A San Diego Police official, right, asks a man wearing a mask to move along a beach closed to stopping, sitting or lying down Wednesday, May 6, in San Diego. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

There are lots of things to hate about this coronavirus business. 

I hate the way that our reaction to it right out of the gate was extreme enough to obliterate small and medium business across the land and crush the lives of the people who ran them. 

I hate that people are getting sick. Just as bad is the fear people have that they or someone they love will succumb even where the chance of it happening is small. 

I hate that anyone who has the temerity to question the official narrative is labeled a kook.

I hate that lockdowns and job losses have led to suicides, child abuse, domestic assaults and rampaging cases of depression and substance abuse that go unreported, lost in the clamor of COVID-19. 

I hate the way government — local, state and federal — keeps scooping up frightening new powers the way a man with a hot hand will scoop up winnings at the poker table. 

I hate the way the majority of people greet this jaw-dropping overreach by saying, in essence: “Yup. Okay. I guess they had to do it. To keep us safe, don’t you know.” 

But most of all, I hate the blossoming snitch culture. Hate it so much, in fact, that I lie awake at night fretting, fuming and grieving over what has happened to us all. Really, I do that. The deep, dark division that has fractured the population over coronavirus is perhaps the most depressing thing I have witnessed in my lifetime. 

Neighbor has turned on neighbor, and friend on friend. Perfectly ordinary Americans have turned citizen spy, ratting out others for things like having backyard barbecues, tossing a football in the street, sitting on the beach, surfing, letting their children play outside or going to the store without a government-mandated face mask. 

It’s happening all over the country. It’s happening here. 

On the evening of April 25, a woman in Sabattus called police to report that several people were standing together around a fire in somebody’s backyard on Crowley Road.  

Police went to the home, breaking up the group of eight and demanding identification from all, and just you never mind that this little gathering was on private property. 

Several people were issued warnings. One man, a 28-year-old Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was hauled away in handcuffs, charged with Violating an Official Government Order. It’s too bad the statute didn’t offer a more literal reading of the charge to show that the fellow had been hauled off for Standing Around a Campfire With Friends and Scaring a Woman Who Lives Three Miles Away. 

An Owosso police officer asks to talk with Karl Manke outside before ticketing Karl for being open at Karl’s barber shop on Wednesday, May 6, at in Owosso, Mich. Nick King/Lansing State Journal via AP

Snitching got results, just like some city leaders promised. And with that kind of system underway, where does it stop? In a culture where ratting on your neighbor is fully encouraged, where do you draw the line?

Since you’re putting that coronavirus call in anyway, do you also alert the police that you think the man next door is cheating on his taxes? Or that the woman down the street is having an affair? What about the guy on the other side of your fence who built a back deck without a permit? Do you call it in? 

It’s amazing how the tattletale mindset can spread like a fire across a dry field. We’ve seen it before. We know where this leads. Think of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 but on a much larger and even more horrifying scale. Think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and look it up if you’ve never heard of it. 

When you snitch, you become a hand of the government, and make no mistakes about it, friends, the government has too many hands already. They’ve got one in your pocketbook and about 10 others rifling through your most private affairs. 

You need to ask them permission to fish or hunt, even on your own land. You have to get permission to get married, to build a garage on your own property, to leave the country or come back to it. 

If you want to start your own business, you’ll need to get permission from the government. And even if you get that permission, then you’ll need to get this permit and that license and keep everything up the standards set by — you guessed it — government. 

No matter who you are or what you do in this life, the government has its claws sunk deep into you and your family. 

Name an individual right, and I guarantee the government — local, state or federal — has found a way to trample all over it, and a lot of people thank them for it. Big Bro has a million different ways to spy on us already, they don’t need you inching back the curtain drapes and phoning in what you see happening at the house next door. 

We’re early into this thing and already we’re balkanized in a thousand different ways, which is just how our power-hungry leaders like us. I’ve seen long-time friends at each other’s throat over differences of philosophy in matters of coronavirus. They screech and scream at one another and in the end, they sever the relationship entirely and curse the kinship they once had. 

No matter how dangerous coronavirus proves to be or not to be, allowing the government to run roughshod over our rights is more dangerous still. FAR more dangerous. Government, history has shown over and over again, is the most dangerous game of them all. The only entity on earth that can keep it in check is the people, and what are the people doing right now? Fighting amongst themselves. Ratting on one another. Severing ties with old friends over differences of opinion. 

Even the most liberty-minded man or woman doesn’t fault you for going all in with the safety precautions to protect yourself and your family. Yet at the same time, those same liberty-minded folks are scoffed at, sneered at and derided as selfish nut cases in this epic time of crisis. As if their fears of dwindling freedom don’t matter at all. As if freedom itself isn’t important when the stakes get high enough. As if the Bill of Rights only applies when we’re safe and cozy. 

And when sneering and scoffing isn’t enough, there’s that phone call to the authorities and a guy who just wanted to have a backyard burger with his friends is hauled off in handcuffs. 

It’s a slippery slope, is all I’m saying. Make that call to report a guy shopping at Hannaford without a face covering and maybe it becomes a habit. Maybe you start to feel like you should patrol your neighborhood and make regular reports on perceived violations of the king’s authority.  

It’s happened before: in Rome, in Russia, in East Germany, in Communist China. In the name of “doing the right thing,” citizens turned informant and, in doing so, became part of the government machine to horrific results.

Make that call and maybe snitching becomes a way of life, and the result of that will be a world far more terrible than anything coronavirus could ever do to us. 

Why am I having all these sleepless nights? Because to me it feels like we’re already halfway there. 

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