I live two blocks from the Kentucky State Capitol. When we first moved downtown 10 years ago, my husband and I started calling it our neighborhood landmark. We like seeing folks visiting there and don’t mind the frequent events centered around it, including the occasional protest.
Until May 2, that is, when several hundred people saw fit to assemble in a certainly unlawful mass gathering to agitate for lifting stay-at-home directives, reopening businesses and, apparently, the divine right to assert their superiority over everyone else.
Yes, on what would have been a glorious Derby Day, things were different because of what was on display in the midst of a pandemic, which has turned our world upside down.
Different because the crowd lining the steps of our Capitol wasn’t there to show its support for an administration trying to navigate a perfect storm of public health crisis and economic collapse.
Different because those flak jacket-wearing, gun-toting, Confederate flag-waving individuals weren’t there to celebrate the sacrifices made to keep a highly contagious virus from spreading and killing even more of their fellow Kentuckians than have so far died.
Different because the self-styled Christians among them, calling upon their savior for liberation from the oppression of lifesaving public health policy, ignored the biblical instruction to put others before themselves.
And different because their presence made a complete mockery of all that should unite us during this time. It was a slap in the face to every senior deprived of a graduation ceremony; every bride whose wedding was called off; every couple celebrating a milestone anniversary alone; every doctor or nurse trying to treat an untreatable disease; and finally, every family which has suffered the loss of a loved one, made even more unbearable by the crushing isolation of COVID-19.
There was tyranny on display all right, but not the sort they’d come to protest. It was the tyranny of a selfish, swaggering, spiteful mob full of threats and intimidation, calling themselves patriots in an ugly corruption of the word.
They are right that it’s not fair. It most certainly is not fair that the actions of a small minority can risk undoing the sacrifices made by so many and result in so much potential harm.
So here is my message for them: Visitors like you are no longer welcome here. Not in my neighborhood, not in my home, not in my heart.
Donna Hecker lives in Frankfort. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.