Former Gov. Tom Ridge Calls Anti-Lockdown Protestors ‘Self Absorbed and Selfish’

A sign is held out the window of a car driving down Grant Street during a demonstration to reopen Pennsylvania's economy, Monday, April 20, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

By Kimberly Lawson

May 4, 2020

“In recent days, we have seen images of Americans carrying weapons as part of their protests to immediately reopen society. What are they planning to do, shoot the virus with their AR-15s?”

Over the last few weeks, protestors have gathered at state capitols across the country to demand governors lift restrictions designed to protect people from the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

During a Reopen Pennsylvania rally last month in Harrisburg, a tractor truck drove past the crowded statehouse blaring his horn; painted across the hood were the words “Jesus is my vaccine.”

These are the people former Gov. Tom Ridge directly addressed in a fiery op-ed he penned for USA Today last week. Ridge, a Republican, served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001. He was also the first United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005, and served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam.

“In recent days,” Ridge wrote, “we have seen images of Americans carrying weapons as part of their protests to immediately reopen society. What are they planning to do, shoot the virus with their AR-15s?

“These self-absorbed and selfish Americans complain they are irritated, anxious, bored, upset — unhappy that their lives have been affected by this temporary restraint on their freedoms. Some have even gotten into confrontations with nurses and other front-line health care workers who believe now is not the time to resume normality.”

The anti-lockdown protesters he refers to actually represent a minority view in the United States: A recent AP-NORC poll found that only 12% of Americans think restrictions have gone too far.

What’s made Ridge’s “blood boil,” though, is the fact that healthcare workers—whom he likened to military veterans for sacrificing so much for this country—have had to take time away from their families to counter these protestors.

Katrina Rectenwald is one of those workers, CNN reported last month. The Pennsylvania nurse attended a counter-protest on April 20 carrying a sign that read: “I Don’t Want You In My ICU…Stay Home!”

She told CNN: “We don’t think we have enough equipment in all the hospitals in PA to take care of all the patients that are going to be coming in based on us getting a surge.”

Ridge wrote that these healthcare workers “are surely putting their lives at risk just as I did as a young Army staff sergeant 50 years ago.” As such, the former governor called on Americans to sacrifice their routines for the good of the country as the number of people who have lost their lives has surpassed the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.

“The entire country is under siege, but you are not in the trenches of France, not gaining ground inch by inch in the Pacific, not slogging through the paddies and jungles in Vietnam, and not taking on global terrorists in desert warfare,” Ridge wrote. “And you are NOT prisoners of war. You are at home.”

Read his full op-ed here.

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