Strange politics

Yesterday was an incredibly beautiful day around here. The temperature got up to 70 degrees. We were able to leave the office a bit early and went for a hike in the skyline wilderness park. There were others out enjoying hiking and biking, but it is a big park and we didn’t come close to anyone else. Social distancing is easy when there is enough space. Purple pasqueflower blooms dotted the hillside and the sun had dried up almost all of the mud. A large red fox made her appearance three times during our hike. We may have hiked near her den. At least it seemed like she was showing herself to us and teasing us and trying to lead us away from something. We came home and lit the barbecue. Potatoes baked on the grill and buffalo steak made a very special dinner. I spent the evening writing letters to our grandchildren, something that we’ve increased during the time they are confined to their home. I went to bed thinking that I am among the most fortunate of people.

I have some friends, however, who think that we are not doing the right thing. I’ve read some pretty harshly worded condemnations of those of us who are going to work at our offices and go hiking in public places. They believe that there should be a strictly enforced stay at home order for all of the people in our state. One of our friends wrote an angry diatribe against a local Roman Catholic Parish that had a parking lot full of cars when they were allowing members to drive through the parking lot to pick up palms for Palm Sunday.

A crisis makes for some strange ideas. Fear makes people do and say strange things. I’ve read that one of the effects of the pandemic is that it is bringing together some of the political divide in the United States. I’m skeptical of that analysis, but it certainly is resulting in some people taking unexpected political positions.

One of the joys of my life is that I have friends of all different political persuasions. I have some very good very liberal friends who are intelligent and educated and politically engaged. Liberals are a minority in our state, but they are vocal and often unafraid to express opinions with which others might disagree. I also have some friends who are very conservative. They have taken time to study issues and consider the impacts of various government programs and policies and can make intelligent arguments promoting their point of view. I have a couple of good friends who are very libertarian in their politics. In general they are opposed to any large government policies and believe that less government is the best. If I were to have all of these friends in the same room at the same time it would make for some awkward moments and probably would result in loud arguments. But taken individually, these friends are interesting and the fact that they do not agree makes my life more interesting.

The crisis of the pandemic, however, has brought out some unexpected reactions and responses from my friends that seem to me to be inconsistent with political positions they had previously taken.

I’m amazed to read comments by my conservative friends and even a few of my libertarian friends arguing for huge social bailout programs. All of a sudden they seem to have lost their previous concern about deficits and huge government spending and now are in favor of bailouts for corporations and individuals. A couple of them have even reposted articles that sound like they advocate government takeover of the medical delivery system in our country.

I am stunned by some of my liberal friends who seem to be arguing for autocratic governmental actions. They seem to be convinced that the pandemic can be stemmed by locking up as many people as possible. Forcing people to stay in their houses is the solution they propose.

Now you have to understand that my liberal friends tend to live in urban areas. I’m sure that there are liberals in Harding County, I just don’t know any of them. Use there, enforcing a stay at home order seems a bit of a stretch. With two square miles per person, the population density doesn’t support large group gatherings. They are used to crossing into North Dakota for health care, tractor parts and other services. But I have some friends who are terribly incensed that the governor hasn’t issued a complete stay at home order for everyone in our state. I hadn’t realized before that autocracy was a liberal value. But then again I hadn’t realized that borrowing money to send out checks to everyone was a conservative value. Fear makes people take strange positions.

It is clear that people are afraid. Some of my friends are making and wearing face masks out of genuine concern for others. I have been wearing a face mask whenever I go into a store or some other place where one might be required to come closer to another than the recommended six feet. It’s hard to pay for a purchase from a distance of six feet in a store that doesn’t have automated checkouts. Those workers deserve my consideration and since one can be infected without knowing it, wearing a mask makes sense. On the other hand, I’ve had several conversations with folks who are wearing masks out of fear that they themselves will be infected. One was terribly concerned that the masks that others wear are insufficient to really slow the spread of the virus, touting the fact that he has several N95 masks on hand to protect himself. He was wearing one as we spoke.

The fear is understandable. 1,800 people died in our country yesterday from complications of coronavirus. The danger is real.

I continue to listen and observe my friends and neighbors. I also read and attempt to comply with the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and governmental leaders. But as long as they don’t outlaw it, I’m going to spend time outdoors when I am able. It lifts my spirits and helps me feel alive.

As to my friends in Harding County. the sheriff can wear out his pickup driving from ranch to ranch and he still won’t make those folks stay inside. He'd have more luck trying to find a liberal.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!