I keep seeing posts and stories about how people rallying to get their states reopened are being deemed irresponsible, selfish and just want people to die. Obviously to some, none of these accusations are true. The reasons I see people rallying for their freedoms and their right to reopen their business and go where they please when they please goes far deeper than the shallow surface of getting haircuts, eating out, or “just caring about money”. I’ll share just a few observations that have touched my heart through all of this but first, let me just say that none of this is to make light of any sickness or death this virus has caused. We feel EVERY life is valuable, that’s what makes this whole ordeal so frustrating for everyone. However, we also understand that only a fraction of a percent of our population has been affected by this virus, yet 100% have been affected by the shut downs and stay at home orders in some way or another.

In a hope to humanize some of the reasons people are fighting and speaking out for their freedom, let’s look at just a few stories I’ve heard or witnessed in just a short period. During the shut downs and executive orders, all “elective” hospital procedures were not “allowed” by the governor’s executive order. Just that one thing adversely affected people in ways our governor refuses to speak about. People waiting for biopsy’s were delayed, some still are. People who had already had surgery but needed follow up appointments for care were delayed and many still are. Wound care was delayed. Those that really needed emergency care were scared to go to the hospital or doctor for fear of catching Covid19 even though our hospitals in this state were nowhere near being over run. Only 76 people out of 1,792,000 have been hospitalized in our state for Covid19. That’s .004%. 4/100ths of 1 percent according to WV DHHR website tracker. 2018 Flu season brought over 800,000 hospitalizations to our country according to the CDC. People have had family members dying of cancer and other long term illnesses that didn’t have anything to do with Covid 19, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren, friends, and they weren’t permitted to visit them in the hospital, or be there with them, or hold their hand as they passed on. No one can even begin to make people understand how hard these things were on people, or how much more grief it caused. People will beat themselves up because they weren’t able to “be there” and it was through no fault of their own; but they’ll still always wonder if there was something else they could have done, or should have done to fight for their right to BE THERE with their loved ones. Babies have been born where dad’s and other family members couldn’t be there for the birth. Some fathers will never get that chance again. Mother’s giving birth were deprived of their right to have their spouse or significant other in the room with them helping them and supporting them. Something that’s suppose to be experienced together and shared and celebrated became something out of a twilight zone episode. Why? Because a fraction of a percent of people have caught a new virus that has a .004% chance of fatality for those at higher risk. Because our Governor decided that he would abuse his executive power without consulting or taking advice from our elected legislature and make it illegal for you to be with your loved ones at the hospital or even see your family in the nursing home. Of course it’s for their protection according to him. He forgets all the damage and grief he’s causing by doing it though.

Then we have schools, day cares, parks, amusement centers, every other business that isn’t fast food, or big box grocery stores and home repair and a few other businesses deemed essential by the Governor, again without consulting legislature. Schools were closed for the rest of the year, even though now the Governor has “allowed” day cares to reopen. Now how on earth does one justify opening day cares but no schools? Opening day cares but not parks, play centers, amusement facilities. There is just no explaining how kids WANT to be around their friends, and many never stopped because people try to keep things as normal as possible for their kids. If day cares can be open, then every other child related facility should be allowed to reopen or else it should be a violation of rights for those that haven’t been allowed to reopen since that is an unequal playing field. If day cares can open, schools should be open. Seniors of 2020 have been robbed of so many graduation traditions and they’ll never get that chance back. Then we have all the sports that have just been nixed. Dance classes, karate classes, music classes, any class…….cancelled. Before covid19 if your child missed 5 days of a school a year you were hearing from the truancy office and being threatened. If your child caught the flu you better send them to school sick to infect everyone else because if you don’t you are going to be hearing from the truancy office. No, that’s not an exaggeration either. You can be convicted of a misdemeanor, fined and sentenced to jail, or even required to accompany your child to school for as long as the judge orders for matters of truancy. Look up the law and you’ll see. Most people are down with the flu for a week or more and are contagious a few days longer. People have to continue working so they have to keep sending their sick children to school or daycare even when they are sick, or they send them to a family member’s house. Sometimes daycares and schools won’t accept a child that is ill if they are fevered. So many campaigns for how important attendance is but now it’s not important at all. I would also like to note that Sweden did not shut schools down and their covid numbers are not any worse than the average US area with similar population.

Now let us go briefly to those that already have some other types of health challenges. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, chronic fatigue or other mood disorders. Now you take those people and tell them they can’t do anything but go to the store for essential items or take out. Let me remind you this is suppose to be a free country….the last one on earth. A depressed person is suppose to stay home and not go anywhere but to get take out or groceries. You can’t even shop online for retail therapy and get your amazon order for a few weeks or more because the government took that over too and mandated a shift to essentials. The devastation this has caused to peoples mental health is just not easy to explain. Depression can lead to a downward spiral so fast and when people are cooped up and prevented from doing things they usually do to help their mental health, it becomes a very dangerous time for them and their loved ones. Anxiety and panic attacks can also leave people feeling so out of control because their lives really are out of their control in a big way. The government has stepped in and taken control without permission.

Now let’s just take a look at how this is affecting some households. So this is May, and these stay at home to flatten the curve orders started March 16th on the federal level, then shortly after our governor declared his. That is almost 2 months now of businesses shutting down and people being without a job or income. Many of which still have not started to receive unemployment and still yet other that have not received a stimulus check. The stimulus is not enough to pay a months worth of bills and food for most families, let alone 2 months worth. I need to also reiterate that the governor can not prevent landlords from evicting people, and apparently can’t prohibit utility companies from shutting off service. They can request and recommend, but can not order. As a result, there are several people being evicted during these times and many more that will be this month especially as the courts start going back full force. Utility bills still pile up, rent still piles up, insurance premiums never stopped, phone bills never stopped, people still have piles of bills coming in that have to be paid. Cars getting repossessed. People losing homes to foreclosure. Things people have worked hard to obtain, gone at the stroke of a pen from 1 man. Owning your home, one of the biggest American dreams in the pursuit of happiness, is now one of the biggest burdens people face as they are close to losing something they put years of hard work, savings and planning into. I will add that they are at risk of losing everything at no fault of their own.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about businesses, one of the greatest American dreams. The fact that literally anyone can become an entrepreneur in America is what makes America one of the most sought out countries for people wanting freedom and the chance to pursue liberty, life and happiness. Small businesses make up over 50% of jobs in our country. That means that when small businesses die, jobs die with them, communities are greatly affected. We’ve seen how big box stores have ran the smaller, locally owned stores out of business during the 80’s and early 90’s. Now we are seeing how politicians, flawed so-called experts and media induced panic, can kill a huge majority of businesses across the board. Business owners are some of the most persistent, positive, dedicated, hard working people there are. Many have worked and saved half their lives to work up the plans and money they needed to start their businesses. They start from scratch and build a business from the ground up. Many do all functions and hold many titles. From building that customer base from zero to hundreds or thousands or more, to the cashier at the counter or the groomer taking care of your prized pet, or the local mechanic that keeps you safe on the road. These same small businesses know every employee by name and usually their employees families by name too. They see their employees as families. I’ve noticed especially in our state that there is usually a mutual respect in small businesses like no place else in the world. These same businesses and employees are also great supporters of their communities. These are the businesses that people reach out to for fundraising and sponsorship. These are the businesses that spend their earnings locally and help other businesses in the area. Imagine working hard at jobs you dislike most of your life scrimping and saving, and investing so that one day you can make a better life for yourself and start your own business. Have your own little slice of that American Dream Pie. Then the day comes when you finally do it! You’ve saved enough money, you’ve researched for years, you have your business plan all worked out, all the details are final and you are on your way. You have your insurance, your equipment, location, everything you need that has now taken up the majority of the savings you had earmarked for this. You do great! Your business takes off, you have employees so now you are helping other people make money too. Everything worked and you finally made it, you got your slice of the dream and it worked and it was worth every single time clock you ever punched. Then one day, fear set in to your country and your government says sorry you have to close. I don’t care about all of your hard work, your blood, sweat and tears, none of that is as important as us shutting you down to prevent people from coming into a public space and spreading a virus. Granted, at first no one knew much so 14 days to slow the spread seemed doable. However, give an inch they take a month, or 2 or 3 or in some case indefinite amounts of time as the tyranny and power trips grow. So by no fault of your own, your business is now shut down. Your insurance premiums still due. Utilities still due. Lease payments, debts, supplier tickets, website costs, processor fees, licensing fees, all still due and payable as well as any other business debt you may have….still due. Guess what? You now have zero income to pay any of those bills. Nada, Nothing. ZERO. Through no fault of your own. I heard from a race car driver the other day who had received sponsorship money for his racing that he now may not get to race and give them the publicity that they paid for. There’s no way for him to pay that back without racing and getting in front of the public eye. It is not just the burden of losing money that is killing people’s spirits. It’s the fact that businesses had to tell their workers that they no longer had a job for them. For most employers, that’s something they never want to have to do. They feel responsible for giving their employees a way to earn a living and when that is taken away from them, they feel responsible even in a time like this when they have absolutely no control. They still want to make sure their employees are taken care of, but many just had no possible way to do that. Unemployment was the only hope and many employees had to wait several weeks before they even received that and some are still waiting. I’ve seen more businesses than I’d like to count posting that they will be closing permanently due to this ordeal. Small restaurants ran by neighbors and friends that tried to adjust and remain open for takeout and delivery and they still just couldn’t survive. Most small mom and pop businesses can’t afford even the slightest down tick in business as there is such a thin line between their profits and their expenses. I have heard just countless stories about how people feel like they lost their life’s savings and life’s work and even future chance of retirement from the governor shutting their business down.

Gov. Justice said in a statement last week that over 10,000 medical field workers were laid off. This was the ONLY time I’ve heard any hint of him humanizing just how bad he has hurt people with his shut downs. I also heard him say he “isn’t going to listen to anyone”; and he isn’t, because he doesn’t want to hear how his shutdowns are adversely affecting people. He doesn’t want to give up his free air time in an election year. He doesn’t want to admit how he’s doing more harm than good in this situation. Instead he sits there and boasts about how many tests he is doing and how great WV has been handling this and how many times he’s going to be on Fox news because surprise surprise, WV is not NY and our cases are minimal yet he still has us restricted to the hilt. The Governor seems to have desensitized himself to the fact that he is not at all protecting his citizens and is instead, in fact, causing tremendous harm to them health wise, mental and physical health; and financially devastating most to the point of which many will not be able to escape.

In conclusion I would just like to say that when you hear people standing up for their freedom and wanting these stay at home orders dropped, please look pass the surface of whatever you might think, and realize these are real people, with real problems and issues that have faced and overcome so many challenges in their lives and in their business pursuits only to have their government rob them of everything they’ve ever had or worked for. It doesn’t mean they don’t value life. It means the exact opposite. It is because they value life that they rally and fight for their rights to keep living freely and to keep pursuing happiness and the liberty to earn a living, or own a home, or have that car they worked so hard for, or simply be able to provide for their family, their children, their loved ones. People should never take these freedoms so lightly. Death is an unfortunate part of our lives. But death is not what most people fear most; most people fear not living, not being happy, not achieving what they feel is successful. Most people fear not living more than they fear death. So instead of thinking this is an all or nothing situation, I would invite you to ponder that it could indeed be a scenario where both sides work. We know the precautions to take to slow the spread – hand washing, social distancing, sneezing/coughing into arm, and staying at home if we feel ill. People can always stay home if they aren’t ready to risk going out; although I’d say to this if you’ve been to the grocery store or done any in person shopping during this time, you’ve already encountered more people that you probably would during a normal day and time. The packed stores are more full of germs than anywhere and those masks that aren’t N95’s aren’t really protecting you. Regardless, even though businesses open and people can start to piece back together any sort of life boat that may be left to save their homes, their cars, or to get back into a home after being evicted, to pay those utilities and insurance bills and get the phones reconnected and hopefully business owners can salvage their hard earned lifes work but we know many won’t, even though all of this still goes on, don’t forget that you don’t have to go out. You can still choose to remain at home. It is only fair that here in America, the land of the FREE, that everyone get to choose whether they want to go out or stay home, whether they want to open their business or not, whether they want to work or not. The PEOPLE should be the ones choosing life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness or staying at home. We are the People….we need to be united on this. We are all in this together. This virus is not going anywhere, but our freedoms and our democracy will be going quick if we don’t #getwoke and take our freedoms back!

I want to be able to look at my children and grandchildren and tell them I did not sit idly by while my government tried to take away our rights, our freedoms, our liberties, and our American Dreams! I want to tell them I fought so that they too could enjoy the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness with minimal government intrusion. To quote a past president that seemed to understand this ideal: “Those that had the most to lose did the least to prevent it’s happening” Ronald Reagan

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