Darin's fuzzier in 2020

Americans don’t agree on a whole lot of things.

We splinter over politics, faith, sexuality, race, gender, firearms, drugs, community policing, the media, mental health, YouTube credentials, quarterbacks, fried or broiled, the heat, the cold, cats, the environment, Middle East tactics, the better Darrin Stephens on “Bewitched,” property rights, individual responsibilities, Ginger or Mary Ann, parking, school referendums, toilet paper, me with a beard, UFOs, the designated hitter, drive-on beaches... did I say “parking?”

It’s a lot. There was a time when America embraced an identity of hotdogs, apple pie and revolving credit. That has largely been replaced with rancor, the disintegration of common courtesy and, well — apple pie is still delicious, so let’s just go ahead and keep that.

Maybe it’s easier to just look at what we do agree on these days, outside of the obvious splendors of apple pie.

Well, there’s Betty White. I mean, who doesn’t like Betty White? And, we all support the troops and our veterans, right? We don’t always back up those words with action, but most of us support them, I believe. And, regardless our political or religious backgrounds, a great many of us appreciate our freedoms and independence — and are quick to bite back if we feel those things are being infringed upon by others.

And small businesses. Who doesn’t want to support small businesses? In many ways, they are the lifeblood of the American economy, employing people across the country, and spurring successful stories of entrepreneurship and ingenuity. Their owners sponsor Little League teams and fundraisers for hurting families in communities, they go the extra mile with customer service because they truly appreciate your business, and they usually provide a clean, safe environment for their customers because that business is the person’s lifeblood and dream. We tend to take care of the things that are most important to us, right?

At this point, I’d like to reflect on these last two issues — freedom and small businesses. They intersect each other quite a bit right now.

Opinions vary wildly on the responses by state and local governments — not just here in Sussex County and Delaware and the United States, in general, but also around the world. There are many who feel the “lockdowns” and “shutdowns” have been far too extreme, impeding personal liberties while destroying small businesses in a haphazard and inconsistent way. There are others who believe that we are re-opening too quickly, and putting people’s actual lives at risk for our continued idolatry of the almighty dollar.

And I’m not here to tell you how to feel. We all have limitations in life, and I know I am limited in my ability to know what’s best for anybody else or how to feel. Extremely limited, if you listen to my wife and daughter.

But as we begin to spread our metaphorical wings again, and wander out into the daylight and into some of our favorite businesses and restaurants, I do, from my knees, beg you to follow guidelines put forth, whether you agree with them or not.

Lauren Weaver, the executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, was telling me earlier this week that there will indeed be compliance officers around Bethany Beach this weekend. Lauren, whose entire career is based around helping out our area businesses, by the way, is concerned that people who disagree with face coverings or other policies will enter some of our businesses eschewing the rules and it is our businesses that will ultimately be shut down for non-compliance.

Remember, by the way, that our local businesses are owned by human beings, and human beings have differing philosophies and beliefs. Some believe that these new regulations and policies are far too restrictive. Some believe that they are reasonable. Just like all of you — these business owners are entitled to their own opinions.

But don’t screw it up for them by making your statements in their places of business. Want to protest? Protest away. It is your right as an American to voice your displeasure with anything you’d like. I’ll use this space to fight for your rights to do that very thing if you find you are being denied that fundamental opportunity.

These past few months have been brutal for small businesses — including this very paper. We are a free paper, with no paywall on our site, and we operate solely through advertising revenue. Closed or drastically-impacted businesses do not advertise, so that math is simple. And for our beach businesses, who need a strong summer season to put food on their tables during the winter months, every single hour of operation through fall is going to be crucial.

Don’t be a bonehead and screw it up for these businesses. Don’t steal their hand sanitizer because you’re selfish. Yeah, that’s happened.

Freedom comes with responsibility. Help your neighbor.

Executive Editor

Darin is a native of Washington, D.C, and studied journalism at Temple University. He is a combat-veteran Marine, and has worked as a reporter and editor throughout the country. He is married and has one daughter, who doubles as his harshest critic.