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Only YOU can prevent COVID-19

by CHUCK MALLOY
| December 14, 2020 2:39 PM

Gov. Brad Little has been hounded for his lack of “leadership” and “courage” in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Translation: He’s not doing a good job of pandering to either side.

Those to the left think quality leadership amounts to a statewide mask mandate that wouldn’t work in Idaho in a million years. Apparently, the thinking is that Idahoans would obediently accept such an edict, along with mounds of other restrictions in the state’s “Rebound” plan, and hunker down until the pandemic goes away. The problem is there are too many people — you’ve seen them on local and national newscasts — who would view non-compliance as a participation sport.

Those to the right view “courage” as essentially doing nothing — allowing business to go on as normal and letting the chips fall where they may. Little has placed Idaho in Stage 2 of the “Rebounds” plan in reaction to soaring COVID cases and in response to what health experts have been telling him.

“Leadership” is an easy word to kick around, when you have no other good solutions to offer, but it’s a difficult one to put in practice. Leadership works only if people are willing to follow, and there are not many people in the Gem State who appear to be willing to follow in relation to the coronavirus.

As the governor correctly writes in a recent opinion piece, “Communities, public officials and even families are at odds in their view on COVID-19 and the response to it. Never have we seen this level of divisiveness.”

Sometimes, the best form of leadership is providing a sense of calm during the most difficult of circumstances, and hat’s off to the governor for trying that approach. As he correctly puts it in his op-ed headline, “The enemy is the virus, not each other.”

He’s proposing a solution that has worked brilliantly for Republicans since the Reagan years. Personal responsibility. In fact, I can picture the old Gipper saying a few of the lines penned by Little.

“Everyone questions who is responsible for protecting ourselves, our loved ones, the economy, healthcare access, and our kids’ ability to learn in their classrooms. The answer is all of us. We are all responsible, each in our own way for doing our part to get us through this dark and difficult time.”

This was the kind of morale-boosting stuff Reagan was talking about as the nation was digging out of the “malaise” of the late 1970s.

“In our individual lives, we must do all we can to stay vigilant and consistently practice simple measures, including wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and crowds, and keeping physical distance from others. Government alone is not going to prevent a crisis in our healthcare system. It is up to each of us as individuals to make the right choices.”

Thanks, Ronnie … uhhh, Brad. We needed that.

The Royal Seniors, my bowling league on Mondays, are not waiting for political directives. We’re practicing social distancing, to the extent possible, and there is no fighting over mask-wearing. People are there for the same purpose — to enjoy bowling, friendship and good health. Taking simple precautions is a small price to pay for keeping the lanes open.

I cringe when I see calls for a statewide mask mandate. You don’t have to be in Idaho long to know that people here love guns. They also have a passion for things like “liberty” and “constitutional rights.” A mask mandate would be viewed in some corners as a declaration of war on those rights and there’s no telling where that would lead — or what characters would be storming into the state to fight that war.

No thank you. I prefer Little’s call for personal responsibility, along with some general respect for fellow Idahoans. I yield to the governor for closing.

“I know at times it can be hard to have compassion. But this Christmas season is a time to reflect on family, faith and unity. Choose to support others while seeking to understand those who do not view things the way you do. We should not let the pandemic divide us, but make us stronger.”

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.