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OPINION

North Carolinians are a recalcitrant people

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The uncooperative attitudes some are currently exhibiting brings back memories of North Carolina’s history of recalcitrance.  

In 1677, Culpeper’s rebellion unseated the governor for two years. In protest of Governor Tryon’s burdensome taxes, a group named the Regulators engaged in a battle in Alamance County against the royal governor. 

In 1765, colonists in Wilmington held a mock funeral in defiance of the Stamp Act, and we all remember those ladies in Edenton who refused to pay taxes on English tea, substituting a brew steeped from Yaupon leaves. 

On May 20, 1775, some 80 citizens of Mecklenburg signed the first Declaration of Independence and the 1776 Halifax Resolves was passed by the colonial assembly. The best example was our state’s refusal to ratify the 1787 Constitution until a Bill of Rights was attached. 

Our independent streak runs deep, but those protests were intended to benefit many, not just a few. Governments function because of the “consent of the governed.” Anarchy results if too many refuse their consent. Currently, our refusal to consent to reasonable restrictions will ensure the coronavirus will spread faster, more will die and we will further delay the return to more normal times. 

Our doctors, nurses and specialists have few tools with which to fight COVID-19. No vaccine is expected to be available for widespread distribution until early next year. There are no therapeutic treatments widely accepted, however, the very expensive drug remdesivir is showing modest success. Steroids are less costly and appear to help in other instances. 

Responsible scientists, epidemiologists and government leaders are fast to say they are learning more about this virus every day and applying that knowledge to fight it. Their best preventatives at this moment are to avoid close contact with others as much as possible, wear facial coverings and wash hands frequently. 

Everyone is weary from the restrictions, from deaths, the economic chaos and from the disruptions to our lives. We refuse to give credence to conspiracy theories that some in positions of authority are deliberately trying to prolong our agony or distort the data for some personal or political gain. We all want this to go away, which makes it hard to understand those unwilling to cooperate to help make it happen. 

There are still those who refuse to accept the severity of this pandemic or the data compiled by scientists. They must think they can, by sheer determination, avoid COVID-19 and it will go away. They protest and refuse to accept the authority of leaders earnestly striving to do what’s best for the most. They cite their rights as reasons not to wear face masks, keep safe distances or follow any other dictates they don’t like.  

Here’s my spin: I have long admired North Carolinians’ independence but am even more proud of our history of pulling together for the common good in times of crisis. Much of what I see now feels ugly, self-serving, divisive, petulant and uncaring. Remember that people didn’t like having to wear seat belts, but they obeyed this and other laws for safety reasons.

The only plan I’ve heard from those who don’t like our governor’s executive orders is to just let everything reopen. Ask folks in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas what happens when restrictions were relaxed too soon. They are now trying to put the genie back in the bottle and finding it isn’t easy to reinstate restrictions.

There is a time for recalcitrance and a time for cooperation. This moment requires cooperation.

Tom Campbell is a former assistant North Carolina state treasurer and is creator/host of “N.C. Spin,” a weekly statewide television discussion that airs on the UNC-TV main channel at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 12:30 p.m. Sundays and the UNC North Carolina Channel at 10 p.m. Fridays, 4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. Sundays. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.

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