The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the need for free people to practice personal responsibility. Possibly the most well-known words of the Declaration of Independence are these: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….”
These words say clearly that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The document also says that governments are created for the benefit of man; therefore, the government must listen to its own people. The Declaration of Independence declares the ideals for our nation, and the Constitution outlines the type of government and teaches the type of laws that are necessary. The two documents go hand in hand to create a government where people can govern themselves.
This concept of self-government pops up from time to time, and it became news again last week. COVID-19 has played havoc in our nation and the world for the past six months. Soon after it invaded our shores, our nation shut down. Schools closed, non-essential employees stayed home, people who were able to work from home did so, shoppes and restaurants closed, and the entire nation hunkered down in isolation to “flatten the curve.”
The nation could not stay closed for long because the temporary closure was destroying the economy. The “cure” for the disease could have become worse than the disease itself. Some states did not close at all, while other states did a partial closing. Some states opened sooner than others, and some are not open yet. As a result of the re-opening of the nation, the number of cases has increased to the point that some cities and states are mandating the wearing of masks to avoid another shutdown.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee took a different route and put the responsibility for controlling the virus on the people themselves: “When we have people dying in this state as a result of this virus, we should be taking personal responsibility for this.”
Tennessee is not the only state invoking “personal responsibility” because governors in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah are using a form of it. Republican Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey urged the residents of her state to wear masks and take other precautions but stopped short of issuing a statewide order.
Republican Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem is well known for encouraging personal responsibility. She did not shut down her state nor has she ordered the wearing of masks or other restrictions. Instead, she relies on encouraging people to do the right thing.
Republican Governor of Alaska Mike Dunleavy shut Alaska down quickly from Outside travelers as well as travel between cities. Alaska shoppes, restaurants, and non-essential businesses were shut down, and non-essential personnel either stayed home without work or worked from home. However, he stopped short of mandating the wearing of a mask with the suggestion that he trusted Alaskans to do the right thing. On the other hand, Democrat Mayor of Anchorage Ethan Berkowitz apparently does not trust the residents of his city because he has mandated the wearing of masks.
As there is a great contrast between the suggestions by Dunleavy and the edicts of Berkowitz, there are vast differences in the decisions made by governors. Where masks are mandated and restrictions are tight, some people revolt against the loss of freedom. Where the restrictions are few and suggestions replace mandates, many people refuse to do the right thing.
Similar behavior has been shown over the past few weeks. The people and the government strongly support the right of Americans to protest. However, no responsible citizen supports rioting. Protesters continue to show their concerns, while rioters are being arrested and charged with destruction of private and public property.
It goes without saying that a nation cannot have self-government without the people being willing to govern themselves. The more personal responsibility shown by the people, the less control is required by the government. On the flip side, the government must exert more control over people who refuse to control themselves. To have a healthy and thriving society, community members must be willing to practice personal responsibility.