Before this week, most people were able to remain friends. Friendships were propped up by a blissful ambiguity between what you believed and what your friend believed. If those beliefs were different, it didn’t matter because you thought of them as people as long as you didn’t talk about abortion or the NAACP.*
*Footnote: And also CRT, which lives matter, funding or defunding the police, anything else about race, President Trump, President Obama, other Presidents, climate change, freedom of speech, gun rights, gun control, the death penalty, social security, healthcare funding models, stem cell research, women’s rights, religious freedom, minimum wage, labor unions, the electoral college, nuclear energy, public school funding, and which is better between Chipotle or Qdoba.
Simple days are long gone. Even a little jab in the shoulder (or two) divides friends, communities, and our Country. You need not look any further than Facebook to see the clear wedge between who is on your side and who is attacking your views via newsfeed. They say a crisis reveals one's true character, and a Pandemic is certainly revealing all of ours.
Taking a Side
Perhaps adding fuel to the fire, The Whitehouse delivered an edict just a week ago. President Joe Biden issued vaccine mandates to fight the spread of Covid 19, starting first with a requirement for all federal workers and all those who receive funding from the federal government. Undoubtedly, the most divisive matter was that he expanded on this by requiring vaccinations (or otherwise weekly testing) for workers at all businesses with more than 100 employees. He has shown his character quite clearly. He is taking a side.
I imagine the conversation went like this.
Presidential Aid: “Hey Mr President, we’re falling behind almost every country on vaccination rates. We’re in like 43rd place which makes us look kinda bad."
POTUS: “Look, this is a bunch of stuff, you stupid bastards. We need all men and women to get.. by the.. go.. you know, the thing!”
Presidential Aid: “But you previously said you were not a fan of issuing a mandate?”
POTUS: “Hold my non-alcoholic beer.”
Next thing you know, the President announces the requirements with frustration in his voice.
But does he go too far?
With the exception of the Presidential stutter, there is no better queue to start opening fire (so to speak!) criticizing the President. After all, we have personal liberty, don’t we? I should be able to make my own health decisions. If I want to take horse medicine, or get vaccinated, that’s up to me. Isn’t it?
Well, I suspect few would disagree on the surface that for our bodies, it should be our choice.* In practice, few would apply this logic universally. Few, if any, would want the FDA to go away entirely. In fact, many vaccine hesitant cited the previously not-yet-obtained FDA approval as a reason not to receive the vaccine. Yet, unvetted use of ivermectin is up by 2,344%, despite no evidence it treats Covid 19, not to mention FDA warnings it can be unsafe when used incorrectly.
*Footnote: Intentionally glossing over women’s reproductive rights.
Americans love being free. More accurately, Americans love the illusion of being free. Like other rights, being Libertarian is a right, but no one has yet experienced true libertarianism, and most wouldn’t want it.
Currently, it is the law to wash your hands if you are working in a business such as food service or medical services. Does the Government have the right to tell us to wash our hands?
On the other hand, do you have a right to expect the Government to defend your safety?*
*Footnote: This includes both on shore and off shore.
Businesses have many requirements to maintain a safe workplace. Businesses are subject to inspections, and fines if precautions are not maintained. Examples include fire preparedness, handrails by steps, rugs at entryways and hazard prevention galore.
The Government is indeed infringing on our personal rights. But it saves lives.
Every day, 16,438 car accidents take place, and an average of 104 people die–each day. That’s based on about 38,000 per year.. Everyday those people expect emergency services to come to their aid to rescue them and clean up the mess afterward. And every day, the government is investing in reducing that number by posting speed limits, requiring seat belts, imposing regulations on professional drivers and their employers, imposing regulations on manufacturers and issuing fines to people that violate these laws. We argued about the seatbelt laws too, but deaths per 100,000 people have gone down by about half since the mid 70s.
People’s hesitancy with Covid 19 vaccines isn’t about the risks, the data or what the FDA says. It isn’t about their own safety, or the safety of others. Given our cases and death rates, It certainly isn’t about American Exceptionalism.
It’s about personal exceptionalism.
It’s about telling everyone around them to get the hell off their lawn. The disruption to personal choice for many will be the reason they choose otherwise.
At the root of it all, our freedom AND our lack of freedom is an illusion. In the case of a functional society, freedom only exists in one place, by encroaching on it in another.
Supreme Court Opinion
In an article written before the latest actions by the President, the National Constitution Center examined The Government’s power to issue vaccination mandates in an effort to protect the public. It was a Supreme Court ruling in 1905 that found that state and local governments could issue vaccine mandates, or impose a penalty. Similarly, in 1922 an opinion was issued regarding San Antonio, Texas which excluded students from public and private schools who were not vaccinated for smallpox.
It seems reasonable to bring up that these opinions were both addressing state’s right to issue mandates, (all 50 states have mandates for other vaccines). But they are referring to state jurisdictions, just as OSHA and Federal Agencies fall under Federal jurisdiction.
Government Reach and Responsibility
What is the responsibility of the Government? The Democrat and Republican pick and choose where the Government regulates people’s behavior and safety. For the Libertarian, the demand is to "Live free or die". So where is the line when it comes to the Government’s responsibility to protect its population, but leave our liberties intact? And can we be logically consistent?
My guess is that is asking a lot.