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Unmasking
the real issues

Digging out from a blizzard of bluster of a non-meteorological nature, Marion County has come down firmly on the side that face masks are necessary — just so long as no one actually has to wear them.

We can hardly wait until next week. Will county commissioners be voting not to impose penalties for theft, violence, drug possession, or drunken driving?

After all, isn’t it merely a matter of “personal responsibility,” as one commissioner puts it, not to steal, shoot people, do drugs, or drive drunk?

Imposing penalties — particularly for a supposedly victimless crime like doing drugs — most assuredly would be evidence of our country barreling head-first down a primrose path to totalitarian socialism.

And it would be highly un-Christian, as well — or, at least, so say ultra-religious people who often resemble an American Taliban.

Drunken driving really isn’t that deadly, is it? Has anyone in Marion County died from it this year?

Nationwide, 10,511 people died in alcohol-related accidents last year. That’s not a lot in a nation of 328 million — just 0.003%. So what if 257,000 have died nationwide so far this year after being breathed on by COVID-infected people who weren’t wearing masks. That’s only 0.070%. Why would government want to impose penalties for such relatively trifling matters?

If this sounds to you like “left-wing, Democratic, socialist propaganda,” as one commissioner put it, you might want to pause long enough to realize that this writer not only is a registered Republican but also is one who leans more to the right than to the left and who seriously embraces the notion of people taking responsibility for their own situations.

He even voted — albeit reluctantly — for the same unsuccessful candidate for re-election as president that we suspect the person making the allegation did.

One commissioner was right about one thing: None of this is about politics. It’s about facts, science, and the need for society to adopt at least a few rules to protect its members from those who refuse to exercise any responsibility.

As an elected official in a completely different venue, this writer sympathizes with local elected officials we have criticized for bowing to pressure from those who believe their freedom is absolute and God-given. By such people’s own logic, they also must think that it’s fine to steal, murder, get high, or drive drunk — and that only God has any right to say otherwise.

Despite such pressures and some apparent softening of stances on the topic, we still regard Monday’s move to adopt the bare minimum the county could do to fight a global pandemic a cowardly act designed mainly to placate uninformed people.

Being a conservative or a Republican doesn’t have to mean advocating the complete and total elimination of all laws. Nor does it require allowing everyone (except people from other countries, of course) the freedom to do whatever they want, regardless of who might be hurt.

If that’s the direction the Republican Party is heading during its post-Trump era, it soon will find itself going the way of the Federalists, Whigs, Populists, and Progressives.

Being conservative or Republican doesn’t have to mean being so mean that you refuse to wear a life-saving mask just because you don’t like being told what to do.

Calling someone out for thinking that way doesn’t mean we’re being biased in our reporting — which is and always will be totally separate from editorials here on the Opinion page.

It means we’re merely doing our job of occasionally reminding all our readers — elected officials included — to think about all the sides of an issue before immediately becoming fixed on one opinion.

One side not often heard these days is the one expressed by sizeable numbers of people who call or write to tell us how they’ve reluctantly switched to buying goods or services out of the county because local businesses haven’t been able to enforce mask requirements.

That, as Paul Harvey would have said, is the other side of the story. And it’s part of what any newspaper worth its name should always strive to deliver. Unlike social media, we don’t want to tell you what to think. Nor do we want to do the thinking for you. But we will challenge you — sometimes gently, sometimes with a whack up the side of the head — to consider what you might not be considering.

Like elected officials, we often become targets because of that. But we think making sure our democracy is able to hear all sides of an issue is worth any personal discomfort. That’s one trait we share with most good politicians.

— ERIC MEYER

‘Buy local’ begins with ‘sell local’

As we ponder things we’re thankful for, we need to consider the opportunity a pandemic gives us to avoid spending our Christmas budgets going hog wild at door-buster sales in distant big-box stores.

Adjusting buyers’ attitudes so they will be willing to shop at home requires adjusting attitudes of sellers, many of whom might not realize they have plenty of perfectly good Christmas gifts available right here in our home county.

Imagine a Christmas shopping experience in which local merchants and craftspeople re-envision the holiday season as a time to offer gifts like these:

  • Accessories for your car or computer and appliances for your home.
  • Antiques, arts and crafts, and items of home décor.
  • Cosmetic assortments and services.
  • Fancy wines or liqueurs, prepared foods, groceries, and holiday goodie baskets.
  • Family signs and other commemorative or team markers for yards.
  • Gift certificates for dining, bowling, massages, salon visits, and other goods and services.
  • Golf and fitness memberships.
  • Grooming, boarding and special items for pets.
  • Handyman tools and equipment.
  • Personal services like housecleaning, handyman services, and snow removal.
  • Poinsettias, houseplants, and landscaping or gardening items.
  • Starter investments or savings packages for students.
  • Unique items bearing local team logos.
  • Vintage clothing and other merchandise.
  • Weekend getaways or accommodations for holiday visitors.

The list is limited only by your imagination — and the imagination of business people willing to consider creating a meaningful local shopping season instead of just resigning to everything being purchased from some huge online service.

The best gifts are the ones with the most thought behind them, and gift sellers and gift givers willing to think outside the typical big-box store’s box are likely to give the most meaningful gifts this season — both to their gift recipients and to the community where these items are bought and solid.

Christmas is a time for family, and in communities like ours, local stores and craftspeople are part of our family.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Nov. 26, 2020

 

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