MINOT, N.D. — What first attracted me, as a young man, to a generally conservative ideology was the notion of personal responsibility.
The idea that overweening, busybody government wasn't necessary because we are pretty damn good at taking care of ourselves and our communities when left to our own devices.
I still believe this to be true.
Unfortunately, in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakotans, a conservative lot on the whole, have given those with a left-of-center viewpoint a powerful talking point against laissez-faire governing.
Many conservatives have taken up the notion that being conservative means being obstinate.
If the "mainstream media" or left-wing academia tells us to do something then, by golly, we're going to do the opposite.
I understand this impulse.
I often feel it, too.
Newsrooms are overrun with left-wing viewpoints. Modern journalists are sanctimonious about their objectivity even as they're filling up their social media profiles with liberal snark.
As if we can't see it.
We aren't stupid.
Meanwhile, academia operates in a political bubble. Conservative viewpoints are not only largely absent from our campuses but are deeply unwelcome there. Yet we're supposed to believe this ideological ossification doesn't impact the academic work they do.
These journalists, academics and public health officials have banded together to tell us that COVID-19 is a crisis.
They're right. It is a crisis. It's a terrible virus exacting a terrible toll on North Dakota, the nation and the world.
The problem is, those folks have been telling us everything is a hair-on-fire emergency for years. Apocalyptic headlines about some new "study," not to mention breathless TV anchors issuing dire warnings in their carefully curated nonregional cadences, have become so common as to be cliche.
Comedy institutions such as "Saturday Night Live" and The Onion have made a lot of money mocking it.
Those chickens have come home to roost.
Between the palpable bias, and the long history of sensationalism, when COVID came calling, many Americans, and in particular, conservatives to whom the academics and journalists are so frequently hostile, didn't buy it.
But that's not an excuse.
Being conservative means being personally responsible.
It means advocating for the government to leave us room to be personally responsible.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, we haven't been responsible.
We have replaced responsibility with obstinance born of a very deep, and in many ways earned, mistrust and dislike of the institutions telling us to wear masks and modify our lifestyles.
It costs us.
The worst cost isn't negative media attention. We'd get that anyway. The journalists love finding new ways to prove to themselves that their low opinions of us are justified.
The true cost is in death and suffering caused not just by COVID-19, directly, but our overrun health care facilities, which currently can't serve everyone who needs care, be it related to the virus or not.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.