Joshua Vinson photo

Amid any sort of crisis, Americans have always looked to our elected officials to calm us.

In my lifetime, I can still recall being a young boy watching former President George W. Bush addressing the nation after the September 11, 2001 attacks. I sat with my parents watching on, thinking things would be OK, even if at the moment uncertainty existed.

These moments happened throughout my life, from President Barack Obama wiping tears away after the Sandy Hook shootings to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker recently addressing the state about the coronavirus.

It seems like so long ago, in mid-March, listening to Pritzker explain that he was issuing a “stay at home order” for the entire state. So many questions ran through my mind at the time. Would I be able to go back home to Chicagoland? How would I go to work? What happens to my loved ones who are on the other side of the Mississippi River in Illinois?

At the time, and still, to this day, I believe Pritzker’s intentions are good. I believe him when he says he wants to keep Illinoisans safe.

“We are one Illinois,” Pritzker said. “We are one state.”

I agree with him wholeheartedly, but unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has become political, just like every other crisis we have gone through in recent times. The country was behind President Bush after 9/11, but as the war went on, the country grew tired.

For as long as I can remember, school shootings from Columbine to Sandy Hook turned into a debate about gun control. Now something as simple as staying 6 feet apart or wearing a mask and staying inside as much as possible has turned from doing what many would think is the “right” thing to do to “I should have a right to do what I want to.”

That is why Pritzker should just allow the parts of the state that want to reopen to reopen.

Though his intentions are good, the economy is hurting across Illinois. Additionally, in communities across Western Illinois, this virus is not running rampant like it is back home in Chicagoland. Yes, people can be asymptomatic and not know because they have yet to be tested, but they do not seem to care about that. And to be honest, that is their right.

People have lost so much during this pandemic, and it is unrealistic to believe that they could “stay at home” and “do their part” like the governor has been urging.

Politics aside, I understand people’s perspectives who live in rural areas and are not being impacted by this virus as Chicagoland has been. Look at Carroll County, for example: The Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting that county, with a population of around 14,000, has had 14 positive cases.

If they believe they are safe and want to go out, they should be allowed to.

I understand the governor’s points about not overburdening local hospitals with a potential outbreak. That is practical. But the governor should allow the local municipalities to draw their playbooks based on what is happening in their areas; the same could be said about various cities and counties throughout the rest of the state.

Yes, Gov. Pritzker, you are right, we are one Illinois, but take it from me, Chicagoland is like another world compared to here in so many ways, specifically when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

Allow other areas of Illinois to make their own decisions and lend support to them.

Although there are so many unknowns with this virus, the people in this area are more concerned about the businesses that they have worked their entire lives to build and less about the pandemic that is going on. Allow them to tackle this pandemic in how they see fit and be the governor that backs them.

If you do that, then you will be remembered as a leader who was respected by everyone.

Joshua Vinson is a Clinton Herald staff writer.