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News >  Spokane

Shawn Vestal: Hundreds protested, but the thousands who didn’t will be our saving grace

UPDATED: Mon., May 4, 2020

Tom Robinson, who crafted these wooden crosses, picks up the mobile display Monday, May 4, 2020 outside Spokane City Hall where he had set them up, with another member of a Facebook group Stronger Together Spokane to illustrate the Spokane death toll of COVID-19, in response to others demanding an end to shutdown. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Tom Robinson, who crafted these wooden crosses, picks up the mobile display Monday, May 4, 2020 outside Spokane City Hall where he had set them up, with another member of a Facebook group Stronger Together Spokane to illustrate the Spokane death toll of COVID-19, in response to others demanding an end to shutdown. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Hundreds of you did not go to the Spokane County Courthouse on Friday and protest the governor’s stay-home order.

Hundreds and hundreds of you swell, decent people did not do that.

Hundreds of you did not make signs and march shoulder-to-shoulder through town as if your goal was to spread a virus.

Hundreds and hundreds of you did not wave and holler at people driving by.

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of you did not crowd onto the courthouse lawn to cosplay, infectiously, as heroic patriots waving Gadsden flags or drunken aunts at the Fourth of July family picnic in spangly red-white-and-blue hats.

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of you did not do any of that. Thousands, even.

Thank God for you, You Thousands.

And thank God you are most of us.

You did not pack closely together with your fellow travelers, exhaling all over each other and your kids. You did not interrupt and shout down elected officials who tried to answer your questions. You did not call the governor a dictator, or urge people to defy the order, or sell apocalyptic tall tales, or spread lies about the virus.

You did not grossly, irresponsibly ignore social distancing guidelines.

Good for you, You Thousands – all of you responsible, thoughtful, informed, impatient, hurting, unselfish, decent people who did not do this or any other dumb thing like it last week in Spokane.

You Thousands stayed home. You wore masks to the grocery store. You put up – at least some of you did – white crosses at the courthouse to remind the protesters how many have died of the virus here. You Thousands have been smart, not selfish. Some of you got another unemployment check. Some worried about your business’s survival. You Thousands are suffering true, dire consequences – and still, somehow, you manage to take seriously the sobering advice of the public-health experts. You realize that this is hard and painful and costly, but that impulsively reopening everything based on your gut or on some misinterpretation of the Constitution could be much worse.

And yet You Thousands didn’t make the paper or the TV news.

You far outnumber the few hundreds gathered on the courthouse lawn last Friday. You far outnumber those who are ready to swap out a few hundred dead old people for a faster return to shopping. You far outnumber those who believe conspiracies and lies about the virus, and you far outnumber those who refuse to understand facts about this virus and its spread, and about who gets it and who doesn’t, and about how selfishness now will backfire.

You Thousands far outnumber the Norma Desmonds leading extremist protests against the stay-home order, the same cadre of liberty shills who sell selfishness and bad ideas to the same gullible few who always show up for that circus.

Those people love attention, and they usually get it from the media. I don’t say this to criticize coverage of these protests necessarily. I write about these folks frequently myself, and I believe journalists should cover the far right aggressively, in part because it’s a cauldron for brewing domestic terrorism.

It will also be in the public interest, eventually, to have knowledge of these gatherings with respect to future outbreaks.

But it’s also important to keep the yahoo circus in perspective. Friday’s gathering consisted of a few hundred people. Say, generously, 500. Not nothing, but if you’ve spent any time at other far-right tyranny-hollers in these parts, you would recognize many, many of the same people. It was not a spontaneous response to the stay-home order as much as it was a protest-waiting-to-happen for any reason whatsoever, whose leaders are drunk on a vision of themselves as heroes in an end-times battle.

They represent a part of our politics here, obviously. But the number of virus-spreaders who gathered Friday is vanishingly small – nearing irrelevance – compared to the thousands upon thousands of people who are being responsible and decent.

You Swell Thousands.

You Thousands are making the best of it. You are lined up to deliver food to families out of work. You are at home, seemingly endlessly. You are washing your hands and skipping haircuts and reading fact-checks on the president and encouraging your elderly parents to be careful and trying to help your kids learn online and missing your friends and family.

You know this is no fun, but you know you’re helping bring it to an end.

Here’s to you, You Thousands. You’re most of us, and the best of us, and we’ll get through this because of you.

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