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Home Opinion Editorial: With personal liberty comes personal responsibility

Editorial: With personal liberty comes personal responsibility

Let’s not beat about the bush: We aren’t doing enough to combat the spread of coronavirus.

You don’t have to venture outside Scott County to find plenty of folks who aren’t taking social distancing guidelines to heart. You can find plenty of them right here at home. More and more, folks are treating the days out of school or off work like an extended spring break rather than an effort to mitigate the world’s greatest health threat since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919.

Even if you think the hype and fear over the coronavirus outbreak is a bunch of hooey, it’s likely that we can all agree on one thing: Life cannot go back to normal, and we cannot restart our economy, until it’s obvious that the worst of this threat is behind us.

Nowhere was that clearer than in the Rose Garden at the White House on Sunday, when President Donald Trump said that his administration’s social distancing guidelines would remain in place through the month of April.

President Trump was no big fan of shuttering social and economical functions to begin with; he did so begrudgingly, at the prodding of his health advisors. And there was no greater advocate for restarting America as quickly as possible than the president, who as recently as a week ago was expressing his hope that this nation would be back to normal by Easter Sunday — April 12.

In striking a completely different tone at Sunday’s press briefing, when he said the current guidelines will remain in place through at least April 30, Trump sent a clear message that America is in this for the long haul.

And how long of a haul that turns out to be is likely up to each of us.

On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee finally caved to pressure from doctors and local leaders when he signed a pair of executive orders implementing a “safer-at-home” policy and ordering certain non-essential businesses to close.

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But Gov. Lee didn’t go nearly as far as those pressuring him had hoped. They wanted a “shelter-in-place” policy, one with teeth behind it; one with real repercussions. At the very least, they wanted far more businesses declared non-essential than what Lee’s order accomplished.

The governor has been reluctant to wield the full authority that he’s given, and he showed that again on Monday. In his press conference Monday afternoon, he mentioned the word “liberty” on more than one occasion. Lee is a product of a red state, and no one places more of an emphasis on personal liberties than red state voters. That isn’t to say that blue state voters don’t value personal liberties; it’s just that progressives tend to be more trusting of government to do the right thing than conservatives, who view government with an inherent skepticism and see any government mandate as an effort by the government to overstep its bounds and infringe upon those liberties.

No doubt that has been at the forefront of Lee’s mind as he’s attempted to navigate the challenges presented by the coronavirus spread over the last few weeks. And, so, as he explained his latest mandates on Monday, he was careful to point out — on multiple occasions — that he doesn’t want to infringe on the personal liberties of Tennesseans.

Indeed, a great number of those who have sounded off to the Independent Herald about the “shelter-in-place” policies and orders forcing non-essential businesses to close have been worried about exactly that: government intrusion of constitutional rights and liberties.

But with personal liberties comes personal responsibilities. And each of us have a responsibility to do our part to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. If we don’t, greater mandates will be handed down by both state and federal governments — mandates that really do infringe upon our personal liberties, if only temporarily.

For now, Gov. Lee has chosen to place the onus on the residents of this state. If we take it upon ourselves to protect ourselves and everyone around us from the spread of this virus, his call will have been the right call. If not, further mandates will undoubtedly be handed down.

That means not allowing our kids to go to the park to play basketball with a bunch of other kids.

That means not taking the entire family to Walmart when one member of the family can accomplish the shopping easily enough on their own. It also means not treating trips to Walmart like a form of recreation.

That means not heading “up on the mountain” with a large group of our friends. And it also means not piling into a car with a bunch of friends to drive to a trailhead, only to stay six ft. apart once we’re on the trail so we can feel good about doing our part.

No one wants to lock themselves away inside their home — especially not at this time of year, when winter is finally giving way to spring and the weather is almost perfect for being outside.

But there’s no reason we can’t have it both ways: leaving our home to exercise and enjoy the fresh air, taking advantage of the rivers and mountains that make our area beautiful and unique, while at the same time maintaining a safe distance from others at all times. There are more than 340,000 acres in Scott County. That’s more than 15 acres for every man, woman, boy and girl in this community.

Times like this require sacrifice — from all of us. If part of the population doesn’t buy in, we risk having the rest of the population’s sacrifices be in vain.

Our seniors — those most at risk from this virus — are sacrificing by locking themselves inside their homes, going weeks without seeing their kids or grandkids. Our high school seniors are sacrificing by potentially giving up all the things that make their final year of high school memorable — class trips, proms, commencement ceremonies, and even the simple things like skip days. In between, many of our friends and neighbors are sacrificing by putting their jobs and businesses on the line, facing what is sure to be months or years of economic uncertainty.

Let’s respect the sacrifices by doing our part — by exercising our personal responsibility. Otherwise, the government mandates will follow, and then we won’t have a choice.

The Independent Herald prints guest viewpoints and letters to the editor representing a variety of opinions. Have an opinion? Email bgarrett@ihoneida.com.

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Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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