bookmark_borderNo, hateful vandalism is not understandable

On Columbus Day, among numerous acts of hate and destruction that took place around the world, someone vandalized a cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut. This horrible excuse for a human being wrote profane graffiti about Christopher Columbus and about cops, as well as the phrase “land back.”

According to this article by the local NBC station, “Some people who spoke with NBC Connecticut say they don’t support the vandalism but sympathize with the sentiment.” For example, one person said, “I can understand where the anger and frustration are coming from,” and another person said, “I understand the anger and the vitriol that people have.”

Sentiments like these have been very common during the statue genocide of the past year and half. These sentiments are, frankly, unacceptable. 

Vandalizing a cemetery or church, destroying a statue or monument, scrawling expletives to insult a historical figure… all of these actions are cruel, hurtful, and morally wrong. It’s as simple as that. People who commit actions like these are bullies and bigots. They are motivated by intolerance and hatred of people who are different than them. They have nothing to be angry about, nothing to be frustrated about, and nothing to feel vitriol about. No one should sympathize with their sentiments. 

When the Oklahoma City bombing, or the Boston Marathon bombing, or 9/11 happened, did anyone say, “that was the wrong way to go about it, but I understand the sentiments?” 

No, they did not.

If a predominantly black church or a statue of a black person was vandalized, would people say, “I don’t condone vandalism, but I understand the anger and frustration?” 

No, they would not.

Yet when the victim of a vicious act of hate is a historical figure of European descent, the hate is somehow understandable. 

Every time a statue, monument, memorial, church, or cemetery is vandalized, the action needs to be condemned fully and wholeheartedly, not partially and with qualifications. Neither these actions nor the motivation behind them deserve anyone’s sympathy or understanding. 

bookmark_border“It’s a contagion, stupid”

In the latest example of Twitter stupidity, meet someone who goes by the username “WiebeFuncke.” When I made a tweet pointing out that supporters of abortion rights should also, in order to be logically consistent, support the right to make one’s own choices about vaccination, this individual responded to me by writing, “A woman’s choice isn’t a contagion, Einstein.”

A quick glance at this individual’s Twitter page revealed that he/she regularly responds in this manner to people who oppose forcing people to get the Covid vaccine against their will (example below). 

WiebeFuncke apparently believes that the fact that the coronavirus is a contagion means that the entire concept of individual rights can automatically be thrown out the window. Not only does he/she believe this, but he/she apparently believes this to be so obvious that it does not even need to be explained. In other words, merely pointing out that the coronavirus is a contagion is enough to rebut any argument against mandates.

However, what WiebeFuncke believes about contagions and individual rights is not only not obvious; it’s not even true. The concept of individual rights applies regardless of whether or not a contagion is involved. So no, it does not rebut a person’s argument to simply point out, “it’s a contagion.” You need to make an actual counter-argument in order to do that.

Contrary to his/her assertion, WiebeFuncke is the one who truly needs to do better than to repeatedly (and rudely) blurt out “contagion” and act as if that automatically rebuts everyone else’s arguments.

bookmark_borderThe MA state house and “vaccination certainty”

Last month, the Massachusetts state legislature passed an order requiring all members and staff to receive Covid vaccines. 28 courageous representatives (all Republicans) stood up for individual rights and voted against this authoritarian requirement. Naturally, they have faced criticism for doing so.

This article from CommonWealth Magazine outlines the arguments that took place at the state house. I’ll go over some of the highlights and explain why I believe the Democrat-controlled legislature was wrong to institute the vaccine mandate.

“Vaccines are essential to fulfill our responsibility to care for our staff, each other and the public, and represent the quickest path to a full and safe reopening,” said Rep. William Galvin, according to the article. 

This statement reflects two false presumptions. First of all, people do not have a moral duty to care for each other; people have a moral duty simply to refrain from violating other people’s rights. By forcing state legislators and their staffs to get a vaccine, the mandate order violates this moral duty. Second, this statement presumes that safety is required in order for the state house to be allowed to open. This is also false. There is no requirement to ensure that something is safe before allowing it to happen. The best option is to simply open the state house. That way, people who feel that it is safe enough to go there in person should be welcome to do so, and those who feel that in-person attendance is too risky should be welcome to attend via zoom or some other type of video conferencing. 

Your vote against providing vaccination certainty is a vote that tells your friends, your colleagues, and our collective staff you value their health less than your political talking points,” said Rep. Michael Day.

This statement rubs me the wrong way for a couple of reasons. It is wrong of Day to reduce standing up for individual rights, bodily autonomy, and medical privacy to “political talking points.” This denies any possibility that the dissenting representatives genuinely believe in the stand that they are taking, which is insulting both to them and to everyone who shares their opposition to vaccine mandates. Additionally, I found it somewhat disturbing that Day spoke of “vaccination certainty” as something that is important for people to have. Essentially, Day is implying that people have a right to be certain that the people around them have gotten the vaccine. This is not true at all. What medical procedures the people around you have or have not gotten is, quite frankly, none of your business. No one has a right to control, or know about, other people’s medical decisions.

The CommonWealth Magazine article also says, “Democrats portrayed votes against the policy as a vote against vaccine acceptance.” This argument is off-base as well. Votes against the policy are votes in favor of the right to choose whether to get the vaccine or not. Both options are acceptable and should be treated as such. Voting against vaccine acceptance would be voting for a policy banning state representatives from getting the vaccine, something that (obviously) is not under consideration. Instead, votes for the policy are votes against allowing the option of declining the vaccine, which is tyrannical and authoritarian. Votes against the policy are votes in favor of maintaining both options as acceptable, which is exactly the way it should be. 

Adding insult to injury, Rep. Mindy Domb posted the below tweet, in which she presumes that if something is effective at preventing transmission, illness, and/or death, then everyone needs to be forced to do it. This is completely wrong. No person or government has any right to force people to do things against their will, regardless of how effective those things are at preventing virus transmission, illness, or death. Additionally, by calling for “education,” Domb is equating holding a different opinion than hers with lack of education. Believe it or not, it is possible for someone to have the same amount of knowledge and education as Domb does, but to hold different moral and political views. What a revolutionary concept.

Adding further insult to injury, the order also allows representatives who do not get the vaccine to be cited for an ethics violation. This is the exact opposite of what they deserve. Choosing not to get the vaccine, given the amount of bullying, pressure, and coercion in the current political environment, demonstrates courage and the ability to think for oneself. Anyone who makes this choice should be lauded for his/her bravery and good character, not penalized with an ethics violation. 

Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who shared that she is immunocompromised due to treatment for pancreatic cancer, argued that violating individual rights is justified in order to protect vulnerable people. But But Rep. Michael Soter made a good counter-point. Noting that he is immunocompromised as well, he participated in the debate via zoom because “I know what my limitations are.” 

This is the right way of looking at things. I don’t want to sound un-empathetic towards people who are battling cancer or other medical conditions that affect the immune system, but the fact is that being immunocompromised does not give you the right to take away the freedom and privacy of other people. If you are immunocompromised, it is your responsibility to avoid situations that are too dangerous for you (or to incur the risk that the situation poses). It is not other people’s responsibility to undergo a medical procedure for your benefit, and it is not your right to require them to do so.

bookmark_borderNY gov claims vaccine mandates are “self-defense”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently defended her decision to enact vaccine mandates by claiming that they constitute “self-defense.” This is, simply, wrong. To claim that it is self-defense to force other people to undergo medical procedures against their will is preposterous, and it is disturbing that anyone would make this claim.

As I’ve written numerous times on this blog, each person has the right to do anything he or she pleases, as long as he or she is not violating the rights of anyone else. Rights include the ability to control what happens to one’s body, one’s time, one’s energy, and one’s property; in other words the things in one’s immediate sphere. If a person violates the rights of another person by interfering in that person’s sphere, the victim has the right to use physical force to defend him/herself. 

As the saying goes, your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins. If someone was about to punch me in the face, I would have the right to put up my hands to defend myself, or even punch the person back, because punching me in the face would violate my rights.

The argument that vaccine mandates are self-defense fails because, unlike punching someone, opting not to get a vaccine does not violate anyone’s rights. The decision not to get a vaccine does not involve touching another person, physically harming another person, or invading another person’s personal space in any way. It does not take away another person’s time or energy or damage another person’s property. In short, it does not interfere in another person’s sphere in any way.

The decision of whether or not to get a substance injected into one’s body is soundly within one’s own personal sphere. Therefore, any attempt to interfere in another person’s vaccine decision violates that person’s rights and is an act of aggression.

Why, then, would anyone argue that such an obvious example of aggression is actually self-defense?

The most likely answer is that the decision not to get a vaccine does, admittedly, have indirect effects on other people. When one does not get a vaccine, there is a higher likelihood that one will catch a virus, and therefore a higher likelihood that the virus will subsequently infect a nearby person. In other words, decisions about whether or not to get a vaccine do, in aggregate, affect the risk level for everyone in the community.

But unlike punching someone in the face, which directly invades the person’s space and impacts their body, the effects of abstaining from vaccination are indirect. Unlike one’s face, which is squarely within one’s own sphere and which one therefore has a right to protect from being punched, one’s risk level for catching a virus is not within one’s sphere at all. There simply is not a right to have a zero percent risk of catching a virus. Nor is there a right to have a risk level below any particular amount. This is because securing these things would require interfering in the spheres of other people.

People have a right to manage their risk level through various actions that are within their spheres, such as by getting a vaccine, wearing a mask, wearing a face shield, avoiding activities, or maintaining physical distance from other people. People do not, however, have a right to manage their risk level by forcing other people to take or abstain from actions. That would constitute interference in other people’s spheres and would therefore violate other people’s rights.

Vaccine mandates are not self-defense. They are aggression.

bookmark_borderKim Janey’s hypocrisy

I posted earlier this week about Boston Mayor Kim Janey’s disgraceful decision to stomp on Christopher Columbus and Italian-Americans, but after reading some of Janey’s additional comments on that decision, I have more thoughts to share. 

In response to criticism by City Councilor Lydia Edwards, Janey replied, “Italian-Americans have a rich history in the city of Boston and certainly in our nation. We should celebrate all cultures, and I want to remind everyone here: Justice is not a zero-sum game. We can lift up the experiences of indigenous peoples, and we can also respect Italian-Americans.” (source: Stop Anti-Italianism)

I agree with this statement. But the problem is that Janey’s executive order obliterating Columbus Day goes completely counter to her words. 

If Janey actually believed that we should celebrate all cultures, she would not have gotten rid of Columbus Day. You cannot truly celebrate Italian culture without celebrating the very first Italian-American, Christopher Columbus.

If Janey actually wanted to respect both indigenous peoples and Italian-Americans, she would have created an Indigenous Peoples Day on a different date. Taking away Columbus Day inherently disrespects Italian-Americans.

Janey says that justice is not a zero-sum game, but her decision to obliterate Columbus Day makes justice exactly that. Needlessly, she took a holiday away from one group of people in order to create a new holiday for another group. She lifted up the experiences of indigenous peoples at Italian-Americans’ expense. 

Janey’s statement makes absolutely no sense given her actions with respect to Columbus Day. If she actually believed her own words, she would not have done what she did. There is indeed a way to lift up indigenous people while also respecting Italian-Americans, but obliterating Columbus Day is not it. 

bookmark_borderThe BAA’s discrimination against Italian-Americans

Disgracefully, the Boston Athletic Association, the organization that runs the Boston Marathon, has joined the chorus of those who are blatantly discriminating against Italian-Americans and anyone who admires Christopher Columbus. Because the race this year falls on Columbus Day, which has wrongfully been obliterated and replaced with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in some places, the organization decided to grovel at the feet of the Indigenous community while completely ignoring all other ethnic groups, cultures, and perspectives. Here is an email that I wrote to them:

Dear Boston Athletic Association,

I am a lifelong resident of the Boston area who has always enjoyed watching the Boston Marathon. I am writing to share how hurt and disappointed I am with your decision to pay special recognition to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to the Indigenous community, while completely ignoring Columbus Day and the Italian-American community.

On your website, you note that October 11 is “recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in cities and towns on the marathon route,” but make no mention of the fact that this date is also Columbus Day, a holiday that is extremely important to Italian-Americans, or the fact that October is Italian-American Heritage Month. You issued an apology to “all Indigenous people who have felt unheard” but have made no mention of any Italian-Americans who may have felt unheard. Plans for Marathon day include featuring past and present runners of Indigenous descent, but no runners of Italian descent, as well as the creation of a mural that expresses “gratitude to the history of Indigenous runners of the Boston Marathon past and present,” but no works of art relating to Italian runners. Additionally, the BAA has donated $10,000 to WINGS of America, an organization that helps young Indigenous people, and $20,000 to an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Newton, but to my knowledge the BAA has not donated to any Columbus Day celebrations or any organizations that help Italian-Americans.

Your decisions with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ Day were probably motivated by concerns about diversity and inclusion, but they are actually discriminatory, intolerant, and completely antithetical to the ideas of diversity and inclusion. Over the past year and a half, the Italian-American community has really been hurting due to the vicious attacks on statues of Christopher Columbus, one of our cultural heroes. Instead of acknowledging our community and the trauma and pain that we have suffered, the BAA chose to inflict further pain on me and my fellow Italian-Americans by excluding us.

The BAA’s actions with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ Day send the message that people like me are not welcomed or valued. As a result, I will not be watching the Boston Marathon this year. It might be too late to change the plans for this year’s Boston Marathon, but I hope that at future Marathons, the BAA will treat all cultures equally instead of singling some out for special recognition while excluding others.

Sincerely,

Marissa B.

bookmark_borderKim Janey stomps on Italian-Americans

It is painful to even type these words, but today Boston Mayor Kim Janey decided to stomp on the faces of Italian-Americans and everyone who loves history by abolishing Columbus Day in the City of Boston.

For most of my life, I have been proud to be from Boston. Starting when I was a teenager, I enjoyed exploring the different neighborhoods, cheering on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Pats, visiting all of the T stops throughout the city, and photographing the various buildings, landmarks, and public art. But no more. The city of Boston has betrayed me. When someone inflicted horrible pain on me and on the rest of the Italian-American community by brutally ripping the head off of the Christopher Columbus statue, the city of Boston responded by doing nothing to comfort us or even to acknowledge our loss. The city of Boston responded by taking away one of the few good things remaining to us, thereby compounding our pain and rubbing salt in our wounds. The city of Boston responded by rewarding, not punishing, the people who inflicted this horrible pain. To say that these actions are mean, unjust, and completely lacking in empathy is an understatement. 

Clearly, the city of Boston does not value or welcome people like me. Instead of being proud to be from Boston, I am now ashamed to be associated with it. Any enjoyment that I once derived from spending time in Boston is gone.

There are no words adequate to fully express the moral wrongness of Janey’s actions regarding Columbus Day. Every atom in my body screams in agony at the injustice of this situation. So instead of writing words of incoherent rage, I will share a strongly but civilly worded email that I wrote to her earlier today:

Mayor Janey,

I am writing to express my hurt, anger, and disappointment at your executive order to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. This executive order is an example of something that has been far too common over the past year and a half – actively inflicting harm and pain on one group of people for the benefit of a different group of people that happens to be politically favored. This executive order takes away a holiday that is important to Italian-Americans, thereby excluding us from what is considered worthy of honoring and celebrating in the city of Boston. This is discriminatory, intolerant, and completely antithetical to the ideas of diversity and inclusion.

Over the past year and a half, the Italian-American community has really been hurting due to the dozens and dozens of vicious attacks on statues of Christopher Columbus, one of our cultural heroes. In particular, the beheading of the Columbus statue in Boston inflicted horrible pain on me as an individual and on the Italian-American community as a whole. Your executive order inflicts further pain on me and my fellow Italian-Americans by taking away yet another important part of our culture and heritage. Additionally, your executive order rewards the people who destroyed the statue by establishing a holiday in their honor.

In conclusion, this executive order sends the message that inflicting harm and pain on people is a good thing that deserves to be rewarded and celebrated. It sends the message that people like me are not welcome in the city of Boston. It sends the message that some people’s feelings matter, while other people’s feelings do not; that some viewpoints and perspectives matter while others do not; and that some cultures matter while others do not. Hopefully you agree that these are not good messages to send. I respectfully ask you to reconsider your hurtful and exclusionary executive order and reinstate Columbus Day.

Sincerely,

Marissa B.

bookmark_borderThe difference between action and omission

Majoring in philosophy in college, one of the first things I learned is the difference between action and omission. There is a fundamental difference between actively doing a bad thing, and merely failing to do a good thing. The first is morally wrong; the second is not.

Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on the mindless authoritarians whose goal is to force everyone on earth to get the Covid vaccine. Again and again, everyone is constantly bombarded by the claim that people who don’t get the vaccine are driving the pandemic, that they are causing hospitals to become overwhelmed, that they are putting their co-workers’ health at risk, that they are causing illness and death to other people, et cetera. These mean-spirited and philosophically unsound messages even infiltrate the comics section of the newspaper: while hoping to find some lighthearted humor, I recently came across a comic in which a cartoon version of “Covid” appeared at a party, the guests told him to go away because they hadn’t invited him, and Covid responded, “Well, by not getting vaccinated, you kinda did.”

No offense to Mr. Covid, but this way of thinking is wrong. Not getting vaccinated is not the same as “inviting” Covid to your party, because failing to prevent something is not the same as causing it. It’s true that by opting against the vaccine, people are not doing everything within their power to stop the spread of Covid. But failing to stop the spread of Covid is not the same as causing the virus to spread.

People are not morally obligated to take preventative measures to protect themselves or others. People are not obligated to get a vaccine, no matter how safe, harmless, or convenient you may consider the vaccine to be. People are not obligated to care for others or demonstrate love for their neighbors. People are not obligated to work to end the pandemic, to “do their part,” or to make any sacrifices for the sake of the common good. 

People are obligated to abstain from actively harming others, and that’s it. As long as they are not deliberately coughing on someone with the express purpose of giving them the virus, non-vaccinated people are not doing anything wrong.

For those who think that this is merely a philosophical distinction with no practical significance, allow me to point out that as a result of the widespread failure to distinguish between action and omission, people who have not gotten the vaccine have wrongfully been subjected to all sorts of discriminatory and punitive treatment. First of all, falsely accusing someone of causing sickness and death is harmful in itself. Non-vaccinated people have been called idiotic, irresponsible, selfish, and nearly every insult and criticism imaginable. Real harm is inflicted by treating people this way. Additionally, non-vaccinated people have suffered significant material harms as well. Increasingly, they are not allowed to work, enroll in college, attend sports games, concerts, plays, or events, visit restaurants, gyms, bars, casinos, or malls, or even get medical services. There are plans afoot to charge them more for health insurance and possibly even to bar them from interstate travel. Because non-vaccinated people are not doing anything wrong, all of this is completely unjustified and undeserved

Non-vaccinated people are not driving the pandemic; the virus is. Therefore, to punish any person in any way for opting against the vaccine is morally wrong. It really is that simple.

bookmark_border“Covid politics walloping red America”

Yesterday I was perusing the newsstand at my local supermarket, and a headline on the front page of the New York Times caught my eye.

“Covid politics walloping red America,” it read. The article was about high rates of Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in conservative-leaning states.

This headline is biased for a couple of reasons:

First of all, Covid politics are not walloping anyone… Covid is. It is clear from the article that by “Covid politics,” the Times means people’s decisions to refrain from protective measures such as vaccines, mask-wearing, and social distancing, or governments’ decisions to refrain from making these measures mandatory. Such measures do, to some extent, prevent people from catching the virus and/or getting sick. But that doesn’t mean that refraining from these things causes people to catch the virus and get sick. The virus itself causes this. Failing to prevent something does not equal causing it.

Second, it makes no more sense to characterize a lack of Covid restrictions as “Covid politics” than it does to characterize the enactment of restrictions as “Covid politics.” Several different definitions of “politics” are listed on Dicionary.com, but they pretty much all have to do with the science and art of government, or beliefs and opinions about government. Debates about which actions, if any, governments should take in response to the Covid pandemic are inherently a political topic. Some people hold political beliefs that emphasize safety and the common good; these people generally support the imposition of restrictions and mandates with the aim of combatting the pandemic. Other people hold political beliefs that emphasize individual rights and liberty; these people generally oppose restrictions and mandates because they believe that respecting rights and allowing people the maximum amount of freedom is more important than combatting the pandemic. So why is the Times equating the latter type of ideology with “politics” but not the former? Refraining from getting the Covid vaccine is not “politics” any more than getting the vaccine is politics. Respecting individual rights, and refraining from forcing people to get the vaccine, is not “politics” any more than forcing people to get the vaccine is politics. If anything, it is more appropriate to characterize the decision to impose restrictions and mandates as “politics,” because this is a decision that actively interferes with people’s lives, as opposed to simply leaving people alone. 

In short, this headline is just another example of the New York Times presuming that its belief in a powerful government that controls people’s lives and tramples on individual liberty for the sake of the common good is the only possible legitimate belief. The Times does not even appear to consider the possibility that people might genuinely hold alternative views. Anyone who thinks or acts differently from them, the Times assumes, is just playing politics.

bookmark_borderJustin Trudeau’s totalitarianism

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently gave a disturbing speech justifying his decision to implement vaccine passport systems. Here’s an excerpt (via Turning Point USA):

“We’re paying for the provincial vaccine passports to make sure that when someone comes into a restaurant, they’ll know they won’t be sitting beside a table of people who are unvaccinated. When you go into a gym, when you go to a movie theater, you need to know that if you’ve done the right things, you get to be safe, you get to be rewarded, for having done the right things. That’s what it’s all about. And those people who still hesitate, who still resist, well, they won’t get to enjoy the same things as those who’ve done their part for others. It seems like a very logical thing. It seems like a very obvious thing.”

It is deeply wrong to treat basic activities such as going to restaurants, movies, and gyms as privileges reserved for people who have done some allegedly virtuous deed to earn them. Trudeau’s reasoning on vaccine passports is wrong for several reasons:

  1. Getting the Covid vaccine does not equal “doing the right thing.” It is morally neutral. Getting the vaccine and not getting the vaccine are both perfectly valid and acceptable choices; both are equally right. People who get the Covid vaccine are no more deserving of being rewarded than people who opt not to get it.
  2. People do not have a moral obligation to “do their part for others;” in fact there is no such thing as “their part for others.” No one is morally obligated to actively contribute to the health of others or to the greater good. The only moral obligation that people have is to refrain from violating other people’s rights. Simply doing nothing, and minding one’s own business, is a perfectly morally acceptable option. 
  3. Because no one is morally obligated to take any actions for the benefit of others, people have a fundamental right to “hesitate” or “resist” getting the vaccine. Those who “hesitate” or “resist” getting the vaccine are not doing anything wrong at all, and Trudeau has no right to speak about them in a critical or disparaging manner. 
  4. No one has a right to know about the vaccine status of the people around them. Trudeau seems to be implying that it’s important for people, when going to a restaurant, to know that the people at nearby tables have gotten the vaccine. But actually, the vaccine status of people at nearby tables (or even at your own table) is none of your business. The right to make one’s own medical decisions, and to keep those decisions private, outweighs any desire to minimize the Covid risk that is present in one’s environment. In other words, an inherent part of going out in public is that one may come into contact with people of varying health statuses and vaccine statuses. If this poses a level of risk that is unacceptable to you, then stay home. 
  5. Basic, everyday activities such as going to restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters are rights, not privileges. Being allowed to do these things is not a “reward” for (allegedly) good behavior; it is a fundamental right. It is beyond disturbing that activities nearly universally considered rights two years ago have morphed into privileges.

In conclusion, contrary to what Trudeau claims, requiring people to undergo a medical procedure in order to participate in life is not a logical thing, nor is it an obvious thing. It is logically unsound, morally wrong, and totalitarian.