Mike Thompson: Embrace Freedom and Trust Businesses

My grandmother was in her late 20s when the Great Depression hit. 25 years after the depression ended, when I was a young boy in the 1960s, I remember that she still saved used bread sacks, plastic butter containers, and jelly jars, because they could be used for other things.

I did not fully understand that mindset until I was in my early 20s, trying to support a wife and infant daughter on the salary of a naval airman stationed aboard an aircraft carrier. I had $45 dollars in the bank the day I married my wife in eastern Kansas 43 years ago. We received just enough cash in wedding presents to get back to my homeport in Pensacola, Florida. We scrimped and saved in hopes that we could treat ourselves to a couple Wendy's hamburgers and a Coca Cola at the end of the month. It was difficult, worrisome, and sometimes I felt a little hopeless that I couldn't provide everything we needed. But nobody was telling me then that I couldn't work hard and improve our lot.

Even though God has blessed me with some success in my life...I have never forgotten how that felt.

So today, when I see people losing jobs, losing businesses, watching savings wither away, and being faced with paying the mortgage or paying for food, all those feelings come flooding back for me. I can still feel it in my gut and I know how everyone being placed in those positions feel. They just want a chance to get back to work, try to rebuild their livelihoods and provide for themselves and their families. And, I want them to be able to do so.

Right now, some government officials and health officials are advising us that we must remain shut down out of concern for our health and the public health. I appreciate that, and I know making these decisions is not easy - particularly given the ever-changing nature of this virus. However, shouldn't we be trusted to discern that for ourselves?

America is a wonderful mix of rugged individualism and devotion to the community and to our neighbors.

Throughout this crisis, we've seen this play out as we try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Americans have stepped up and risen to the challenge. They've sacrificed their jobs, their businesses, and in some instances, their health. They've donated to charity, continued to support restaurants that remain open, and done everything asked of them. They've even come together to build masks for those on the front lines of fighting this virus.

And, going forward, we all agree that common-sense measures will continue to be taken, such as social distancing and certainly, a focus on hygiene, both personally and in our workplaces. And the success has been tremendous, as our hospitals have not been overwhelmed and the curve has been flattened.

Now, as we move forward, we need a better pathway than strict lockdowns, one that trusts businesses and families to make decisions commensurate with their own safety. We've already seen this in the businesses that have remained open, and this is encouraging. I believe people will take the right, responsible steps. I believe we should trust we, the people.

To this end, I appreciate the president's plan for a phased reopening, and the fact it takes into account states like Kansas rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Ultimately, it will allow all Americans to take responsibility for themselves and their livelihoods. And I believe they will.

As we do so, we will embrace the freedom enshrined to us by our forefathers and those who fought so bravely for those freedoms throughout our history.

Embracing freedom means trusting people who run small businesses. As businesses open, they will take into account the unique times we are in, and many will continue to work from home and take steps to adjust their operations accordingly, to ensure cleanliness and safety of their workers.

Embracing freedom means not asking anyone who is fearful of their safety to take any risks or forcing people to do something they are not comfortable doing. Going forward, I believe we will all be careful and mindful about everything we do, particularly as it impacts vulnerable populations.

Embracing freedom means allowing those who are willing to take the risks to do so. Let them lead the way back to opening the economy, reopening businesses, and putting people who want to work, back to work. I know many who are eager to do so, because they want to revive the American economy so there is something left when this threat has passed. They can do so in a responsible and safe way, too.

We do not know what the future holds regarding this virus - it is unknown. We hear talk about a second wave, and even a third. All we can do is prepare and respond. How we respond now will not only be remembered by future generations, it will affect their version of freedom going forward.

These days, I think of the young soldiers who had the immense courage to storm the beaches at Normandy, running headlong into a hail of Nazi gunfire, facing almost certain death because they believed in something greater than themselves. They believed in liberty enough to fight and die to free others from tyranny. They had the courage to face the unknown.

Our nation was founded on liberty, and it is what generations before us have fought and died for, especially during the most trying times. It must continue to be at the heart of our existence, or the nation as we know it will not survive. If we further proceed down the path of long-term lockdowns, I am deeply concerned that our liberties will be sacrificed, all in the name of safety.

If we trust our people, I believe we will do so in a way that embraces both liberty and safety.

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