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The scariest part of COVID

We made it through some scary times since this time last year. The onset of an unknown virus, rumors and speculations regarding the virus, and the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus all created some frightening times. The scariest thing in the past 12 months, however, wasn’t the virus. It was the revelation that one person holds an immense amount of power over the people of Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam enacted, modified, and revoked executive orders over the last year with nothing more than a stroke of a pen. These executive orders closed privately owned businesses, limited the operations of others, and placed restrictions on gatherings of individuals in their own homes.

I know there may be times when an executive order is needed. The cogs in the government wheel turn slowly, and there may be times when a decision needs to be made quickly. An executive order placed until our elected representatives can gather to discuss a plan of action isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. What is terrible, and scary, is that these executive orders can stretch out for long periods. 

The restrictions placed by Governor Northam were never debated on the floor of the Virginia House or Senate. No bill was introduced, and no law was created. There was no vote taken to accept, modify or revoke the orders that one individual created. The representatives from our area, and therefore we, had no voice in the matter. 

One idea behind our form of government is that elected officials throughout the state will gather to discuss laws, rules and regulations. These elected officials will represent the people from their area and place public votes on legislations. Citizens will then re-elect or remove their representatives based on their perception of how well they were represented. The entire process of representative government was removed through the use of executive orders.  

In addition, Governor Northam ignored the local government of every locality in Virginia. The desires of each individual county or city were ignored. City councils and mayors were allowed no say in the rules placed on the businesses and homes in their area. Local governments are closest to the people of the cities and counties they represent. Nevertheless, local governments were allowed no say. 

Many will ignore this scary reality by saying that the governor did what was needed, but the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of his executive orders is not the problem. The problem is that we as a people have given one individual the power to enact changes to our businesses, homes and lives without any say from our local governments, our elected state representatives, or ourselves. 

The government of the United States of America was never meant to be a monarchy. Yet a few hundred years after a king was sent packing, Virginia citizens sat by waiting for a new ruler to allow them to open their business or visit their family. 

I can’t be the only one who noticed the immense power held by one individual. I hope Virginia’s citizens will band together to elect officials who will enact legislation to restrict this American monarchy. We rejected a monarchy once before. Now it’s time to do it again.

NATHAN RICE is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.