Opinion: ‘I believe we all want the same thing’

Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance shares his latest thoughts on the impacts of the stay-at-home orders in place to address the coronavirus pandemic

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the coronavirus pandemic has become a divide in ideology in our state and in our country. It seems like we’re constantly divided by our fundamental beliefs.

Yesterday, four Republican lawmakers, and others, filed a lawsuit in federal court, suing Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, seeking to end his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy’’ order. The lawsuit alleges that the continuing restrictions for workers, businesses and residents are not legally justified and contends that the COVID-19 “emergency has been contained.’’ It is now the third lawsuit filed in Washington challenging the governor’s actions.

Yesterday, Clark County Today reported on a Facebook group, named Reopen Washington State, with over 30,000 members. We have reported on several protests that have taken place in our state in recent days and weeks, including one on Friday on the steps of the Clark County Courthouse, attended by about 100 area residents including Rep. Vicki Kraft, of Vancouver.

“I went to the rally yesterday to stand up for the 7.6 million Washingtonians across the state — many, if not most, whose overall health and well-being: emotional, mental, spiritual, financial and/or physical is suffering as a direct result of Governor Inslee’s extended stay at home order,’’ Kraft wrote to me in a Saturday email. “It’s past time to get Washington safely re-opened and get people back to life and living.’’

On Friday, Clark County Today asked area residents on our Facebook page whether or not the governor should extend his stay-at-home order beyond May 4? We only had the poll up for a few hours before Gov. Inslee announced his extension to May 31 and 3,600 of you responded. The results were overwhelming (84 percent) that he shouldn’t. That is far from a scientific representation of everyone in our community or our state. You can dismiss it or accept it as you wish.

I absolutely acknowledge that there is also a significant number of Washingtonians who agree with the governor’s decisions. I hear from those of you who hold each viewpoint.

We want the same thing

Here’s where some of you may disagree with me. I believe we all want the same thing. I believe we want the coronavirus pandemic to be over with and that we all want life to go back to as close to normal as possible. I believe we all want the stay-at-home orders lifted, we may just disagree as to the timeline for doing so. I believe none of us want our economy to continue to spiral into the abyss the way it is and I don’t think any of us want the impacts of this economic crisis to last for years rather than months.

As I pointed out above, our differences are quite obviously being presented along an ideological divide. Most Conservatives and Republicans are fighting for the stay-at-home orders to be lifted and Liberals and Democrats are supporting Inslee’s more methodical approach. The divide between us isn’t simply along those ideological and party lines, but I think the evidence suggests it is more so than not.

I actually believe those of us who are divided often actually agree more than we realize. We want the same things, for the most part. Things like safety, prosperity, health, happiness and well-being. The fundamental difference between us is how do we achieve those things and what role should the government play in that?

Being conservative, or being liberal, means something different to each of us, I believe. For me, fundamentally, I believe I most often line up on the right side of most issues, but you would be surprised how often I don’t. I assess each issue independently.

For me, at the core of my ideology is the belief in a smaller, less-intrusive government. I believe that is the most efficient path to achieving those pursuits I listed above. So, I approach the stay-at-home orders the exact same way. I don’t need President Trump of Governor Inslee to tell me how I should decide to keep myself protected from COVID-19. And, I don’t believe you need to be told how to protect yourself. Take the information we’re being provided on a daily basis and make your own decisions.

The Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, was ridiculed recently when she stated publicly that she wouldn’t give businesses in her city guidelines for social distancing. She said, “they better figure it out, that is their job.’’ She was mocked and laughed at. She became a punch line. But, it made perfect sense to me. It’s the free enterprise system. It’s the United States of America. If a business owner doesn’t operate his or her business in a responsible manner, they won’t be in business very long will they?

The value of a human life

If that last thought of mine doesn’t earn me ridicule, this last one just might. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made headlines yesterday during a pitch to get the U.S. economy reopened.

“Are there ways that we can thread the middle here to allow that there are going to be deaths, and there are going to be deaths no matter what?” Christie asked during a CNN interview, during which he insisted that the U.S. needs to end its coronavirus lockdown in spite of recently reported projections showing a spike in potential fatalities.

I know some of you will tell me, “if it means saving even one life, we need to keep it shut down.’’ But, seriously, where is the balance?

Our leaders are forced to concede deaths are a casualty in many decisions they make on a regular basis. Should we go to war? Should we have a military presence around the world? Should we provide aid, whether domestic or abroad? Should we fund this program or that one? I could go down a very deep rabbit hole here. The bottom line is, our leaders make difficult, life-or-death decisions each and every day. Why should this pandemic be any different?

There are casualties from the collateral damage to the economic crisis that is taking place that I’m confident we will be able to quantify at some point in the near future. How many suicides will be related to those who have lost their jobs, or businesses? How much crime is being committed right now? How many people are suffering from incidents of domestic violence? The list goes on and on. Lost life due to COVID-19 shouldn’t be the only thing we’re posting on the scoreboard right now.