People are asking Common Sense Civics and Citizenship what they can do about the quarantine and various aspects of life in a COVID-19 world. First, it’s a big country. I can guarantee that not everyone thinks or feels the same way about the virus as you do. My purpose here is to educate, not entertain partisan bickering or policy disputes. We are everyday Americans who understand that We the People are ultimately in charge of our government. Many of us are confined to our homes, unable to exercise our constitutional rights and liberties. Question is, what can we do?
First, VOTE. Having made that a priority, you can do many things, like talk to neighbors, write the Justice Dept., even protest if you feel safe to do so. I was advised NOT to join a protest last weekend because “there are people with rifles, confederate flags, n’er do wells, and fascist agendas who show up there.” If you’ve hung around this page, Common Sense Civics and Citizenship, for any length of time, you know that we encourage citizen participation, particularly through learning our founding documents and basic civics. Of course I drove by the protest! Got people at the stop light to honk in agreement with me. We waved, honked horns, and cheered on the display of American flags. There were no confederate or fascist symbols, and no guns (although it is your 2nd amendment right to protect yourself). These were every day Americans who believe in their 1st Amendment right to peaceably assemble and to petition their government with a redress of grievances.
Here’s something else you can learn to do. Two bills in the House of Representatives are HR6666 and HR 6585. I did some research to see where these bills are. Here’s how to do it:
- Search “Legiscan” for information about the bill.
- Search “Congress. gov” for the official text of the bill
- Read a summary just to get an idea of what the bill is proposing. Remember, Congress is there to serve us. We elected them. Our voices matter. Your emails and polite voice messages count. I know you don’t think they do, but they do.
- Take action. Call or email your congressman. It’s easy to find their name and contact information. Every Senator and Representative has a website. Or, find other like-minded citizens to join in representing your views.
You can learn a lot of information, like status of the bill, who sponsored the bill, what committee it was referred to (if any) and other information. You can read comments from fellow Americans. Yes, it takes up some of your valuable time. Anything worthwhile takes time.
Let’s take a brief look at HR6666. According to Legiscan, it is:
“COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act This bill authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to award grants for testing, contact tracing, monitoring, and other activities to address COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019). Entities such as federally qualified health centers, nonprofit organizations, and certain hospitals and schools are eligible to receive such grants. In awarding the grants, the CDC shall prioritize applicants that (1) operate in hot spots and medically underserved communities, and (2) agree to hire individuals from the communities where grant activities occur.”
We learn this about HR 6666 from Congress’ official text of the bill on Congress. gov:
“To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes.”
A citizen might ask questions like: Is the CDC constitutional? Where in the Constitution does it legally and specifically authorize this government agency? Are they allowed to give grants for such activities, like going to individual residences as they deem necessary? What does the phrase “ for other purposes” mean? What are those purposes? Will I be able to refuse a visit from those who receive these grants, if the bill passes? What is the cost to me, the taxpayer?
Yes, there are lots of questions you might ask. On the other hand, you may yawn at all of this legislative jargon. It is your rights and those of your children that are at stake. People often write to me and say that we need to keep Congress accountable. This is one way to do it.
Everything we aspire to depends on the government we have. It’s important now more than ever to be informed.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??