Thistlethwaite: What about my freedom?
A concert during this year’s poster child for superspreader events, the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, has been called “a tribute to true American freedom.”
That’s not freedom. As the old saying goes, “Your freedom to act ends where my nose begins.” With the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spread primarily through the nose and mouth, that is especially true.
What is happening again in Sturgis and in areas where people are refusing to get vaccinated and wear masks is not freedom, it is extreme selfishness.
The hundreds of thousands who showed up again for the Sturgis motorcycle rally have put themselves and others at risk from the highly contagious COVID Delta variant. And now they are leaving to infect others, guaranteeing our national crisis from this next wave of COVID infections will deepen.
My freedom, as well as the freedom of millions of others, and especially children who are too young to get vaccinated, is being severely curtailed by the selfishness of those who persist in not getting vaccinated (or wearing masks) and who gather in superspreader events. They are giving the Delta variant plenty of places to jump from one nose to another and perhaps provide the occasion for COVID to mutate again and become even more dangerous.
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It is time to push back against those who spread the virus in the name of freedom.
This is not freedom. In fact, these people are taking away our freedom.
I have been fully vaccinated since February and this spring and early summer, as the number of cases and deaths plummeted in my area of the country, I resumed almost normal life. I ate with friends. I went back to the gym. And I scheduled a beach trip with my grandchildren.
Now, because of the dangerous spread of the Delta variant, especially among the unvaccinated, that trip is canceled because I cannot risk infecting my young grandchildren. I haven’t seen those grandchildren in over 20 months.
Doesn’t my freedom and their freedom count?
Children in particular must be protected from a dangerous and highly contagious virus and be as free as we can make them from this threat. But increasingly they are being put at risk.
Think of the baby who was airlifted from Houston to a hospital 150 miles away because there was a shortage of pediatric ICU beds in that large city. What is freedom for that child and that child’s parents? And it is not just Houston. Hospitals in other Southern states in the U.S. are reporting record numbers of children hospitalized with COVID.
The governors of Southern states are playing politics with children’s health, refusing even to mandate masks in schools. At least eight states are prohibiting schools from requiring masks. Guess which eight? But some schools are defying this order, and more power to them.
That is not freedom.
The term freedom and its companion patriotism have been so corrupted in recent times that they have been drained of their meaning. Freedom is not the unlimited license to do as you wish.
In an obvious example, you are not free to just kill someone and not have your liberty taken away. In a democracy, freedom comes with responsibility to others. In the same way, patriotism is not just love of country, it is the love of those who share this country with you and the desire to protect them.
School principals and school boards who protect children’s health are patriots. They are exercising their own freedom to be responsible to the parents, children and community they serve.
I am just done with trying to understand why so many Americans think they can refuse to get vaccinated and instead choose to help speed the mutation of COVID, thereby raising the risks for everyone.
The freedom of those who choose not to get vaccinated must be curtailed. Vaccine passports and employer vaccine mandates are the way forward. When you can’t go to the gym, when you can’t go to work, when you can’t fly, when you can’t go to a bar or restaurant, when you can’t go to a store, then maybe you will feel what the rest of us feel.
Your perverse idea of freedom and patriotism is keeping the rest of us in lockdown.
Now it’s your turn.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president emerita and professor emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. She and her husband now make their home in the Vail Valley.