay at home and minimize contact with others.
Common sense is a worthy cause. When in crisis, Americans historically are good at making common sense common, and making common sense lead to a common goal. So if for no better reason, staying put at home will allow us to get back to work as soon as possible. We’re not going to have our country and our Constitution if we can’t get the economy rolling again and soon. This can be our common goal that makes us stronger through unforseen adversity. Americans are also good at that.