Amidst the political rhetoric surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the notion that one should never let a crisis go to waste comes to mind. As it does, perhaps, as we guard ourselves and others from contracting this insidious virus, we should contemplate the delicate and fragile need to balance liberty and responsibility.
To be clear, I’m supportive of the current advice of healthcare professionals to stay at home and socially distance ourselves from one another. That said, let us ponder a few things together.
Imagine, for a moment, America becoming a place in which even the most abhorrent of invectives are banned from social media, and, if it really exists today, from genuine political discourse.
Reflect on the possibility that we, as individuals, are permanently prevented from choosing when and if we gather for football games, large family gatherings, dine at our favorite restaurant or attend Broadway productions.
Contemplate living in a nation forbidding religious gatherings, where people faith must exercise their beliefs furtively, behind locked doors, fervently praying against an unwelcome knock at their doors.
Consider the possibility of our country becoming a place in which even the most outlandish of journalists are muted from reporting their stories and opinions by those who consider them anathema.
We would be wise to realize we are not immune to such possibilities. And we must be vigilant to guard against them becoming reality. Yet, as we become increasingly polarized as a nation, we see irresponsible conduct in our so-called political leaders, in those of faith, and within the media that may inadvertently, and perhaps with good intentions, may be leading us toward such a dystopian future.
Regrettably, some churches, unlike most, have continued to gather in large groups citing their freedom of religion and assembly. Fortunately, in our own state (and I am not of a religious ilk), Alabama’s largest congregation, Church of the Highlands, has wisely suspended its public services for a time.
When faced with opinions, or inconvenient facts, our President lambasts reporters and cries fake news. Alternatively, liberal pundits and politicians assuage those they believe hold morally corrupt opinions, as they cry for political correctness and so-called safe zones.
Under the guise of journalism, with the proliferation of social media and blogging, anyone, is free to write or say whatever they will, perhaps hoping to find a following, gain wealth or fame, or simply to preach to their own choirs. And while I claim nothing more using this and other such essays as means for sorting out my own thoughts, I note my own use of such devices.
The cost of our liberty, regrettably, has been paid for in the blood and sacrifice of our forbears. Today, more than ever, that liberty must be protected by a common willingness to demonstrate a deep and abiding sense of responsibility in both what we say and write, in when and how we gather, and in a demonstration of gratitude, both financial and emotional, towards those who do the back-breaking work of making, growing, transporting, stocking, and selling goods we have previously taken for granted, as well as toward those in health care. Absent that, I fear for what kind of nation we will become—and that those who either flaunt their liberty or shirk their responsibilities will bring bloodshed to our nation.
This is our moment.
As we mourn our dead, as we contemplate what we have become, and where we should go, we have been given the chance to reconsider what we value most—and to act upon those values with understanding, sacrifice, patience, generosity, and civility. May we all rise to the demands. May we remember it not as one which brought us together, rather than one that inflamed our passions and served only to divide us. And we must be diligent to insure the restoration of liberty once this crisis has passed.