Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
I have been asked what will life be like in Vermont after the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are completely lifted, the economy is restarted and people attempt to return to what they once considered normal living. I doubt that anyone would know, but I have some hopes and some concerns. I use the word concerns instead of fears, for fear is what is driving our reactions now, and fear can only lead to bad endings.
Few could have imagined the impact that this unseen thing, the Covid-19 virus, could have on our state, our nation and indeed, the entire world! Just two months ago the nation’s prosperity seemed to be unstoppable with unemployment of all, including minorities, at all-time lows, job creation, wages and opportunity at all-time highs that included a stock market breaking record high levels on a regular basis.
During past difficult times, I have seen things that were severe and tested the will of the people, but I knew we would get through it and that our government was there to protect us as we picked ourselves up and went on with our lives. That included wars, diseases and economic downturns. I am an optimist by nature so I would say that such an attitude should be what I am feeling now but it is not. I see the possibility that all the challenges that were there before the crisis will remain and will be deepened in the wake of the pandemic. I cannot, having lived in Vermont and being very involved in daily politics, help but view what is happening through a filter of twenty years of misguided Democrat controlled government. Yet as a Republican and knowing what we stand for, I remain hopeful that we can get the train of good governance back on the tracks.
What we should do when the emergency has ended must be not to allow worshipping, schooling, legislative voting, meetings, being with our loved ones when they are old or sick to occur only on-line. If we are to use that online tool, we should do so because it is best for us and we should control that instead of it controlling us. The First Amendment free exercise of religion is restricted when the people cannot meet and corporately worship in the house of God that they built. We learn better in school with hands on teaching techniques. Our elected representatives are more accountable when, as the Constitution requires, they meet at the statehouse and allow personal interaction with the voters. We accomplish things better when we meet in person, look into a person’s eyes and read their body language. We must be able to touch and care for our loved ones. That is what humans are about. That is our strength! Dealing on-line alone with these things is so impersonal and will not bear the fruits we expect from our human experience.
My hope is that we will defeat this unseen enemy or at least control it so we can get back to meeting, greeting, hugging, shaking hands, not worrying about every move we make. The sound hygiene habits we have learned are good things that came from this and will keep us safe from other pathogens that are out there.
The recent shock coming from Jeb Spaulding’s announcement regarding possible closing of VSC schools is an example of the poor foundation the programs controlled by the Democrat/Progressives were built on. It is as if they built it on sand and when the winds and rain came, the structure could not stand. The Covid-19 pandemic was a head-wind that showed the weakness of the system that these liberals have created. It didn’t take long for the Chancellor, blaming the virus, to announce the closing of these campuses. The fiasco of the VSC system should be a wakeup to people to see the ineptness of the left. What will we see next that will require a bail out? Pensions, K-12 education and more await the dire outcome predictions from those who made the problems in the first place.
We must look out for our own. We are 30,000 students short and that number increases each year. We abort our babies; we encourage our seniors to use physician assisted suicide, drug overdose deaths are truly epidemic and we wonder why we have too few people and that our state is failing as a result. We create no opportunities for our youth and we close their schools. How can we expect to have the young stay and become productive citizens filling needed jobs when we do this?
What I would love to see is a transformational event to occur that will reshape the direction that Vermont will go in the future. We must get the economy rolling again. Vermont is a wonderful place to raise a family. It is a healthful environment and not crowded. We naturally social distance here. We must be mindful of disease, of our health, of our hygiene. I think this crisis has brought that to the forefront in people’s minds and doings. That is good. But we cannot live in a bubble. We must take some chances. Now more than ever we must be protective of our liberties and must stay true to them as we wisely move back into the societal contacts, caring and production that made America great.
The statement coined by President Trump is needed more now than ever. We must and will with Republican leadership “Make America Great Again.”