Accountability goes hand-in-hand with personal freedom, especially during adversity
I have been asked to share my thoughts on the recent extension of the safer-at-home orders put out by Gov. Tony Evers and how these orders impact my role as Kewaunee County’s elected sheriff.
I begin by stating that I take my oath of office very seriously, and I fully appreciate the faith that this community has placed in my abilities and judgment over the past 13 years as sheriff. There has never been a moment that I would hesitate to stand up for the freedoms and liberty of each and every person in this county regardless of their age, race, gender or religious beliefs.
The word "freedom" has been used quite a bit in recent conversations, and rightfully so.
As Americans, we cherish our freedoms, we fight for those freedoms and many have died for those freedoms. Our entire structure of government is predicated on the rights and freedoms of the individual to make their own decisions and thereby forge their own destiny. The framers of our Constitution knew full well the value of freedom and liberty and took every opportunity to minimize any possible encroachment upon its citizens' rights by this or any other government.
Unfortunately, over the years the word "freedom" has been used to justify behavior which by any reasonable person’s judgment would seem reckless, and in some cases horrific. We see so many cases where this amazing gift of freedom is hijacked for the purpose of personal redemption.
Whenever I am asked to speak in regard to freedom, I make sure to include another word which is just as valuable in a freedom-loving society — "accountability."
If we advocate for absolute freedom void of accountability, we will find ourselves in a world without discipline, empathy and compassion. All that would matter is whether or not I possessed the freedom to act in a given way, not taking into consideration the implications that those actions may have on another.
We find examples of this even in our own constitutional right of free speech. That freedom does not allow me to yell “Bomb!” on an airplane, nor does it protect me from speech that would be threatening or abusive.
So, here we are, in the midst of a global pandemic. I will be honest that I have my own personal opinion regarding what actions I should or shouldn’t be taking in response to the various recommendations and orders, but those are opinions I keep to myself, as this is not about me or my personal freedom.
This is about how my actions and the actions of those around me could impact those at risk. This is not a law enforcement emergency, this is a public health emergency, and I know enough about leadership to know that there is a time to lead and a time to follow.
In this case I am following the directions of my local Public Health Director, Cindy Kinnard. She, too, has been and continues to be a faithful servant of this county, and if she tells me that there is continued community spread, I must trust in her knowledge and adhere to proper prevention to minimize the spread of this virus.
I support both my president and my governor in the many efforts they are leading to bring us through this challenge. The decisions that need to be made in regard to the opening of our state and our country need to take into account both the rights of our citizens along with fact-based prudence to protect those who may be vulnerable.
I look to those we have placed in both state and national public offices to step forward and show leadership, even if by stepping forward they find themselves standing alongside an unlikely ally.
We have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate to our youth what we are capable of when faced with adversity. We may never know if we overreacted or underreacted in our response to this pandemic, but what will matter is that we came through it together, and through it all we maintained our sense of decency and respect for each other.
Matt Joski is Kewaunee County Sheriff.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Accountability goes hand-in-hand with personal freedom, especially during adversity