By Jordan Davidson

Just this last Friday, Governor Abbott allowed Texas to stop all shelter in place orders and “allow businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen but with limits on occupancy to 25%.” This decision is notably controversial as recorded cases of COVID-19 within the United States have reached over one million. Between protests against government mandated orders and opinion editorial pieces urging local, state, and federal officials to keep people at home, there is no shortage of opinions about the issue. 

Although we all have our own beliefs about when the best time is to open everything up, one thing is for sure: our freedom of choice is non-negotiable. 

One of the biggest and arguably the most essential pieces of our nation’s history, constitution, and livelihood is the freedom and ability to choose what we do, why we do something, and how we do it. Some of these choices have the potential to reap benefits such as receiving a college degree and having better job opportunities while others, like drinking and driving, have the potential to inflict massive consequences. Whether we use the freedom we are granted to make smart and helpful decisions or not is our choice. 

If the people want to protest government mandates on mask wearing and stay at home orders, let them. If they want to stay inside and work from home in order to wait out the virus, let them. Both of these actions have an impact on others, but are ultimately individual choices.

Believe it or not, the difference in being required to stay at home and choosing to stay at home is a big one. Yes, the action of staying home will hopefully garner an end result of protecting yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19 and continue to flatten the curve, but it completely eliminates someone’s ability to decide how to live. 

The means do not always justify the end. 

We cannot compromise the health of our nation and its principles just because we encounter difficult circumstances. Yes, it is important to be adaptable. Sometimes this means the government must mandate and restrict certain behaviors, but the government should never prohibit someone’s ability to choose and make decisions about their lives and how to live them.

Instead of debating whether or not people or the economy is more important, let’s focus our energy on making our own choices. It can be your decision to go shopping at a retail store knowing the risk that you may be exposed to and contract COVID-19. It can also be your decision to stay at home and do your part in flattening the curve. The most important element of these actions is that they are your choice.

The freedom of choice does come at a cost, but it’s a price that Americans should be willing to pay to keep our nation’s livelihood alive. Choose wisely.