Moving Lebanon County to Yellow

Today, two of Lebanon County’s commissioners approved a resolution to defy Governor Wolf’s restrictions and move the county to the yellow phase of reopening, despite not meeting the requirements established by the Department of Health to do so. Commissioner Litz was the lone dissenting commissioner. This move was encouraged and cheered on by other local officials, including my state representative and senator.

This is an unprecedented and challenging time, and I can empathize with the pain and frustration some of my fellow citizens are facing. I can understand why a small business owner, facing the loss of their livelihood, would want to reopen. I can understand why a worker, faced with loss of income and a severely overwhelmed unemployment compensation system, would want to be able to return to work.

What I can’t understand is how elected officials, rather than working to address those issues (as well as increased testing, contact tracing measures, PPE for medical workers, and other items that would help us move into yellow and green), would instead turn this into a partisan shouting match that not only endangers lives, but puts these same businesses and workers at further risk due to the consequences of moving forward with this action.

Even more hypocritical, these same officials are now urging constituents to follow the guidance for yellow phase – despite their own actions, which indicate that rules and laws are only to be followed when you agree with them. Like Pandora, I fear that they may discover that the box they have opened has far more serious repercussions than they may have imagined.

All of that said, and even in these highly partisan times, I still believe that there is more to unite us than divide us. Like it or not, we all share our towns, our state, our country – and more importantly, our humanity. I like to focus on the businesses that have followed the guidelines, that are doing their best to protect their workers and customers, and that are urging patience and humanity. I respect the people who are risking their lives, from medical professionals to grocery store clerks, and many others in between. And I respect those who follow the rules, while still working to address the problems using the proper means and channels. And finally, I respect those who care enough about others to endure personal inconvenience for the greater good of our community.

While it would be nice to say “just stay home if you want to and let the rest of us go about our business,” the truth is we are all in this together. I believe there are enough likeminded people that we can still overcome this challenge, even as our leaders abandon their responsibilities and take the easy way out, encouraging actions that have serious repercussions for many of their constituents, but not for themselves personally. Nelson Mandela said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Let’s all live in a way that promotes true freedom.