McFeely: For those screeching about freedom, it's really about selfishness

Forum columnist Mike McFeely

Strange thing about viruses. They don't recognize borders. They don't stop at state lines, county lines or city limits. They don't care.

And so when states, counties or cities — or, more crucially, residents of those places — cavalierly say that government can't tell them what to do, by God, and go about their daily lives like we weren't in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, it is the height of selfishness.

Not liberty. Not freedom. Not God-given rights.


This might come as a surprise to those spouting off about the rights of individuals and the property taxes they pay on their lake cabins, but you don't live in a vacuum. The single most important person in your world might be you, but you're still a member of a broader society. Unfortunately, in some cases.


So when a place like Otter Tail County, Minn., kindly asks lake cabin owners from Minnesota, North Dakota and everywhere else to stay away for a couple of weeks because of concern about their elderly population, it's not about you. It's about the most vulnerable.


Or when people in neighboring states are nervous about the Gov. Kristi Noem-led clown show in South Dakota, it's not about the wussification of America. It's about relatives and friends who might be particularly susceptible to the virus.
This is not a tyrannical government taking away your liberty. It's a neighbor asking for a simple favor.

It's all in the name of the greater good, a concept foreign to those loudest mouths screeching about how nobody's going to tell them how to live.

We're all in this together. Unless you're wearing a tin-foil hat, think you live in a bubble and are convinced this is a Nancy Pelosi plot to enslave you.

Everybody is frustrated. Everybody knows the economy is tanking. Everybody wants things back to normal. Everybody, even Democrats and the media.

Problem is, as one Twitter wag so adroitly wagged, a herd is only as strong as its dumbest cow. So even if 75% of the Don't Tread on Me crowd is at least aware of the concepts of infectious disease and exponential growth, it's the other 25% that are the problem.

Remember the old junior high school tool about pennies used to learn about exponential growth? The one about earning one penny the first day of the month and having your pay double every day?


You'll only earn 2 cents the second day and 4 cents the third day. By the 10th day, you'll still only make $5.12. Pretty slim pickings.

But by the 20th day, earnings are more than $5,000. You'll earn more than $1 million on the 28th day and by the time the 31st rolls around, you'll make more than $10 million. Just for that day.

That's the explosion we're trying to avoid because a virus doesn't care about a border.

It's not difficult, if you can stop posting Facebook memes and think about your neighbors instead of yourself.

Come to think of it, not being selfish is too heavy a lift for some.

Opinion by Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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