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Together and apart

By Mike Ruffin One of the interesting things about living in these days of COVID-19 is how our commitment to being apart has brought us together. We have come together in our commitment to stay apart. Many of us’”not all of us, sadly, but many of us’”have done everything we can to keep a safe distance from others and to take whatever other steps, such as wearing a mask, that we can take to stop the spread of COVID-19. We have tried to listen to the medical experts and to follow their guidance. We have tried to filter out the noise put out by the politicians so we can concentrate on the information provided by the scientists and doctors. We have banded together in our efforts to stay apart. It’s been a challenge, but we needed to do it to flatten the curve, to limit the spread of this deadly disease. I’m writing these words in the days between Governor Kemp’s April 20 announcement that some businesses would be allowed to reopen and April 24, the first day that they can. If he has stayed with his directive, then by the time you read this, some businesses will have been open for anywhere from one to five days. Science says we should wait a while longer. We’ll soon know whether it was too soon. I have seen announcements from some businesses saying they’ll open at the first allowable moment, and I have seen announcements from other businesses saying they’ll remain closed until scientists and medical experts say it’s safe to open. Yes, being apart has brought us together, but we still have our disagreements. This isn’t surprising, as some serious issues are at play. For example, there is the matter of the relationship between individual liberty and community well-being. At the risk of caricaturing the positions, I’ll put it this way: some folks think that they should be able to do whatever they want and that no one can place limits on their freedom, while other folks think that, while individual freedoms are important, we sometimes have to accept limitations on them for the sake of the community’s greater good. Of course, we might then go on to argue over what constitutes ‘individual freedoms,’ ‘acceptable limitations,’ and ‘the community’s greater good,’ and so it goes. Another issue is the role of government in the United States. Some people argue that the less government is involved in our lives, the better. Others contend that the various levels of government play an important role in promoting community wellbeing on the national, state, and local levels. To see a classic and amusing presentation of these contrasting viewpoints, watch the television series Parks and Recreation. Ron Swanson is an extreme libertarian (who ironically draws a paycheck from the government while doing little to earn it), while Leslie Knope is a committed public servant who believes government is a vehicle for accomplishing good. In our present situation, some folks think that governments have overstepped their authority, while others think that governments should do even more. I’ll venture to say this much: if you think that all people, corporations, and industries will do the right thing without the imposition of government regulations, I have an all-inclusive resort on Hog Mountain I’d like to sell you. With both of these issues, and as is usually the case, the best’”or at least the necessary’” approach is in the middle, and the best we can do is to continue hashing out things as we try to find some equilibrium to bring balance to our society during dangerous times. We do this best when committed, honorable, and compassionate leaders on both sides of an issue work together to find common ground where possible, and to compromise when necessary. We will get through this crisis. I hope we will be stronger and better on the other side of it. I hope we will capitalize on our enhanced sense of unity. But let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s face reality. We will always have a lot of work to do. We will always have disagreements on the best ways to do things. And it will always matter whether our leaders care enough about the Constitution of the United States’”and about us, all the people of the United States.

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