Returning Professor: Too Much “Personal Freedom” in U.S. Compared to China

Grinnell College’s Tony Perman took his sabbatical in China at exactly the wrong time. The music professor found himself in Shanghai just as the Wuhan virus began spreading like wildfire and the Chinese government cracked down on the population with the efficiency and power that only an authoritarian regime can wield. Perman spent the next six weeks under total quarantine before finally being allowed to returned to the United States.

An ordinary person would kiss the ground the moment they arrived back in the land of freedom. Not Perman. He took a look around at our liberty, compared it to his time under Chinese quarantine, and thought, you know what, the Chinese way is better.

“I’ve now lived through a coronavirus quarantine in the two countries, and the differences are stark well beyond their airports,” Perman wrote in an op-ed for “In China, the obligation to isolate felt shared and the public changed their habits almost immediately. Sterilization, cleanliness and social distancing were prioritized by everyone at all times. Rightly or wrongly, the Chinese state’s heavy-handed approach seemed to work.

“In contrast, individual liberty is the engine that drives American exceptionalism,” he continued. “There are certainly valid questions about how much of it to sacrifice in the name of the public good, but our laissez-faire attitude, prioritization of personal freedom and utter lack of government leadership have left Americans confused and exposed.”

Here are some other choice excerpts from the guy who misses the brutal constraints of totalitarianism:

“Particularly troubling has been the extent to which it has felt like high-risk residents such as ourselves have had to shoulder the burden for stopping the spread of the disease by being the only ones to go into isolation.”

Right, it’s so unfair that people incoming from Italy, China, and various Diamond Princess cruises should have to change their way of life while people in Peoria get to keep going to the grocery store! We should ALL suffer, guys.

“Because everyone was isolated [in China] due to a complex mix of state mandates, housing authority restrictions, peer pressure and a deep sense of personal responsibility, flaunting those expectations by going out in public without masks or gathering in crowds was noticeable, frowned upon and even rebuked. With everybody following suit, it never felt like a choice as it does in the U.S.”

It never felt like a choice…because it wasn’t a choice, dude.

“There was never one set of guidelines for people who were potential infection risks and another for innocent bystanders. We were all at risk; we were all potential threats.”

Unbelievably, this statement is meant as a compliment to China. He compares it to the U.S. where “there’s a clear distinction between the contagious and the ‘innocent’ who shouldn’t have to change their behavior for anyone because individual liberty is a greater value than collective deference.”

How awful.

We’re not even sure what to make of Grinnell’s article. Perhaps he promised the Chinese government he would do his part to spread their propaganda if they would let him go home. Maybe he was already a fanboy of their authoritarian communism, thus explaining why he went there on sabbatical in the first place. Or maybe he just found himself really comfortable in a situation where the state was telling everyone exactly what they can and can’t do.

Whatever the case may be, he somehow forgot to mention that this glorious, unimpeachable nation and its secretive, obsessed-with-saving-face government is the ORIGIN of this pandemic – which might have been avoided altogether if people weren’t eating bat meat, rat meat, and buying meals at wet markets where animals are slaughtered live on the premises. And might have been contained were it not for Xi Jinping’s desire to keep the whole thing under wraps for months.

We’re sure it just slipped his mind.

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