Should smokers be barred from seeing their favorite band? Should Muslims need a pass to go out for spaghetti? Should the HIV-positive be turned around at the border? Perhaps vegans should have to take a test before they can go to the office each week. If this sounds ludicrous and dystopian, good. It should. Now substitute in the unvaccinated. Does it still sound crazy? Again, it should. If it doesn’t, we have some serious soul-searching to do.
While at home under quarantine, many people started to reassess what they wanted for their lives and society writ large. When we dreamed of a post-COVID world, is this what we envisioned? Did we hope for more acrimony and division, more restrictive government mandates, and greater dependency on a pharmaceutical industry growing in power? Did we long for relentless censorship, economic uncertainty, and technocratic surveillance? Did we say to hell with “my body, my choice?” Or did we start desiring a better world?
Now is a pivotal time for deciding, as a collective, how much we want our liberty. This isn’t about political parties or the vaccines — it’s about the kind of world we want to live in. History has taught us that once we give up our freedoms, we don’t easily or ever get them back. Look at 9/11 and the resulting war on terror. The Bush and Obama administrations used that crisis to institutionalize far-reaching surveillance that compromised the privacy of American citizens, which has only expanded in scope. Hell, even 20 years after 9/11, we still can’t bring a full-sized tube of toothpaste on an airplane. What never would have seemed possible or acceptable in the “before times” now barely elicits a shrug. We are at that time again with a choice to make.
Will we consent to the loss of freedoms or will we demand a different way of handling human challenges?
Privilege — here today, gone tomorrow
I don’t blame those who might want to argue that the vaccine issue is different. In such uncertain and unnerving times, it is easy to lose our internal compass and take the dominant narrative at face value, even when it confuses us by constantly changing and sometimes contradicting itself. And with the media playing up the scary news in lieu of all the good news, like that an overwhelming percentage of people fend off or recover from COVID, it is perhaps natural to be afraid. But making exemptions and exceptions for freedom is a slippery slope. Today it is in vogue to bash, blame, and shame the unvaccinated (despite evidence that the vaccinated can also spread the virus), but who might be next?
The irony is that even those who fancy themselves on the “right” or “winning” side for doing what they have been told are embracing a system that can one day be turned against them and their friends and families. What “privileges” they have been granted or will be granted to induce vaccine compliance, like dining inside, paying a lower ticket price for a concert, or visiting relatives in the hospital, can easily be taken away or further narrowed. The privilege of “vaccinated” may only last until the next booster or a possible scenario where the vaccinated overtake the unvaccinated in spreading disease or filling hospital beds.
Anything that we decide is not a right for all can become a right for none. Over the long term, state oppression doesn’t discriminate.
In disparaging and persecuting those exercising their right to choose, we are rapidly regressing to a segregated society of inequality, where science, as Charles Cooke of the National Review writes, “is being used as a means by which to launder political authority." “Well, that would never happen!” some might say to the prospect of such heavy-handed measures. Yet two years ago who would have believed our government could force the people of this country to wear masks, shutter their businesses, stay at home, and not be allowed to gather with friends and family? Who would have thought it was okay for the government, working with internet search companies, social media platforms, and other media outlets, to have the final say on what information the public gets to see? Who would have said yes to suppressing effective, readily available early treatments in favor of one-size-fits-all lockdowns that put so many out of work?
Perhaps more poignantly, do we consent to doing it all again this fall? Because that is where they seem to be leading us. Will we believe them when they say it is the only way to protect the vulnerable and save lives? Or will we band together and overlook superficial divisions to preserve our right to be free from coercion, interference, and abuse of power? Will we show them that we can move past this if we take some basic precautions and calculated risks and allow the honest and intelligent people in the medical and scientific community to show us what they can do in the absence of retribution? Will we have some compassion for those who also want to do the right thing but see the situation differently?
It seems more obvious by the day that those in power are exploiting this situation to move forward with a dangerous agenda that threatens to limit our freedom and erode the very fabric of what we believe America stands for. To call it government “overreach” is almost quaint. We are witnessing the continued unraveling of democracy and the consolidation of centralized power, reminiscent of our classic dystopian novels or our comrades in Russia and China.
Let’s take censorship. While public trust in the media is declining, there is still the illusion of being balanced, despite a routine failure to disclose conflicts of interest. However, the level of censorship is off the charts, challenging the idea of a free and open internet. Under the guise of fighting “misinformation,” the government has ensured that the unassuming public only receives the information it wants them to see, which is almost entirely one-sided. As a result of policies such as YouTube’s that delete content that contradicts state-sanctioned health authorities, accomplished doctors, scientists, and others with informed but differing views are being scrubbed from the internet, as well as slandered. This is a disservice to all. Just look at the media’s reversal on the lab origin theory.
It also begs the question: If what these experts have to say is nonsense, why be so ruthless in censoring them and limiting the information people can view? Does allowing the American people to weigh a spectrum of information and make up their own minds threaten their agenda? If a former VP of Delta or Boeing’s lead mechanic said they discovered a significant flaw in the design of a new plane, wouldn’t we want to know what they have to say? That concerns or alternative solutions aren’t allowed to be voiced should be a giant red flag. How much further will they go?
The government is also getting more draconian in coercing vaccination. What started as lotteries and free beer and donuts has progressed to door-to-door visits and now to mandates. Regardless of your perspective on the pandemic and vaccines, the loss of freedom to choose what you put into your body should concern you, just as much as safeguarding the freedom to have (or not have) things taken out. Freedom is freedom and our bodies are not government property.
While the Biden administration currently says they won’t propose national mandatory vaccination (for now), they are implementing it by proxy through the private sector. This allows them to achieve their policy goals while trying to avoid taking responsibility for what is likely to cause serious backlash. They are essentially asking businesses to be their enforcement arm. But is it fair to ask businesses to verify the health status of everyone wanting to patronize them? Is it reasonable to effectively ban a class of people from participating in normal life activities? Is it rational or helpful to view every unvaccinated man, woman, and child as a potential killer? Where has personal responsibility gone in all of this?
The time to care is now
As noted in the National Review, “the arrival of COVID-19 provided the perfect impetus for the rampant safetyism, unchecked authority, hysterical micromanagement, mawkish moral crusading, and interminable federal spending.” It provided the crisis needed to consolidate power and push through policies, not to mention psychological scarring, that could prove troublesome to reverse.
It is scary and perplexing to ponder what causes a government to put power and profit over people and how otherwise intelligent people can so quickly do their bidding. But if we don’t start questioning what we are being told not to question and bringing a critical eye to what is being rolled out for us, we may be asking even harder questions in the future. For to think that those at the top will one day decide they have enough power, money, and control and restore all that they have taken is naive and simply not supported by human history. Though the mainstream media largely ignored it, our friends around the world know this well and are rallying for their rights. We might want to consider the same.
We are facing a crisis of conviction. What we do in these coming months may determine our human destiny. That may sound hyperbolic, but when you truly look at the direction of the world, and not just the so-called pandemic, it is a nightmare for anyone who values autonomy, privacy, choice, and a fair chance at pursuing happiness. The real division is not between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, vaccinated or unvaccinated, but those who care about freedom and those who don’t. The problem with not caring now is by the time you do it might be too late. The solution is to put our differences aside, say “enough is enough,” and stand together for freedom in all its expressions.
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