SPRINGFIELD – Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.


At least, that’s the advice my mother used to dispense.


I was thinking about that axiom this past week, as I watched men carrying rifles descend on state capitols across the nation to protest shelter-in-place orders.


The states where they did this have "open carry" laws. So, the protesters point out they are just exercising their rights.


Having spent much of my life working in the Illinois statehouse, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Do they really think these sorts of antics are going to help their cause?


If anything, they have marginalized their concerns and alienated themselves from lawmakers and much of the public.


A rather agitated acquaintance of mine demanded to know if I thought this was such a bad idea, just what I would do.


The right to petition our government for a redress of grievances is one of the most fundamental of rights.


And since I was asked, here is what I would do: Leave the guns at home, put on a shirt and tie and contact my lawmakers and share my concerns. I’d peacefully assemble in front of the statehouse – keeping 6-feet apart – and speak out.


And I sure as hell wouldn’t show up at the rally with signs calling Gov. JB Pritzker a Nazi as protesters in Chicago and Springfield did this week. Name calling is never productive and it is particularly offensive to use this slur against a Jewish person who helped create the Illinois Holocaust Museum.


It’s hard to assess how well, or poorly, the governor is handling the state’s response to the pandemic. Have we flattened the virus curve sufficiently? How well have the state’s economic needs been balanced with the state’s health needs?


One thing is certain. There is a lot of suffering.


A nursing home not far from my home has 70% of its residents infected with the disease and 10 have died. On the other hand, in the working-class community where I live, hunger is stalking the families of barbers, waitresses, cooks and other ordinary folks who have never experienced unemployment before.


There are no easy solutions. But everyone is sacrificing.


Well, almost everyone.


One can’t help but ask: Are there different rules for the rulers than the ruled?


For example, the New York Times reported Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s eldest daughter, traveled with her three kids from Washington to New Jersey in order to celebrate the first night of Passover with family. They did this despite a non-essential travel ban in Washington, D.C. where they live and work. And they did this despite the senior White House adviser’s public statements for people to stay home.


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot went to her hairstylist for a trim despite a state order closing down all salons.


And according to The Patch, Gov. Pritzker’s wife and children traveled from Chicago to their $12-million Florida horse farm, despite the governor’s order barring non-essential travel.


When questioned by a reporter on Monday, Pritzker said, "My official duties have nothing to do with my family, so I’m just not going to answer that question. It’s inappropriate, and I find it reprehensible honestly that that reporter wrote a story about it."


Gosh, that doesn’t sound like the governor is denying the accuracy of the story. It just sounds like he is angry that it was written.


Well, governor, there is a lot of anger out there. Folks are angry that they are out of work, angry that their loved ones are dying and angry that they can’t leave their homes.


We may not have the epidemical or economic data that the White House, governors and mayors use in their decision making.


But one thing we can do is smell a hypocrite a mile away -- even with our masks on.


Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.