An exchange this past week between Gov. Mike Parson and a reporter over the coronavirus has highlighted the divide between liberals and conservatives over the role of governing.
"Do you feel any personal responsibility for the people who have been infected and don't recover after you chose to reopen the state?" a KOMU reporter asked the governor.
The question alone split liberals, who cheered the reporter for asking a tough question, and conservatives, who viewed the question as a biased cheap shot, another example of liberal media.
Parson responded: "I don't even know where you come up with that question of personal responsibility as governor of the state of Missouri when you're talking about a virus. That's no different than the flu virus, or do I feel guilty because we have car accidents and people die every day. No, I don't feel guilty about that. Each person that gets in that situation, things happen like that in life. They do. I could say the same thing for the media. Maybe you don't do a good enough job really telling people the facts. Do you feel responsible for that?"
The governor was obviously, and understandably, frustrated by the question. After all, he's trying to walk a fine line between keeping us safe and keeping us employed.
The Democrat Party was quick to pounce. In a statement, Missouri Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe said: "The governor's refusal to take any responsibility for the state's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his decision to compare COVID-19 deaths to the flu and car crashes is deeply offensive and represents a stunning lack of compassion. Parson has insulted the 966 Missourians who have lost their lives to this pandemic. The governor needs to immediately apologize for his callous and offensive comments."
What if the tables were turned? What if we had a Democrat governor who opted against reopening the state? Perhaps a conservative-oriented question from the media would be: "Do you feel any personal responsibility for shutting down the economy, which has ruined careers, businesses and lives?"
After all, if Missourians can't work, we can't earn a living. If we can't earn a living, we can't put food on our families' tables.
Parson's handling of the pandemic hasn't been perfect, and our state government needs to continue to do more to protect its residents from the virus. But, all in all, Parson is doing his best to manage a pandemic that, in many ways, is a no-win situation.
For that, he owes no apology. As for personal responsibility, it's not something we can abdicate to government. Ultimately, each of us must decide the best course forward for ourselves and our families.