Our very hesitant governor may know about the law, given his experience as attorney general — but he appears to have a shallow grasp of history. He has said that his restraint on issuing executive orders was in deference to enumerated constitutional protections: the right of the people to assemble peaceably.
History reveals, however, that certain constitutional protections were superseded by the national emergency posed by World War Two. Going back a little further, it should be abundantly clear that people in the South react noisily to being bossed around or having their movements unreasonably restricted.
Even with the realization that in extraordinary times, extraordinary measures may be required, going from "wishy-washy" to "meat-axe" has stirred up the predictable blowback from an increasingly frustrated and restless citizenry.
Just before the governor issued his last executive order calling for people to stay at home or at work, he ordered parks and public recreation areas closed and closed access to lakes, rivers and coastal waterways by shutting down public boat ramps and enforcing the social distancing rules.
Heading to the open water was seen as the last avenue of escape. The enjoyment of the outdoors enjoys the rich foundations of tradition and has been long touted as a ‘healthy recreational pursuit.”
The rumbling has been increasing at this latest perception of being pursued, hounded and corralled.
For young people who naturally rebel against prolonged stationary tasks, their memories of “time outs’ and being restricted to their room, are not too long in the past for those painful recollections to have been forgotten.
In view of the fact that there are private boat ramps galore and thousands of boats tied up to private docks not covered by the governor’s edict, the public boat ramp closures create an unfair advantage for owners of expensive waterfront property and really do little to confront the social distancing problem.
A less restrictive solution would be to reopen the parks and water access and go for enforcing the social distance regulation with an appropriate fine — a time-tested way of getting people’s attention.
All it takes is some good old-fashioned patrolling.
Ben McC. Moïse is a retired game warden and the author or editor of three books on hunting and the outdoors; he is a resident of Charleston and frequent contributor to the Charleston Mercury.
[Note - on April 16, Governor McMaster amended his executive order to allow for the reopening of public boat ramps. We are pleased to have "started the ball rolling" on the issue. - ed]