We find ourselves in an extraordinary period where our inalienable rights and liberties have been temporarily curtailed. In particular, of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the latter two have been curtailed with an aim to preserve the life of more citizens.
We can and should question and debate the boundaries of these restrictions and be unhampered to advocate against any portion of them that we believe are unnecessary. This is especially true when decisions are made by executive authority rather than by our elected deliberative bodies. I saw written somewhere online words to the effect of “extraordinary restrictions should come with extraordinarily clear justification.” Whether you agree with that proposition (I do), more generally citizens of all stripes have a right to express their opinions. I have noted before that Tennessee’s founding principles take some of the strongest stances towards liberty rather than obedience, consent rather than dictation, and trust of the individual.
Others in our community and nation have voiced their concerns over how to balance the lives of those at high risk with the lives, rights, and futures of all citizens. I consider that discussion very worthwhile, and at no point should that debate be unwelcome. When we consider the balance of present and future lives, I implore us to also remember the citizens of the past. To secure our liberties and build our country, so many of the past sacrificed greatly, in dangerous jobs, deferred dreams, and of course giving their lives in battle. In light of their sacrifice, I argue that we have a moral duty to question, debate, and dissent. I advise those of you in the thick of this debate to consider if your words and actions honor the purpose of the sacrifices of those who came before us. Only you can decide the answer, but please be sure to ask yourself the question.
Finally, a word to our executive officials and those advising them: no one envies your job right now in these uncertain times. Nonetheless, you cannot afford to forget that you do not speak to us, you speak for us.