Today I took a short break from my home Coronavirus lockdown to restock at a nearby grocery store. Heeding the advice of friends, I first made sure I was protected before heading out.
So, I loaded my AR-15 and slung it over my shoulder. It rested comfortably over my Kevlar vest. I had my Glock-20 (the one I call “Sweetie Pie”) comfortably nestled in my waistband. For good measure, I also had a Claymore anti-personnel mine strapped across my lower back, a purely defensive measure which helpfully serves double duty by alleviating my chronic sciatica pain. And just to be on the safe side, the SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile in my backyard silo was armed and ready to launch within 9 minutes, just in case my health or my liberties were threatened at Safeway. (Long-time readers will remember my 1994 trip to a flea market near Donetsk in Ukraine, where I swapped a case of Stolichnaya for the surplus Soviet-era ICBM.)
Nevertheless, as I walked through the entrance to the supermarket, it became immediately clear that you can’t take anything for granted during a “pandemic.”
There, I was greeted by an enthusiastic, masked young woman who offered me a freshly sanitized shopping cart. Smiling, she proudly exclaimed, “I personally clean each one.”
It was after I thanked her that things got ugly.
“Sir, we’re asking all of our customers to wear face masks while in our stores.”
My smile disappeared. “Whoa, there, little lady. My freedom does not end where your fear begins. The United States Constitution protects my unalienable right to display my rockin’ mustache and beard to anyone I believe should see them.”
Starting to look a little nervous, she yielded to the power of my argument. “Sir, the state of Oregon does not require you to wear a face covering. But the state recommends and Safeway kindly requests that you do so to protect your own health and that of others.”
“Well,” I said, “You do you and I’ll do me.”
“Of course, sir,” she submitted. “But you will have to remain here until I can safely allow you to enter.”
“What?” I said in astonishment.
“Governor Brown’s executive order mandates that we limit occupancy of the store,” she said tentatively. “We’re at the legally-allowed maximum now; I can’t let you enter until I have the go-ahead that other customers have exited. It’s part of the state’s social distancing requirements enacted to help contain the spread of COVID-19.”
I was furious. Smoke was coming out of my ears. Luckily, it was not enough to ignite the Claymore taped to my back or the extra AR magazine concealed under my Make America Great Again cap.
“No way!” I thundered, “My body, my choice!”
Shaking her head, she had the temerity to counter me, “No, sir. It’s the law.”
“The law? President Trump said I’m a very good person, or at least people like me are ‘very good people.’” Not content to let it go there, I resumed my beat-down. “Let me guess: your daddy is a lawyer.”
“No, sir,” she parried. “My father’s a nurse and my mother is an emergency room doctor.”
“Well, then let me explain something to you,” I snapped back, fully enraged. “I bet you’re going to tell me that police powers enabling the state to quarantine and isolate individuals and lock down businesses during a public health crisis have been a fixture of English common law predating the founding of the American republic by hundreds of years. And you’re probably going to lecture me about federal powers in the case of a pandemic are constrained by the Commerce Clause to patrolling ports, airports and state lines to screen and interdict infected travelers while the 10th Amendment leaves the bulk of police powers to the states. Then, no doubt, you’re going to point to the Supreme Court’s 1905 ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts which recognized the power of the states to require people be vaccinated against smallpox. You’ll smugly note that this is the same Court which nevertheless in the infamous case of Lochner v. New York ruled that states had no legal basis to set limits of work days and work weeks, a heinous decision inventing a mythical right-to-contract found nowhere in the 14th Amendment and which was only overturned by the Court during the latter part of the New Deal. At the end of all of that pontification, you’ll have the nerve to qualify your remarks by announcing that the Supreme Court has yet to rule on questions regarding the scope and duration of the Coronavirus shutdowns and that I should consider taking the matter to the courts.”
“No, sir,” she replied. “I was going to tell you can go on in any time now. I got the green light when you were talking about the Commerce Clause.”
Unsatisfied, I wasn’t finished. “Well, I’m here to tell you I don’t need to consult an attorney about my rights.” Pointing first to the semi-automatic rifle on my shoulder and then to the bulge near my waistband, “My personal law firm of Mr. AR and Mr. Glock are all I need to know my constitutional rights. That means no waiting to get into your store, no keeping six feet away from anyone else and, for damn sure, no face mask.”
Nodding her head, she could only muster, “Of course, sir.”
“Good,” I declared triumphantly. “Now, me and my arsenal are going to get some meat, some chips, some beer, and then a triple grande, non-fat latte at the Starbucks counter over there.”
“Um,” she said while looking at the ground, “The Starbucks workers reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, including not wearing a face mask.”
“Oh,” I said as wrapped my Trump 2020 bandana across my snout, “Okay.”
After all, freedom isn’t free.