• Last modified 1060 days ago (July 29, 2021)


A dose of reality

A quick trip to downstate Illinois this week provided new evidence that what goes around comes around.

After 25 years as a journalism professor and 20 more as an editor at a metropolitan daily (with a few double-dips as an administrator and Internet entrepreneur), it’s time to start Career No. 3 back where it all began — in a town where I was born and grew up, at a newspaper I first invested in as a silent, unpaid partner 23 years ago.

After jobs that have taken me from Tokyo to London and everywhere in between, a year and a half of pandemic-inspired relocation and remote teaching from the Record’s newsroom convinced me that Marion, Kansas, really is the best place I’ve seen — even if it sometimes is a place where reality has a hard time setting in.

Other than mounds of paperwork and days of house work that need completing, the most noteworthy difference found while visiting what no longer will be my official residence was how residents there and here are responding to COVID-19.

In Marion, it’s last year’s news. In Champaign-Urbana, it’s next year’s.

If you believe — as you most definitely should — acknowledged experts who initially questioned President Trump’s COVID strategies and now are questioning President Biden’s, we’re facing another flare-up around Halloween, just as we did last year.

Forget garbage posted by quacks and alarmists on anti-social media and aired on TV channels pandering to the ill-informed. If America doesn’t get a greater percentage of its population immunized, we’re never going to get rid of what can be, though isn’t always, a killer disease. Even 5% of the vaccinated will be at risk for catching it.

Yes, we’re all sick and tired of worrying about whether we’re going to be sick and tired. But before we bankrupt not just ourselves and our nation but also the world by failing to notice warning signs, it’s time to consider a different approach.

Rarely do we find wisdom in anything done by pro sports leagues or even the supposedly amateur sport of college football, where Oklahoma and Texas are leaving Kansas and Kansas State high and dry to become part of the NFL’s don’t-worry-about-education triple-A farm system, the SEC.

There’s some sense, however, in how the NFL plans to adapt to COVID-19. It understands, as we do, that some people simply don’t want to be told they have to get vaccinated, wear masks, or socially distance themselves. But it also recognizes that these same people, who like to talk about accepting personal responsibility, should be willing to accept responsibility for their actions.

In the NFL’s case, it means big fines and game forfeitures for those who scoff at pandemic precautions. That’s only fair to those who take the precautions. Why should they be victimized by those who don’t?

The same could hold true for the general population. At the University of Illinois, from which I am retiring, unless you have a medical or religious reason not to be vaccinated, you can’t come on campus — period. A similar rule for those old enough to obtain vaccinations should be applied in public school districts, too.

To encourage vaccination among others, a simple law could be written. If you choose not to be vaccinated, that’s your business. But if you make that choice, you no longer qualify for stimulus checks, extra unemployment benefits, and forgivable business loans — all of which you have 30 days to repay if you’ve already received them.

If you think COVID’s a myth, that’s your right. But don’t let your rights interfere with other’s by expecting a handout for something you don’t believe in.

That’s what personal responsibility is about.


Last modified July 29, 2021