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Opinion | Gov. Whitmer needs our help in this crisis. That's common sense.

Beth Bowen

Senator Mike Shirkey argues for common sense changes to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order. All too often, we are seeing the term common sense used to weaponize ignorance against expertise. In the advent of social media which gives a public voice to everyone, confidence in one’s opinion has been elevated to a stature equal to scientific, medical, engineering, economic and historical expertise. People who study these fields for years, immerse themselves in them, are somehow deficient compared to someone who shouts loudly about a personal experience they once had or how their parents raised them.

The most important place to begin with COVID-19 is that we do not know very much about it. That’s the common sense approach. Assume we know nothing and start gathering hard data. That’s what the call for testing, antibody research, and contact tracking is all about. Learning. Data. Science. Not opinion or shouting.

Disease doesn’t follow civil rights. It doesn’t care if you are a proponent of the 2nd amendment. It doesn’t care if your small family business has been around for three generations. It is disease. It is opportunistic, looking for a warm body in which to grow.

The world has not faced a disease like COVID-19 for 100 years. That means that a vast majority of the people alive today have no memory of the last time something ripped through a population, felling old and young alike. Families were devastated; the economy was hurt. Businesses failed. And yet, we went on to the successes of the 20th century.

In the absence of a cohesive national strategy for trying to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, governors of each state have had to fulfill their oaths of office and protect the people they were elected to govern. Some governors have faced thousands of infected citizens and thousands of deaths. Others have had a smattering of cases and very few deaths.

But, again, acknowledging that we know very little about this disease, there is no blueprint for how to run a state facing these kinds of challenges. Funding for public health, like roads, schools, and other public ventures, has been gutted in recent decades under the guise of lower taxes. There are too few professionals trained in epidemiology, the study of disease. There are too few resources dedicated to the possibility of an outbreak like this.

The government doesn’t take taxes from us. We pay the government to provide us with services that we all want and all use. We all want clean water, safe roads, responsive police and fire departments. And we all have to pay for such conveniences of a civil and modern society.

This legacy of unprepared public services is not necessarily the fault of the current occupants of any elected office. All we can do from here is our best to cope with what we have. Blame is pointless. Solving problems is the order of the day.

Governor Whitmer is in constant consultation with as many public health experts as she can to understand the best steps to take to protect people’s lives. Whether you voted for her or not, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, whether you live in Onekama or Detroit, she is working to protect you and your family. She is working to protect people she doesn’t know, might never meet, and yet still cares for.  And she is putting protections in place, even though she knows many will be unpopular.  The need to act swiftly and with decisiveness and clarity overrides a more nuanced and strategic approach that might be appropriate in “normal” circumstances. Doing what is right, rather than what is popular or politically expedient is a sign of integrity and leadership.

And she needs our help.

Every person who is financially and situationally able to stay home, to stop visiting stores for anything beyond food and health supplies, to put off travel and home improvement projects, to postpone elective surgery, and to put up with a little inconvenience can help and be a part of the solution.

Governors are the most visible part of the fight against COVID-19 at the state level. But it’s up to all of us to be on the team. It’s up to every Michigander who can to help every Michigander who can’t. It’s time to protect our workers in food service, in utilities, in waste management, in healthcare, in public service, and in transportation. These are the necessities of life that will pull us through this crisis. Everything else is secondary right now.

Right now. Not forever. Right now.

We can kick the ass of this disease if we work as a team and look out for each other. Michigan is strong enough to do that. Michigan is strong enough to build a future that will be more resilient to another crisis like this.

“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate. This is the dilemma we face, but it should not stop us from doing what we can to prepare. We need to reach out to everyone with words that inform, but not inflame. — Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ask yourself: Are you informing or inflaming the people of Michigan? Are you solving problems or creating new ones? Are you helping people or hurting them?

Signed,
Leaders of StateWide Indivisible Michigan - SWIM

Beth Bowen, Eaton County Indivisible
Sherri Masson & Liz Estes, Indivisible Huron Valley
Deb Parker, Indivisible In The Thumb
Allison Wilcox, Women Of MI Action Network (WOMAN)
Victoria Gutowski, Leelanau Indivisible
Matt Barkley, North Oakland Indivisible Team
Laurie Lisi, Indivisible Fighting 9
Shirley Kaigler, Indivisible Metro Detroit Women
Paula Martinos-Mantay, StateWide Indivisible Michigan
Michelle Pallas, StateWide Indivisible Michigan
Ruthette Mills, Indivisible Central UP
Linda Lauer, Monroe Resists
Lynne Cavazos, Indivisible Advocates For Humanity
Terri McKinnon, Our Revolution Jackson County
Terri McCormick, Troy Indivisible
Christina Jacobs, Kalamazoo Indivisible
Denise Benjamin, Lenawee Indivisible
Jenn Garland, Indivisible MI 14th District
PJ Edwards, Detroit
Patricia McDade-Ralya, Brenda Lindsay, Gayle Snyder, Indivisible Livingston County Sylvia McCullough, Indivisible Traverse City
John DeSpelder, Indivisible Grand Traverse
Shellie Jeffries, Indivisible Greater Grand Rapids

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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