Until about 45 days ago, the COVID-19 pandemic remained, what philosophers refer to as, an Existential Risk. According to the 2008 Global Catastrophic Risks Survey conducted by Oxford University, the probability of a worldwide natural pandemic killing a million people by the year 2100 was 60%; double the chances of a nuclear war inflicting the same number of deaths. Whether COVID-19 will ultimately inflict that many casualties remain to be seen. I pray not.
Now that a worldwide pandemic has become an objective reality here in South Carolina, all of us have been struggling to flatten out our learning curve. We simply have not encountered this type of global health threat. After this pandemic passes, we will have time to examine our preparedness but for now let’s follow the strong advice of our health professionals and our Governor to stay home and to stay away from each other. I know. When the weather turns warm our mountains, lakes and beaches beckon and it is hard not to socialize. We are Southerners, of course.
As a freedom loving people, South Carolinians have a long heritage of resisting being told what to do. We still hold dear what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence where he asserted our natural rights – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That seems like a good logical ordering. We cannot have the possibility of Happiness without Liberty. We cannot have Liberty if we do not have Life. That is why, as a conservative House member, I have always been a strong supporter of the pro-life movement. I came to be pro-life not to check off a policy box on a campaign survey but from the harsh reality of losing my first son at the age of three. With his loss, I lost part of my future and society lost any contribution that he might have made for the public good.
Having been a pro-life supporter for many years, I cannot understand the position of my fellow conservatives who have taken a very utilitarian approach to the current COVID-19 pandemic. I am surprised because the logic that the economic loss of attempting to mitigate the pandemic should be weighed against the loss of life, especially among the elderly, sharply resembles the same logic used by the Planned Parenthood crowd that declares that it is a woman’s right to choose to terminate her baby out of economic necessity.
Being a House member, I receive daily updates from DHEC listing the number of new COVID-19 cases, the number who have died from COVID-19 complications along with a description of their age and if they had an underlying health condition. We should note that the only difference between dying from COVID-19 versus dying with it is that those who die with it died unnecessarily. Long gone are the days when, as Faulkner observed, that in the South the past is never dead, it is not even past. With the premature loss of the elderly, we lose part of our past and it seems that some who claim to be “pro-life” are the first ones who are encouraging the spread of the catalyst that contributes to this premature loss.
Those who call for South Carolina to quickly return to business as usual would like for us to believe that that the threat from COVID-19 is limited to the elderly. The virus remains highly dangerous to all people who come in close contact with others especially to our first responders and our healthcare workers. If we are really fighting a war against this virus, the best way to show them our support is to listen to their mitigation advice.
I was relieved that our Governor finally explained his reasoning against issuing a mandatory stay-at-home order. I commend him for raising his concerns about potential violations of our constitutional rights, especially our First and Second Amendment rights. I believe that he has performed his constitutional duty to “provide for the common defense.”
However, with Liberty sometimes it becomes necessary for freedom-loving people to not exercise those rights. That is the responsibility that comes with Liberty – a responsibility that we owe to our families, neighbors and community to stay at home during this most unusual time. Our Governor has put a lot of faith into the belief that South Carolinians can remember this.