By Dr. Jim Ferguson

I have to admit that the more I listen to “experts” the more confused I become. As a citizen and physician, I believe it is my duty to stay informed. So, I read widely.  And I watch the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings.

Admittedly, I have an a priori bias. We all do – at least those who have a mind. I am a conservative, but I regularly read so-called liberal websites and watch Democrat-progressive media. Though I disagree with much of their philosophies, I believe they have a right to speak. It is disturbing that these basic American civil liberties are being eroded under the guise of political correctness and hate-speech. And now we are confronted with demands for conformity of behavior by the dictates of some governors, mayors and politicos.

A German philosopher by the name of Hegel came up with what we now call the Hegelian dialectic. In Hegel’s idea of a “conversation,” one side presents a thesis or position. Then, another challenges or counters the thesis with an antithesis. The two sides go back and forth and finally come to a synthesis. This dialogue is only possible when the two sides have a mutual respect for each other. Unfortunately, respect is often absent in the current American environment.

Admittedly, I’ve become a skeptic as I’ve aged and experienced life, yet I’m still willing to listen where a cynic is not. I’ve written of James Fowler’s stages of development. Children are mightily influenced by parents. Later, they increasingly discover the outside world and realize their parents are not gods. In the teenage years the group-think of peers and teachers assume Olympian importance. In the twenties, thirties and forties people discover their own truths through trials and tribulations. Finally, most achieve a level of sophistication where reason and tolerance provide balance to emotion and propaganda. Rare people achieve the “sixth stage” of enlightenment where selflessness is operative.

In the quest of truth, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said scripture should be sifted through experience, tradition and reason. I believe Wesley’s quadrilateral should be applied to all aspects of life.

As a result, I now approach everything I hear and see with a measure of skepticism. I retain an open mind, so I will listen. But then I form my own opinion driven by conscience, experience, tradition and reason.

I no longer have a juvenile mindset and I resent being told what to do, especially when dictates violate the Constitution. As an example, the governor of New Jersey admitted he didn’t consider the First Amendment in his coronavirus dictates, nor have the governors of Michigan, California and lots of mayors.

A cynic is someone who no longer considers the perspectives of others and is so self-righteous that they are lost to reason and, apparently, The Constitution. While I believe Typhoid Marys do not have the right to harm others, locking everyone up in their homes rather than T. Mary is illogical and a violation of the rights of free men. But I suspect these nascent totalitarian officials are not stupid. They’re just using the crisis to gain more power.

Apparently, these dictatorial functionaries do not understand “guidelines.” As our civic duty, my family has been following the president’s guidelines and has been sheltering in place for almost forty days and nights. (The biblical number 40 is often symbolic for a “long time,” but for us it’s real.) We will continue to be cautious, avoid crowds and use sanitizers. But I believe it is time to renounce fear and live again.

A friend of mine recently challenged me with the notion of an “essential” job. Though I understand the military is essential, as are truckers and medical folks, my friend opined that all jobs are essential in a viable economy and country. Her reasoned perspective changed mine. I told her she should explain this to the governors and mayors mentioned above. We should remain careful, but Boo Radley must come out (as in “To Kill a Mockingbird”).

One of my many information sources is the alternative media of talk radio. I heard an interesting interview of three millennials in their twenties regarding the coronavirus crisis. The youngest was focused on health after a friend’s grandfather died of Covid-19. Another, a bit older, was focused on recent graduates with debt who won’t be able to get a job. The last was bummed out that sports were cancelled. Personally, I worry about my children and grandchildren’s future more than my own.

I heard another interview with the noted UT economist Bill Fox. He said the recovery of our country and economy will depend on you and me, the consumer. Well said, professor.

I often reflect on our crisis and what the country should do. We shut down the economy and retreated to our caves on the basis of other countries’ experience with Covid-19 and disease projection models. These models have been repeatedly wrong. Our leaders told us we must all go into quarantine for protection and to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system. We can debate whether that was what should have been done. However, we now know that the greatest risk of serious illness with coronavirus is in older people and especially those with hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The issue is now whether we should protect those at risk from death and set the rest of the country free. Sweden has taken this approach and it appears to have been successful.

I have worked all my life and lived frugally, so the Chinese Communist Plague has been less impactful for me than many others. Protests are rising as jobs disappear and savings are exhausted. The government cannot print enough money to make up the difference for a suspended twenty-two trillion-dollar economy. (I guarantee Congress, government workers and the media are still drawing paychecks.)

It is time to choose livelihood by taking some risks. I am in a higher risk group because of my age and hypertension. Going forward, I should be even more careful than the general population. I accept the risk for my children’s future.

Governor Lee and Mayors Jacobs and Kincannon, we must open up, sooner than later. Let the American people choose their degree of risk and necessity.