Bowles: Diseases didn’t exist in 1787


Gracie Rowland

Many people are calling for all mass-gatherings, including religious ones, to not occur during this pandemic.

Luke Bowles, Staff Writer

All right, ladies and gentlemen. I have something to say that really might blow your minds, a historical nugget we must have all ignored: diseases didn’t exist in 1787. Now I know what you’re thinking, but just let me explain myself. To start, a simple story. 

Temple Baptist Church members were swarmed by police in Greenville, Miss. on Wednesday, April 4. The catch? It was a drive-in service with members staying inside their cars, listening to the sermon on the radio with windows rolled up and practicing social distancing. That didn’t stop police from knocking on windows and issuing $500 citations. 

But who cares, right? Well, the First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Greenville didn’t have any laws prohibiting other “essential” institutions from operating, yet prohibited drive-in church services. 

Even more recently, a woman in Raleigh, N.C. was also arrested for protesting on Tuesday, April 14. The catch? She was alone. That didn’t stop the Raleigh Police Department from labeling protesting as “non-essential.” You remember the First Amendment? It continues on, stating, “…shall make no law… prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” 

These actions clearly violate the Constitution, so there must be a justification. Proponents of these laws say that because there’s a current pandemic, these actions are acceptable in the name of public health and safety. 

So surely, in 1787–the year the Constitution was signed–diseases didn’t exist. At a minimum, they must have not been as bad as they are now.

Except, malaria was an endemic disease in America.  Diseases like yellow fever, smallpox, tuberculosis and rickets were also widespread. When’s the last time you met someone with rickets?

Colonists knew practically nothing about diseases. There were no N95 face masks or CDC social distancing guidelines. It’s not as if people could use vaccines because those hadn’t been invented yet. They didn’t even have running water to wash their hands. 

So obviously, the Constitution was created to be in full effect regardless of whether diseases are prevalent at the time. Freedom doesn’t just go away because a new virus starts spreading. There’s no provision in the Constitution that says amendments can be disregarded in a time of crisis.

Well, this time it’s okay to make these laws just this once because the American government has never used a crisis to fulfill its own agenda before, right?

Well, a few events would tell a different story: multiple sedition acts passed in American history, Japanese internment camps, the NSA spying on American citizens and now, these unconstitutional laws passed during the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s the trend? Authoritarian figures used a crisis to take away the rights of American citizens: WWI, WWII, 9/11 and COVID-19 respectively. 

So how can the government repeatedly tread on American citizens with no repercussions? We can already see that the Constitution was written to be in full effect regardless of any prevalent diseases.

Well, the only other thing I can think of is that the Constitution doesn’t work to stop the government from growing in size, power and tendency to restrict freedom. That despite all of the jingoist propaganda you’ve been fed your whole life, the Constitution isn’t the word of God. That maybe, just maybe, politicians couldn’t care less about it. But surely you’d never be so unpatriotic as to dare even consider such a radical conclusion. So, we must go back to believing what the government wants us to: that diseases didn’t exist in 1787. 

I’m sure you’re thinking, “People are dying! How can you be so heartless?” I’m not. That same rhetoric is repeated every time during every crisis.

 “We need to silence free speech because being anti-war means you could hurt American soldiers! We need to put the Japanese in internment camps because they could be spies and cause Americans to die! We need to pass the Patriot Act to allow mass surveillance because terrorists are killing Americans!”

History repeats itself, and this is no different. All of the aforementioned events are heavily criticized by many Americans, but they were very popular during their respective times. It was seen as cruel, un-American, and heartless to disagree with them. However, everyone thinks they would have disagreed with these things, but what are you doing right now?

My bet? Watching the government slowly exert more and more authority over you all in order to solidify their centralized power and hold over your life and money. We’re all just watching our rights be stripped away day by day, and nobody says a word.