Opinion: Confusing rights with selfishness

Trent Gautney, Opinions Writer

After a month of being under a stay-at-home order, businesses in Florida have been allowed to reopen in four phases since May 4th. The first phase (which we are still in as of May 21st) includes reopening restaurants and shops at lowered capacity while maintaining a ban on places such as bars and theme parks.

Phase 2 will allow bars and theme parks to begin reopening under strict conditions, although it is unclear when this will happen given that it wasn’t until May 18th that the whole state finally entered Phase 1. According to the Reopen Florida Task Force, the beginning of Phase 2 “…will occur when there is no evidence of a rebound or resurgence of COVID-19 cases and satisfies the benchmarks outlined in this Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. plan.”

On paper, the plans for the phased opening seem surprisingly reasonable compared to the Governor’s other actions taken during this pandemic. However, all one has to do is visit a store such as Lowes or walk on the beach to see that none of these guidelines or restrictions have stopped people from violating every aspect of social distancing.

Even though this pandemic is far from over, Floridians have taken this hint of newfound freedom and ran with it. In many places, such as stores like Walmart and Target, it seems that a lot of people have totally forgotten that anything has changed. 

Trying to reopen Florida and the rest of the nation slowly and safely is not going to work. Not because the reopening plans are bad, but because there are too many people who believe that they can go back to complete normalcy without suffering any sort of consequences.

Unlike many countries that have embraced preventative measures that can be taken at the individual level like social distancing and wearing masks in public, the United States has had trouble adopting these practices. 

Many Americans refuse to wear masks, calling it a “fundamental right” to be able to put everyone around them in danger. These individuals are confusing their rights with selfishness. 

The people who do not follow these measures are not exhibiting their freedom by refusing to take precautions. All they are doing is proving to the rest of the world that Americans are taught to care about themselves so much that they would rather put people around them in danger of dying than wear a piece of cloth over their face or stand just a little farther apart from someone.

The blame for this selfish attitude and disregard of science should not be placed on regular people though. Not when the leader of our country and his cronies constantly scream these ideas from their bully pulpits.

However, this kind of thinking did not start with President Trump. For years, the Republican Party’s platform has been based on the idea that individualism and selfishness are American principles. That making sacrifices to help others is weak and that working together to solve problems is socialism. This can easily be seen by the GOP’s view on everything from healthcare to guns: it’s okay if other people are suffering and dying, as long as I don’t have to give anything up myself. 

As we get close to one hundred thousand deaths and over thirty six million filing for unemployment, it should be remembered that this should not have gotten this bad had our leaders been more willing to make choices based on other people’s wellbeing rather than their own. 

Now, more than ever, we must realize that being American does not mean we have to be selfish. If we want to safely be able to reopen again and one day resume whatever sense of normalcy remains, our leaders must show Americans that caring only about oneself will not help us; that the only way to get through this is together.

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