There’s a pivotal moment in the award-winning film, The Shawshank Redemption when the main character Andy Dufresne discovers there is evidence that could prove his innocence in the murder of his wife and her lover.

Andy naively brings this to the attention of the corrupt, tyrannical warden Samuel Norton, who has relied upon Andy’s accounting acumen to skim and launder money from the prison. The warden declares the evidence he has found is false. He tells Andy he should forget about being set free.

Andy is dumbfounded. He asks the warden– “Are you obtuse?”

The warden does not tolerate dissent. He doesn’t want to hear it. He puts Andy in solitary confinement for 30 days and then extends it to 60 days. Sound familiar?

Gov. Pritzker, are you obtuse?

At the risk of being locked in our homes indefinitely, Gov. Pritzker, are you obtuse?

Gov. Pritzker’s Tuesday announcement of a “regional” approach to re-opening Illinois remains deeply flawed. The guidelines are nearly insurmountable and will result in a long-term shut down of core societal functions. Banning youth sports, church attendance and patronizing small businesses, Pritzker’s goal remains to keep Illinois citizens isolated, alone, and without hope.

Further, Pritzker’s “phases” plan completely ignores the larger impact of health care calamities now befalling thousands of people who are not able to get the care they need for other physical and emotional problems. From drug and alcohol abuse to cancer treatments to important elective and diagnostic procedures, thousands of Illinoisans continue to be put at risk due to Pritzker’s stubborn refusal to adapt.


Pritzker isn’t reopening the economy, but other states are safely reopening

Meanwhile, other states with both Democrats and Republicans governing are finding safe and reasonable pathways to re-open much more rapidly. Pritzker’s lack of humility and imagination is just the latest example of Illinois’s long history of failed political leadership.

While the governor’s wife and children flew on a private jet to his Florida equestrian estate, Illinois businesses are closing for good. Jobs are disappearing. This pandemic is destroying families.

This is all on you, Gov. Pritzker.

We all share the goal of ensuring our state continues to navigate the coronavirus as safely as possible. Yet, your “phases” approach is at odds with an emerging, inevitable consensus that the entire unprecedented concept of locking down healthy people to stop COVID-19 was misguided because the science justifying them was wrong.

And not a little wrong. It was dead wrong, based on models and assumptions that were not just off by a little, but by an order of magnitude.

COVID-19 is less deadly than the seasonal flu, according to data

Now, seven weeks after Pritzker ordered Illinoisans to remain in their homes, there exist millions (literally) of hard data points from all over the world revealing the truth of COVID-19.

And that is that COVID-19 is actually less deadly than the seasonal flu and much less for anyone under 70. That COVID-19 is not a threat to children, who neither suffer from it nor spread it. That the transmission of COVID-19 cannot move without sustained, direct contact in a tight indoor space (never casually or in passing, much less outside). That ordering our most vulnerable to infectious disease to stay inside nursing homes with others infected by COVID-19 was the worst thing we could have done in response, and Gov. Pritzker did it.

As Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford explained, “by now, studies from Europe and the U.S. all suggest that the overall fatality rate is far lower than early estimates. And we know who to protect because this disease – by the evidence – is not equally dangerous across the population.”


Younger and healthier people have nearly no risk of death or infection

Atlas said actual data shows younger, healthier people have virtually zero risks of death and little risk of serious disease.

In Michigan’s Oakland County, 75 percent of reported deaths were in those over 70 years old; 91 percent were in people over 60. This data is similar to what has been reported in COVID-19’s alleged epicenter, New York City.

The most dangerous politicians use state power to impose their view of how we all should live our lives. They demand we trade our freedom for their protection; that we sacrifice our independence for their paternalism. This is for our own good, for our own “safety,” they tell us.

Of course, it isn’t. It never can be. History tells us that there are no totalitarian heroes.

Our country’s greatness was forged by elected leaders who sought to unleash the potential of every American; who sought to elevate individuals, not the state.

Gov. Pritzker, your instinct is to control people. It is to make the people submit to your will– to put the state first, and individuals last.

Illinois will find their freedom, much as Dufresne did

In Shawshank Redemption, for his own despotism, Warden Norton delivered justice to himself.

When they realize how wrong Gov. Pritzker is on COVID-19–  and how flippant and careless this trust fund billionaire has been with the economic livelihoods of working people — voters will deliver their justice to Gov. Pritzker at the ballot box in 2022.

Laugh at the prediction. Sure, his popularity is now high. And Illinois is a deep blue state.

That’s until it isn’t.

Essentially, Andy Dufresne eventually found his way to freedom, and the people of Illinois will as well.

Samuel Witherspoon is the pseudonym of a senior public affairs official working in Illinois and around the country. He resides in the Chicago area. He is using an alias to protect his family and friends from the embarrassment of having to acknowledge they know him.

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