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9 minute read

Balancing Our Freedoms Against Uncertainty

OPINION ARTICLE

What does the word “freedom” mean to you? If you were to ask 100 people what “freedom” means to them, you would get a wide variety of answers, because, by nature, human beings are very ethnocentric. According the Oxford Dictionary, “ethnocentrism” is defined as the “evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture.”

A culture can be defined by many different aspects. It liberty, independence, lack of restrictions, free expression and free will. It is for that reason that early colonists came to this country as an escape from the tyranny of government, the free choice of religion, and free expression of their ideas without the fear of reprisal. It is this concept that holds our country together and makes us truly The United States of America.

I believe the year 2020 will be remembered by future Americans as a pivotal point, where these inerrant values were tested to the point that can be as broad as perceiving foreigners through the eyes of our own experiences in our own country. It can be as finite as being aware of one’s own individual circumstances. Freedom to someone in prison could be as simple as being released from incarceration. Freedom to someone with a terminal illness might be to suddenly become completely healthy. For someone in severe debt, exoneration of that debt would be their freedom. However, to most Americans, I think we agree that as a culture, we would say “freedom” means they became so modified they no longer represented what the original founding fathers envisioned for this nation. This pandemic of the coronavirus has changed us forever in many ways.

In spite of all these commendable attributes that have occurred, we can’t put aside the real dilemma that we are facing now, and will again, undeniably, face in the future. That question is, how are we as a nation, as a community, and as business people, going to react to the situation next time?

As a nation, we have become conditioned to the very thing the early colonists wanted to escape — a government that regulated their existence. We must begin to ask ourselves several questions. How many of these regulations are really for our own good? How much of our individual freedoms are we giving up, by acquiescing so easily to them, without thinking through the consequences? And how are we going to react the next time something happens that dictates the same response?

We should be asking ourselves, what is the real crisis that we are experiencing due to the pandemic caused by coronavirus? It is certainly obvious to most people that the medical aspect of this pandemic is real and should be of concern to everyone. However, are the repercussions that have resulted by our response to this emergency justified by the regulations that were imposed, in order to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives? In other words, could there have been another way to address the problem, without the draconian approach of shutting down the economy and restricting people to their own homes for months? These are questions that must be answered, because our response to this virus has opened a Pandora’s Box that cannot be closed.

Due to the uncertainty of what still lays ahead of us, we are dealing with a multitude of problems that still need to be addressed. Will we ever get back to the existence we knew before the pandemic, or will our lives be forever changed?

Our country thrives and grows with its economy. As the economy grows, more job opportunities open up to those needing dependable employment. By sustaining this growth, we are also allowing those who were dependent on government, to finally have their esteem raised by providing for themselves and their families. The mental health of the nation improves when its people are happy, healthy and able to enjoy their lives by providing for themselves.

Many businesses across the country, like AJ's restaurant in Harrisburg, NC, chose to close for the duration of the shutdown, rather than try to remain open.
Photo: Jason Huddle

Another serious area that we need to address is the view point of “social distancing.” It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand that if someone is sick, you should probably limit your exposure to them. But, as a measure to keep people apart because of the unlikely possibility of coming in contact with someone that might be sick and doesn’t realize it, is a little overboard.

By introducing this belief, people are being conditioned to stay away from any gatherings. One important event that falls into this category is the gathering together for worship, which is covered by freedom of religion within the Constitution’s First Amendment. Worship is an important part of many people’s lives which results in their ability to have balance — spiritually, mentally and physically. The gathering of friends and family together creates

an environment where many people are happy and able to enjoy life. When this constitutional right is denied over a period of time, it can cause increased depression and anxiety. When combining that with taking away their employment and ability to provide for their families, it creates the potential for chaos much worse than dealing with an illness that has affected significantly fewer people than those unemployed. (U.S. Department of Labor statistics as of May 15, 2020, indicate 15.7% of 331+ million people in the population have filed unemployment. In comparison, as of May 19, 2020, Worldometer.com indicates that 1,558,175 people in America have/ had been affected by COVID-19, with 92,478 deaths; in other words, roughly 0.0047% of the population have been infected, and 0.000027% of the population have actually died.)

Freedom to someone in prison could be as simple as being released from incarceration. Freedom to someone with a terminal illness might be to suddenly become completely healthy. For someone in severe debt, exoneration of that debt would be their freedom. However, to most Americans, I think we agree that as a culture, we would say “freedom” means liberty, independence, lack of restrictions, free expression and free will.

Many people have become obsessed with the narrative continuously given to us about touching or eating something that might happen to contain the virus. Yes, it is important for people with underlying health conditions to be more careful about exposure than others. But really, are we being conditioned to live in a bubble?

Our rights to protest and self-expression are being severely inhibited, which is sowing the seed of civil unrest. Some people who own businesses are willing to risk going to jail and incur fines simply for opening up their businesses in order to support their families. Is this the future we want for our children?

“It is important to remember that those freedoms were fought for, and many people died so that we could have them.”

There is no doubt that many good things have occurred during this crisis. The first thing is the realization that the United States should not be dependent on other countries to provide a majority of necessary items, especially medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

Whenever there is a crisis, Americans can count on the generosity of others to help those in need. It’s in our nature, and we do it almost automatically. From the people on the frontlines fighting the virus, to those that are helping the people affected by it, physically or economically, Americans do what is needed to keep going and come to one another’s aid.

One positive shift in perspective across our nation has been with regard to those people on the frontlines. Not so long ago, nurses were leaving their profession in droves because their job descriptions and pay were being reduced to those of caretakers. Now, people stand in front of hospitals applauding them and the other medial specialists who are putting their lives on the line. Police, and even firefighters, were being harassed. Now, they are complemented and commended for their tireless work with the public. A year ago, those who worked at fast food restaurants and retail stores were being ridiculed for wanting higher wages. Now, they are being thanked for remaining on the job, in spite of any potential daily risks. It’s made everyone aware of the significant part every citizen can play, even if they have seemingly minor roles.

In spite of all these commendable attributes that have occurred, we can’t put aside the real dilemma that we are facing now and will again, undeniably, face in the future. That question is, how are we as a nation, as a community, and as business people, going to react to the situation next time? Each time we allow ourselves to give up freedoms that were given to us as citizens of the United States, we change the very makeup of our country. Are we going to acquiesce to everything that is dictated to us through officials that we elected? Or, are we going to demand solutions from our government that do not destroy aspects of our freedoms?

Due to the uncertainty of what still lies ahead of us, we are dealing with a multitude of problems that still need to be addressed. Will we ever get back to the existence we knew before the pandemic, or will our lives be forever changed?

In light of the fact that the government’s response to the virus caused the economic crisis, it was inevitable that it should do something to help keep our economy alive. Millions of people have lost jobs and millions of businesses have closed, resulting in many other economic repercussions because little income was being generated. That solution was the stimulus bills that were enacted and the additional funds for unemployment benefit payments made to people who have lost jobs.

Unfortunately, for all the good that these packages are doing, they don’t make up for the fact that there will be businesses that won’t be able to recoup, and therefore will not reopen. Due to social distancing and other restrictions, many businesses, such as restaurants, won’t be able to justify the cost of operating the business with reduced capacity and requiring additional dedicated employees for sanitizing. As for workers, many are now being paid more with unemployment benefits than they were making on their jobs, so they don’t want to return to work.

Can we afford to wait on another event to occur that drains us physically, mentally and economically? When will we realize that balancing our freedoms against any situation that brings us dangerously close to a socialistic society is not in our best interest as individuals, as a community and as a country?

Some people would say that giving up our freedoms was necessary to save lives. It is important to remember that those freedoms were fought for, and many people died so that we could have them. Once they are gone, they will be gone forever. Next time, let’s find another solution.