Jeff Ottney

Here’s a newsflash: People are experiencing a wide range of symptoms during the COVID-19 crisis. Some aren’t used to not working, some aren’t used to being told to stay at home — and some now finally realize that they have children. If consternation reigns in your world, it’s understandable.

However, given all of the factors to consider about the particular coronavirus that’s now afflicting us, we need to remember that there’s a flip side to everything. That means all forms of extremism are bad, regardless of the specific situation.

Please believe me: The last thing I want is to transmit a virus to anyone. But, when government, at any level, impinges anyone’s rights, respect for its citizens dictates a cogent explanation of why those rights would need to be suspended—and for how long.

The most intellectually honest thing that those in government can do is to pass a law, albeit temporary, which addresses the situation requiring a curbing of rights. Might there be very good reasons to prevent temporarily peaceably assembling? Of course -— but those reasons should be detailed for the public.

One form of extremism is demonstrated by thinking that staying home will save all lives. It may prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we know already that domestic violence and spousal abuse have increased.

Sadly, those behaviors can kill. And because of the ban on group meetings — including those for alcoholics and drug users — we know drug and alcohol use have increased lately. Also, fatal drug overdoses are on the rise for those who haven’t been able to attend their support groups.

On the other hand, those who claim they can go wherever and do whatever they want are also exhibiting a type of extremism. Believe it or not, your rights do end where others’ rights begin. Thus, the concern for our republic’s health may trump your individual rights in a time of a crisis. However, all of these above points raise questions about the future governance of our country.

For example, through cell phone data, the government tracked many of the spring breakers’ activities after they left Florida. Since then, Americans who have cell phones have had their movements tracked to monitor their social distancing efforts.

It’s time to admit that privacy, once coveted by Americans, is now chimerical. People now share on social media what years ago they would have never told anyone, unless it was perhaps in private conversation. And now, through the use of cell phone data, the government knows everywhere you have been.

Medical records are available online for most people, and those can be accessed legally, as well as through hacking. Perhaps it’s time to admit all of this and use it to challenge some aspects of the HIPPA law. Specifically, should parts of it be scrapped regarding the purchase of guns?

As much as I am a big supporter of the Second Amendment, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone thinks people who are mentally impaired should have firearms. And because privacy now is a joke, are people going to advocate tweaking HIPPA to prevent those who shouldn’t have firearms from getting them?

But, it’s not only a concern with privacy that the coronavirus is exposing. A common refrain from those who think that people should not venture outside their homes unless it is absolutely necessary often states that you might have COVID-19 and not know it. Therefore, you might be jeopardizing the health of the most vulnerable population. Fair enough.

So when it’s deemed okay to venture out, are those who held that position going to condemn abortion? After all, my public excursion may be injurious to others, which is sobering — but we know abortion destroys a life. Therefore, I would expect those who are getting angry at people who venture outside during the COVID crisis to be even angrier at those who destroy a fetus.

Let’s talk turkey. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults. If you truly feel the government has the right to dictate what Americans should do to preserve health, then by all means, let’s ban cheeseburgers.

If someone wants to harm themselves through dietary choices, that’s different than spreading a disease and possibly harming others, right? Except for this: Children’s eating habits are, for the most part, dictated by what their parents modeled by their eating habits. And those habits affect their kids for the rest of their lives.

No, I don’t want the guilt I would feel if I gave others COVID-19. But, I also feel we should use this moment as a springboard for discussion about other societal concerns once the corona danger passes. We also need to be willing to call out governmental folly and overreach.

Aristotle wrote that disproportion is the root of all evil. Any level of government that arrests its citizens for being in public areas, while simultaneously releasing criminals from jail to avoid getting COVID-19 while incarcerated, is deplorable and is being very disproportionate in its response to our current situation.

Jeff Ottney was a teacher at Titusville High School and was once the managing editor of Rollercoaster! magazine. While he owes his political views to Aristotle, Edmund Burke and George Will, he believes the most conservatizing experience one can have is becoming a parent. Ottney can be reached at

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