Writing opinion columns can be tough. While we all have opinions, some days the topic to write about … the subject I hope will be interesting and timely and will encourage my readers to ponder my opinion and either agree with it, or (more likely) come to the conclusion that I’m some kind of ignoramus … sometimes that topic remains buried deeply in my “inner writer,” almost impossible to extract.

Today is not one of those days I’ve been afflicted by writer’s block. I’ve got something positive to write about America amongst all the “woe is me” out there. To get there, though, I’ll touch on some negativity. But today’s opinion is about what we’ve proven we can do, despite our problems.

The American Revolution interestingly began last week in 1775, the same time frame 245 years later we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic and at the same time the news is reporting, more negatively than positively by the way, that people in several states are protesting governors’ imposition on personal liberties.

My son-in-law during a Skype video phone call recently called those who are protesting against COVID-19 limitations, “idiots with guns” or something like that, a reference I think to those several months ago protesting against perceived limits to their Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) rights and his perception that all these protesters are members of the same group of ignorant rednecks who should be social distancing.

Typically, I didn’t immediately think of a good comeback to my son-in-law’s negativity. That affliction was one we’ve all experienced, one of coming up with the perfect response but only after our conversation is over.

And there is a good comeback. We can do more than one thing at a time. There are governors who are going, perhaps, a bit overboard in their legitimate attempts to control the pandemic in their states. At the same time we recognize the beginning of the American Revolution and our built-into-our-genes yearning and need for personal liberty that led to the War, we should be celebrating that even in the midst of a world pandemic and the loss of their livelihoods, there are Americans willing to protest what they see as a government assault on their hard-won freedoms.

These folks are honoring Thomas Jefferson’s oft quoted sentiments, “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one. Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” The protesters are right about at least one thing: We should be very careful about giving up liberty for security. It is not a fair trade. Even during a pandemic.

Are some of the protesters a little misguided? Maybe. Is it a real movement or so much blabbering over nothing? Who knows for certain? There’s a lot of blabbering going on by all kinds of folks, both genuine and disingenuous. But we can be misguided and ultimately correct at the same time, can’t we? I’m certain the British thought the Patriots were misguided too.

Two things are certain: Our liberty is not for sale for any price. And we do need to try to control the pandemic’s spread and save lives.

Katherine Schwab writing for Fast Company.com reports that, “Some countries have turned to invasive location-tracking surveillance that would violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.” But not in America. A team of researchers at MIT, Schwab writes, has “… devised a system that can let people know they’ve been exposed to the virus without sharing who has tested positive.”

We can be concerned about and work toward containing the virus and at the same time be concerned about and protect civil liberties. We’re going to make some mistakes at first as we try different things and thank God for the protesters who are willing to point out those mistakes.

The U.S.-led (and largely funded) Human Genome Project completed 17 years ago this month … “succeeded in the goal of mapping all of the genes of the human genome. It remains the world’s largest (and most difficult) collaborative biological project.” (Wikipedia) At the same time this massive project was completed, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere, the Iraq War started, and pro baseball’s spring training began – all in spring of 2003.

Over and over again we Americans have proven we can do many important things at the same time. I’m grateful we’re a people who can.

As a young wannabe Marine, my drill instructors – in the way only they can – yelled at me for being (in addition to a feces-for-brains ignoramus) “unable to march and chew bubble gum at the same time,” a reference to my two left feet.

Several years later, I recall at my job marveling how a team of Americans could roll aboard a Marine Corps air station in several tractor trailers and offload, assemble, test and begin operating … in days … an exceedingly complex multimillion dollar aircraft simulator so accurately mimicking real flight that some maneuvers are permitted to be practiced only in the simulator. This, “little thing” accomplished on top of everything else we were doing as a nation.

While individually I may have been incapable, together we Americans can chew bubble gum and march at the same time.

We can do it! Let’s be thankful we can.

Newspaper columnist Barry Fetzer lives on Queens Creek.

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