bookmark_borderMaking one’s own decisions is a right, not a burden

I recently read a New York Times article about the fact that “the onus has fallen on individual Americans to decide how much risk they and their neighbors face from the coronavirus — and what, if anything, to do about it.”

In my opinion, this is exactly the way it should be, and exactly the way it should have been all along, from the beginning of the pandemic.

The author of the article, Benjamin Mueller, characterizes calculating one’s covid risk as “a fraught exercise.” He writes that “many scientists said they also worried about this latest phase of the pandemic heaping too much of the burden on individuals to make choices about keeping themselves and others safe.”

“All of the layered protections we’ve been talking about for the entire pandemic, each of those is being stripped away,” public health professor Marney White says in the article. “It’s impossible to calculate risk in these situations.”

I completely disagree with the implication that being responsible for making one’s own covid-related choices is a bad thing. The onus should fall on individuals to make decisions about their own health and safety, because making one’s own decisions is a fundamental right. It is liberating, not burdensome, to have one’s freedom of choice respected. It is very much a good thing that people are no longer being forced to take safety measures that may not make sense to them given their wishes, needs, and preferences.

Quite frankly, for many of the “layered protections” that White mentions, it is a good thing that they are being taken away. Measures such as stay at home orders, vaccine mandates, and required testing violate people’s rights and therefore should never have been instituted in the first place. Being able to live without one’s fundamental rights being violated is an essential part of a life worth living. This is the opposite of a burden.

It may very well be true that it is impossible to calculate risk with a high degree of certainty. But freedom of choice is a fundamental right, no matter how much or how little information about risk is available. I disagree with the implication that it is somehow preferable to have one’s freedom of choice taken away than to make choices in a situation with incomplete information. 

It is up to each individual person to make choices according to his or her own preferences, values, and risk tolerance. It is up to each individual person to decide how much or how little research to do, and how much or how little information to obtain during the decision-making process. Sometimes very clear and precise information is available, and sometimes it is not. Regardless, making choices for oneself is a fundamental right that everyone needs and deserves.

A couple of other notes:

The article states that two thirds of people “have not received the critical security of a booster shot.” But the security provided by a booster shot is not critical, as people have a fundamental right to make their own decision about whether or not to get a booster shot (or an initial vaccine, for that matter).

Also, one mathematics professor who is quoted in the article makes a very wrong comparison. The professor, Cameron Byerley, explains that she told her mother-in-law that having a 10% risk of dying from a covid infection (as was the case early in the pandemic) is the same as being told you are going to die one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom. But this is a faulty comparison. Every person goes to the bathroom at least once per day (a conservative estimate). If you are told that you will die one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom, that means that death from going to the bathroom is inevitable. Most people, in fact, will die within a week. Getting covid, on the other hand, happens much less frequently than going to the bathroom! Unlike with going to the bathroom, it is unusual for someone to get covid more than once within a year. So no, dying one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom is not like dying one out of every 10 times you get covid. A 10% chance of dying for something that you do every day is very different from a 10% chance of dying for something that happens at most a handful of times in a lifetime. 

bookmark_borderJustin Trudeau’s totalitarianism should not be tolerated

I saw the following quote by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on social media recently and found it extremely disturbing. Below, I will explain why.

First of all, Trudeau claims that people who oppose forcing everyone to get the Covid vaccine “don’t believe in science or progress.” This makes no sense. A person’s stance on vaccine mandates has nothing to do with science; it has to do with morality. Even if the science showed Covid vaccines to be 100% effective and 100% risk-free (which it does not), it wouldn’t be okay to require people to get them, because requiring people to get medical procedures is always wrong. Opposing vaccine mandates does not indicate that a person does not believe in science; it indicates that the person (unlike Trudeau, apparently) believes in moral right and wrong. As for progress, Trudeau might be correct in claiming that vaccine mandate opponents don’t believe in progress. But given the way the world has been trending over the past two years, opposing progress is not a bad thing, but a good thing! The world is moving towards totalitarianism, and further progress down this path should be opposed by all morally decent people.

Second, Trudeau claims that people who oppose forcing everyone to get the Covid vaccine are “very often misogynistic and racist.” This claim is completely unsupported by logic or evidence. The question of whether or not people should be required to get the Covid vaccine has nothing to do with gender or race; therefore people who oppose vaccine mandates are no more likely to be misogynistic or racist than people who support vaccine mandates.

Third, contrary to Trudeau’s claims, neither he nor the Canadian people as a whole gets to make a choice about whether or not to “tolerate these people.” People have a fundamental right to make their own medical decisions; therefore everyone has a moral obligation to tolerate people who make different medical decisions than they do. If by “these people,” Trudeau means not only people who opt against the vaccine, but people who philosophically oppose vaccine mandates, then his statement is even more objectionable. Opposing vaccine mandates is the morally correct stance; therefore everyone is obligated not only to tolerate people with this stance, but to support them and agree with them! For someone with a morally wrong point of view to ask whether or not he should “tolerate” people with the morally right point of view is preposterous.

The real question is whether people should tolerate those who, like Trudeau, believe that it is okay to force people to undergo medical procedures. I suggest that the answer should be no. 

bookmark_borderThe slippery slope of vaccine requirements

Numerous times, I’ve heard people make various versions of the following argument:

Requiring Y in order to do X is not the same thing as forcing people to do Y, because people can simply not do X.

Or, put slightly differently:

Requiring Y in order to do X is not the same thing as forcing people to do Y, because people consent to Y when they choose X.

For example…

  • Requiring the Covid vaccine in order to attend a concert does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to the concert.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to attend a Bruins or Celtics game does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to any games.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to eat inside a restaurant does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to restaurants, or sit outside on the patio, or get takeout instead.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to go to a gym does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can go for a run or work out at home instead.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to go into a grocery store does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can order groceries using Instacart, Amazon, or Peapod.
  • For a country to require the vaccine for all incoming travelers does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not travel to that country.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to board an airplane does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not travel.
  • For the federal government to require the vaccine in order to work in the medical field does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can work in a different field.
  • For an employer to require the vaccine does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because no one is forced to work for that particular company.
  • For a college to require the vaccine does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because no one is forced to attend that particular college.
  • For OSHA to require the vaccine in order to work at a company with 100 or more employees does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can choose to work at a smaller company.
  • For a local government to require the vaccine in order to work at any company does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply move to a different city, or choose not to work.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to receive Social Security benefits, or welfare benefits, does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply forego those benefits.
  • For a doctor to require the vaccine of their patients does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can just switch to a different doctor.
  • For health insurance companies to charge extra to non-vaccinated people does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can just pay the extra money.
  • Ordering a lockdown for non-vaccinated people does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply stay locked down inside your home.
  • For the government to require the vaccine for everyone and impose fines on those who do not comply does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply pay the fine.

As these examples show, depending on what the “X” is, the difficulty of avoiding doing it, and therefore avoiding a situation in which one is required to do “Y,” varies greatly.

If one particular concert requires proof of vaccination, then it’s not too burdensome to forego the concert. If one particular restaurant or bar requires proof of vaccination, then it’s not too burdensome to choose a different restaurant or bar instead. But what if your favorite professional sports team decides to require proof of vaccination to attend games? You could, of course, stop attending games, but if you love the team, are used to attending games frequently, and really look forward to the games, this would be a big sacrifice. But still, no one needs to attend professional sporting events. It’s not an essential service.

But then what happens if your local government passes a vaccine mandate for indoor recreational spaces such as restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, and museums? None of these things are necessary to live. You can make all your meals at home, and exercise at home as well. Perhaps in order to exercise at home you will need to invest in weights and maybe an exercise bike, because you don’t own any exercise equipment. What if you can’t afford this? One might argue that you could run outside, but what if it’s winter and it’s too cold to comfortably do so? One might argue that you could just forego exercising, and accept becoming out of shape and unhealthy, but what if fitness is very important to you? Not to mention the fact that with restaurants, bars, theaters, and museums off-limits, your recreational activities will be very limited, which will take a toll on your quality of life. Your relationships will likely be harmed as well, because you will need to either make up an excuse or explain your vaccination decision to your friends if you are invited to a get-together at any of these venues.

Then what happens if, hypothetically, vaccination becomes required in order to enter grocery stores? You could have groceries delivered to your home, but this is more expensive. What if you are very low-income and cannot afford this added cost?

On a different note, what happens if your state government requires vaccination for all large events, including weddings and family reunions? What if you are invited to the wedding of a close friend or relative? How would you feel about having to miss such a once in a lifetime event? How would you explain your absence to your friends and family, and how would they react?

Now, let’s talk professional life. What if you are a high school student applying to colleges, and all of the colleges that are conveniently located and offer your desired major require the vaccine? Should you move across the country for school? Should you choose a small, obscure college that doesn’t offer the program that you want? Or should you forego college entirely, even if you worked hard to get excellent grades and always planned on going to college? What if you planned on going into the medical field, only to find that the vaccine is now required for any job in a medical setting? You could always choose a different career field, but what if being a doctor or nurse is your calling, and there is no other career that would be as fulfilling for you?

What if you are in the process of applying for jobs? If there is a particular company that requires vaccination, then you can just avoid applying to that company, but the more companies that implement vaccine requirements, the more difficult your job search will be. You will have fewer options, your search will likely take longer, and you will face higher odds of having to settle for a job that is non-ideal in terms of pay, duties, or location. What if you need to steer clear of any company with 100 or more employees because OSHA has mandated the vaccine for all employees at such companies? Most likely you would still be able to find a job eventually, but doing so would be all the more difficult with so many options eliminated.

What if you are currently at a job that you love, and your employer implements a vaccine mandate? What if your profession requires significant amounts of education and training, and you now need to start over in an entirely new career, meaning that your education and training are now wasted?

Clearly, the more companies, activities, events, locations, and career options that require the vaccine, the more pressured, coerced, and forced people will feel into getting it. It will become more and more difficult for non-vaccinated people to plot a course through life. Avoiding the requirements will become more and more burdensome, inconvenient, and difficult and will require more and more sacrifices. The world will become more and more like an obstacle course, with more hoops to jump through and a metaphorical noose gradually tightening around one’s neck. Some vaccine requirements are clearly worse than others; for example, requiring the vaccine for a concert is not as bad as requiring it for the subway, bus, or grocery store. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact point on the continuum at which one can say that people are forced into getting the vaccine. But every vaccine requirement is a step towards that point. Any vaccine requirement is a step in the wrong direction.

That is why you should be able to do anything you want without having to get a vaccine in order to do so. People have a fundamental right to decide whether or not to get any medical procedure. If the decision to forego a medical procedure is punished by having activities, events, locations, or career options taken away, then it can no longer be said that people are truly free to decide. Some vaccine requirements violate people’s rights more severely than others, but all vaccine requirements violate rights. Some people claim, condescendingly, that vaccine mandates are not coercive but merely a matter of “the unvaccinated” facing “consequences” for their decisions. But the decision to get a vaccine and the decision not to get a vaccine must be treated equally, because both are equally good and equally valid decisions. Any disparate treatment amounts to punishing people who have done nothing wrong and is therefore unjust. No one should have to forego a job, an education, a mode of transit, a travel destination, an event, a meal, a game, or a recreational activity because of their personal medical decision. No one should have to sacrifice money, time, convenience, fitness, relationships, fun, or happiness for the “privilege” of declining a shot. Vaccinated and non-vaccinated people should have all the same activities, opportunities, and career options available. Only then will people truly have medical liberty.

bookmark_borderBiden urges companies to violate employees’ rights in response to SCOTUS ruling

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the federal vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees, Joe Biden unsurprisingly made some authoritarian comments.

Here is what Biden said:

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law. This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden. As a result of the Court’s decision, it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated. The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy. I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”

First of all, although not the least bit surprising given that the vaccine mandate was instituted by OSHA at Biden’s urging, it’s still difficult for me to comprehend how anyone could be disappointed at a ruling protecting individual rights from an egregious violation. It’s notable that Biden made no mention of morality, individual rights, or liberty in his address. He describes vaccine mandates as “life-saving,” “common-sense,” and “grounded squarely in both science and the law.” These things might be true (although the majority of the SCOTUS justices would disagree with the “grounded in the law” part), but none of them make it okay to require people to get a vaccine as a condition of employment. Doing so violates people’s rights and is therefore morally wrong. But clearly, the rights of individuals to make their own decisions about their bodies and lives are not particularly important to Biden.

It is telling that Biden characterizes the decision of whether individual businesses are going institute vaccine mandates as a decision about making businesses safe for employees and consumers and protecting people’s health and the economy. The debate over vaccine mandates is fundamentally a question of whether or not businesses are going to violate the rights of their employees. Although health, safety, and a booming economy are all good things to have, none of these things is as important as protecting individual rights. (With regards to Biden’s point about protecting workers, customers, and communities, I believe that forcing workers to do something they do not want to do is the opposite of protecting them, as I explained in a previous blog post.) Contrary to what Biden claims, instituting vaccine mandates is not “the right thing,” but the wrong thing. Instituting vaccine mandates is not “stepping up,” as Biden characterizes it, but rather an act of aggression against employees.

Thanks to the First Amendment, Biden does have a legal right to use his voice to encourage businesses to do the wrong thing. He does have a legal right to advocate that companies violate the rights of their employees. But that does not make it morally right of him to do so. 

The most disturbing part of Biden’s comments was his characterization of the vaccine-or-test requirement as a “very modest burden.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither shots nor Covid tests are particularly invasive medical procedures, but that does not make it okay to require them as a condition of employment. Requiring people to provide documentation that they’ve undergone a medical procedure is demeaning, degrading, and dehumanizing. It takes away privacy, it takes away liberty, and it takes away human dignity. When an employer has the power to decide what medical interventions an individual person must get, that individual person is deprived of the right to govern his/her body and his/her life. What is at issue here is not a specific vaccine, nor the act of having one’s nose swabbed. It is the concept of bodily autonomy and self-ownership. It is the fundamental right to make one’s own medical decisions, and that includes the right to decline any medical intervention. Although getting a shot or getting one’s nose swabbed may not be a big deal in itself, the loss of the freedom to independently make medical decisions is absolutely a big deal.

To be forced to submit to medical procedures in order to keep one’s job means to lose one’s dignity, one’s autonomy, and one’s ownership of one’s body. This is far from a “modest burden.”

bookmark_borderYes, forcing people to get medical procedures is immoral

In these times of totalitarianism, one thing I am grateful for is that I am not a college student. The conditions that college students are subjected to in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid are beyond ridiculous. As journalist and commentator Megyn Kelly pointed out, using Johns Hopkins University as an example, the rules imposed on students are truly immoral. 

Unfortunately, many people disagree that the measures imposed by Johns Hopkins and other colleges and universities are immoral, as evidenced by tweets like the one below:

Contrary to what the above person claims, requiring people to undergo medical procedures in order to attend school is, indeed, immoral. People have a fundamental right to make their own medical decisions, and requiring people to receive a vaccine or undergo Covid testing – let alone both – in order to go to college violates this right. Colleges should have no such thing as a “Vaccine Management System,” as Johns Hopkins refers to in the above letter, because which vaccines (if any) students receive is none of the college’s business.

Additionally, to require a specific type of mask, or two masks, is excessive. Places have a right to require masks, but one mask is plenty, and people should be able to decide which type of mask to wear. 

So, yes, it is immoral that a school would “embrace science and take every precaution to keep students safe,” because by embracing science and safety, Johns Hopkins (along with all colleges and universities that take similar measures) is rejecting basic human rights. 

To answer the question of why someone would allow students to take an unnecessary risk, the answer is simple. People have the right to take whatever risks they want, so there is a fundamental moral obligation to allow others to take unnecessary risks. Each individual person gets to make his or her own determination of which risks make sense to take and which do not. No person has the right to tell others that they are not allowed to take a risk because it is “unnecessary.”

I fail to see how respecting students’ basic rights constitutes “ignoring” what one learned. Does the above tweeter really think that unless one forces one’s own preferences and risk tolerance onto others, one is ignoring what one learned? Does he actually think that the purpose of getting an education is to violate the rights of other people? Silly me, I thought that the purpose of education was to gain knowledge, and possibly to share that knowledge with others. Sharing knowledge with others is not the same as telling them which actions they should take, let alone requiring them to take certain safety precautions in order to be allowed to attend school. The job of professors and college administrators is to share knowledge so that students can use that knowledge to make their own decisions.

In conclusion, it does not constitute “ignoring what you learned” to respect others’ rights, and it is utterly nonsensical than anyone would claim that it does. Violating the rights of other people is not a requirement for making one’s education worthwhile as this person seems nonsensically to be claiming; it is immoral. Respecting people’s rights to make their own medical decisions is a basic moral obligation, which far too many colleges (and companies and organizations and government entities) are failing to meet.

bookmark_borderThoughts on the Supreme Court ruling

Like everyone who believes in respecting people’s fundamental rights and dignity, I was relieved by the Supreme Court’s ruling declaring unconstitutional the OSHA rule requiring businesses with over 100 employees to force their employees to undergo medical procedures. For this rule to have gone into effect would have been a tragedy, a grave injustice, and an unprecedented disaster for individual liberty. 

Here are a few of my thoughts on the ruling: 

First of all, as many people have pointed out, the ruling did not go far enough. The court upheld the federal policy requiring the Covid vaccine for all employees at medical places that accept Medicare and/or Medicaid funds. This is unjust and wrong because it eliminates an entire career field as a possibility for people who value their dignity, their privacy, and their right to make their own medical decisions. But at least the ability to work at a company with 100 or more employees is not completely eliminated, as the Biden administration was attempting to do.

Second, the ruling established merely that OSHA does not have the power to require businesses to force their employees to undergo medical procedures. The ruling does nothing to bar Congress from enacting such a policy, let alone states, cities, or individual companies. This is disturbing. In my opinion, no one has a right to require medical procedures as a condition of doing anything. Neither Congress nor states nor cities nor individual companies should be able to enact such a requirement. If the United States was truly a free country, the federal government would take the initiative to protect individual liberty by enacting a law banning medical mandates by any entity.

Defenders of the OSHA rule have argued that the provision giving employees the option of getting a Covid test every week in lieu of the vaccine addresses concerns about medical liberty. I strongly disagree with this claim. Covid vaccination and Covid tests are both medical procedures. And the OSHA rule would have required employees at companies with over 100 workers to do one or the other. Telling someone, “It’s fine not to do this medical procedure; you just have to do this other medical procedure instead ” is completely unacceptable, because it eliminates the option of doing neither. The right to decline medical procedures is fundamental and absolute. It cannot be taken away under any circumstances. Some people consider Covid tests less objectionable than vaccination. But that does not matter. People have a fundamental right to do neither. The OSHA rule would have taken that right away.

Another observation is that many people have characterized the debate over the OSHA rule as a question of employers’ rights. Many people argue that the rule violates the rights of companies by forcing them to be the “vaccine police” for their employees. This is true, but in my opinion the more fundamental problem with the OSHA rule is that it violates employees’ rights. By forcing companies to violate their workers’ rights, the federal government is certainly harming companies, but it is more fundamentally harming workers, because they are the ones being forced to get unwanted medical procedures. 

As the majority of the justices pointed out, the fundamental reason why the OSHA rule is wrong is that it invades employees’ private lives. Unlike, say, masks, respirators, face shields, goggles, gloves, or other PPE, a vaccine is not something that one puts on in the workplace and can take off when one goes home. Unlike, say, bans on smoking or carrying firearms while at work, medical mandates do not merely govern people’s conduct at work and allow them to do what their please in their own time. Undergoing a medical intervention such as a vaccine affects a person while they are at work as well as while they are at home. It affects them while on the clock and while off the clock. Medical decisions about one’s body are the most personal decisions that an individual makes. These decisions are well outside the scope of what an employer should be able to control, regulate, or even know about.

I have heard people use the word “protect” to characterize what the OSHA rule would have done to workers at affected companies. Nothing could be further from the truth. OSHA was founded to protect workers from hazards at the workplace. It was founded to prevent employers from forcing their workers to be around toxic chemicals, to operate dangerous machinery, or do repetitive motions that cause injury, for example. In other words, the purpose of OSHA is to prevent companies from doing harmful things to their workers. However, by enacting the vaccine-or-test policy, OSHA required companies to do harmful things to their workers. To force people to do something they do not want to do is inherently harmful and therefore the exact opposite of protecting them. Under the direction of the Biden administration, a government entity whose purpose is to protect workers did the opposite. 

Thank goodness that the Supreme Court (at least partially) righted this terrible wrong.

bookmark_borderHospital capacity is not a reason to take away freedom

Over the course of the Covid pandemic, one of the main arguments for violating people’s rights is the desire to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. In my opinion, however, concerns about hospital capacity are not a valid reason for taking people’s freedoms away. By their very nature, rights must always come first.

This might sound hard-hearted or insensitive, but sometimes the demand for things exceeds the supply, and this is simply a part of life that people need to deal with. When an institution, organization, or business is experiencing more demand for its services than it can supply, it is up to that institution, organization, or business to either increase capacity or come up with a system for managing demand. One way to increase capacity is by building field hospitals or deploying hospital ships, as many cities and states did during the beginning of the pandemic. Another way is by asking staff to work more hours, or intensifying efforts to recruit more staff. Some examples of managing demand include using a first come first served system, prioritizing people based on how severe their condition is, drawing names from a hat, or using another randomized method to determine who will receive services. Whichever methods are used, one thing remains constant: any of these methods of managing capacity is a better solution than violating people’s rights in an attempt to reduce demand.

For some reason, many people have the attitude that for hospitals to be over capacity is something that must be avoided at all costs. It follows that controlling people’s behavior in order to reduce the amount of people who become sick is permissible (or even necessary, in some people’s opinions). But this way of thinking is backwards. People’s rights must come first. People have fundamental rights, which include the rights to make our own medical decisions and to move about freely. People must be allowed to freely decide whether to get the Covid vaccine or not, whether to do Covid testing or not, which activities to engage in, which people to get together with, which businesses to patronize, and which locations to visit. Whatever demand for hospitals’ services results from people’s collective decisions, is the demand that results, and hospitals need to come up with a system for dealing with that. Just like any other business or institution, it is the job of hospitals to manage capacity issues if and when they arise. Doing so might require making difficult decisions. Preventing difficult decisions from needing to be made is great if possible, but it does not supersede people’s rights.

It is also worth mentioning that making non-vaccinated people go to the back of the line for medical services is, in my opinion, a permissible option if hospitals are at or over capacity. This solution would address the concerns about non-vaccinated people becoming severely sick and needlessly taking hospital capacity away from people who “deserve” it more. And it would address these concerns in a way that does not violate the rights of non-vaccinated people. Why not have a policy that people who opt against vaccination are doing so at their own risk? Under such a policy, people would be perfectly free to either get the vaccine or not. If someone becomes severely sick from Covid, they would have the option of either showing proof of vaccination to move to the front of the queue, or remaining at the back of the queue if they have not gotten the vaccine or do not wish to disclose their status. Given that this would solve the hospital capacity problem without violating anyone’s rights, there really is no justification for forcing people to get the vaccine (or banning them from occupations, places, or activities unless they get it, which is essentially the same as forcing them). The thought process seems to be that it is somehow more cruel to move non-vaccinated people who become severely sick to the back of the line than it is to force all non-vaccinated people to do something they do not want to do. But this is false, and this way of thinking is paternalistic and illogical.

For things to exceed their capacity is part of life, and there is no reason for hospitals to be treated differently than any other institution, organization, or business. It is morally backwards to argue that hospital capacity should determine which activities people are allowed to do. Although preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed is a worthy goal, it cannot be allowed to dictate how much freedom people are granted. Respecting individual liberty is more important than anything else. Rights come first, and everything else, including concerns about hospital capacity, come second.

bookmark_borderStop the Mandates rally in Boston

Today I attended an event called the “Show Up Strong: Stop the Mandates” rally in Boston, MA. Several hundred people gathered outside the State House to protest against vaccine mandates in general, and the city of Boston’s vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms, theaters, and sporting events in particular. 

As a band played pro-freedom rock music, protesters lined both sides of Beacon Street, holding signs, waving flags, and chanting “Wu Has No Heart.” I held a sign that read, “My body my Choice / No vaccine mandates.” Starting a few minutes after noon, a variety of speakers addressed the crowd from the steps in front of the State House, including a state representative, a rabbi, the owner of a popular Italian restaurant, the chairman of the Constitution Party, a veteran and gym owner, a police sergeant who lost her job for opting against the vaccine, and an occupational therapist who lost her job for the same reason. The crowd of protesters was racially and politically diverse. Unsurprisingly, Gadsden flags, F— Biden flags, Trump signs, and “Let’s Go Brandon” apparel dotted the crowd, but there were also left-leaning types and signs containing the “A” for anarchy symbol. People of all races danced and chanted about love, truth, health, and freedom. 

Numerous drivers honked their horns and gave the thumbs up from their vehicles as they drove past, including a UPS driver, a school bus driver, a taxi driver, and drivers from various food companies, a flower shop, HVAC companies, and construction companies. A pickup truck with signs saying “Impeach Biden” and “Impeach Warren” drove by several times, honking loudly to express support. Photographers and videographers from various news outlets captured images of the crowd, and a few police officers milled about.

The only aspect of the rally that I did not enjoy was the weather. As someone on the autism spectrum, I am particularly sensitive to cold, wind, and rain, and I considered not attending because the forecast called for exactly those things. A cold rain came and went throughout the afternoon, not enough of a downpour to drench anyone, but enough to make everything and everyone damp and shivering. 

Shortly before 2:00, the protesters took to the streets, marching from the State House to City Hall (where Mayor Michelle Wu had decided to close the building and order staff to work from home) past Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market and on to the North End. Chanting “Let’s Go Brandon,” “Shame on Wu,” and “My Body, My Choice,” we took over the streets of Boston, forcing cars to stop and paying no attention to traffic lights. At the head of the procession were people with bullhorns, as well people holding a large banner that read, “Medical freedom: the new civil rights movement.” Along the way, people going about their business stopped to watch and take videos on their phones. Construction workers in bright yellow vests cheered, and old guys hanging out near the “Connah Store” clapped their hands. People peered down from the windows of apartment buildings, some flashing the thumbs up, some simply gawking in curiosity, and only one giving the middle finger. Along the way, we passed the statue of boxer Tony DeMarco. Noticing that someone had placed a mask on the statue’s face, one of the rally leaders promptly removed the mask and threw it on the ground.

At 2:30, we arrived at the Paul Revere statue in the North End, where we posed for a group photo and sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” By the time the march concluded, I was shivering uncontrollably from the cumulative amount of time spent in the cold and rain, and my hands were numb. My sign, as well as numerous other people’s signs, was soaked, and the letters were starting to smudge. However, it would be a no-brainer to say that I was glad I went. All of the horrible things happening in the world have really been getting me down, particularly comments on social media saying that people like me are not welcome in Boston and that we should stay out of “their” city. Participating in this rally and march gave me the sense that I am not alone and that I do have a place in the city of Boston. Marching en masse through the streets, bringing traffic to a halt, and attracting stares from passerby, was truly a powerful and exhilarating experience. For a couple hours, at least, I felt that I had a voice and a community. That in itself is a big victory.

Continue reading “Stop the Mandates rally in Boston”

bookmark_borderNothing says “resistance” like taking away bodily autonomy

Check out this new possible candidate for the dumbest tweet ever, in which someone with the word “resisting” in their username addresses fellow “resisters” and then proceeds to express sentiments that are the antithesis of resistance:

Let’s go over everything wrong with this.

  1. Withholding Social Security benefits from those who choose not to get the Covid vaccine is morally abhorrent.
  2. Requiring people to prove that they’ve gotten the vaccine in order to vote is even more morally abhorrent.
  3. Requiring people to prove that they’ve gotten the vaccine in order to vote is utterly hypocritical, given that people on the left-hand side of the political spectrum have spent the past two years loudly and repeatedly condemning the idea of requiring an ID to vote as racist and anti-democracy.
  4. People who choose not to get the vaccine are not the same thing as “anti-vaxxers.” Choosing not to participate in something oneself is not the same as being against the thing entirely.
  5. Expressing one’s opposition to something is not the same as “freaking out.” Using the term “freaking out” presumes that the person in question is acting unreasonably, but it is entirely reasonable and correct to oppose conditioning receipt of Social Security checks upon undergoing a medical procedure.
  6. This shouldn’t even need to be stated, but hating socialism does not require that one happily go without Social Security benefits after having spent years paying into the system. This is particularly true when the denial of SS benefits is based on a personal medical decision and therefore unjust and discriminatory. Those who oppose the Social Security system think that people shouldn’t have to pay into it in the first place. They don’t think that people should have to pay, and then be unfairly and discriminatorily denied the benefits that they have paid for. Given that the SS system exists, people have no choice but to receive SS cards at birth and have deductions taken from their paychecks. There is no inconsistency in opposing this system while also expecting to receive the benefits that one has paid for, given that the system exists.

In conclusion, it is beyond despicable to suggest that people who have done nothing wrong be punished by having their right to vote or their Social Security benefits taken away. I simply do not understand why so many people are so cruelly and viciously intent on browbeating, bullying, pressuring, and coercing others into getting a vaccine that they do not want. It is disturbing that such mean-spirited, nasty, discriminatory, and intolerant sentiments are so widely and so strongly held. A world in which eligibility for benefits, or the ability to vote in elections, is contingent upon undergoing a medical procedure is a world in which life is not worth living. To suggest that this is in any way a good thing is completely unacceptable, and to suggest that people ought to be fine with this because they “hate socialism” is moronic. The fact that a human being would actually tweet such sentiments is a sad commentary on the state of humanity, and the fact that said person characterizes him/herself as a proponent of “resistance” makes things even worse. The only thing this person is resisting is other people’s right to make their own medical decisions… which of course makes him/her the authority and his/her opponents the true resisters.

bookmark_borderVaccine mandates are the opposite of diversity and inclusion

Many people who support vaccine mandates have cited, as a reason for their support, the fact that the mandates keep non-vaccinated people out of their cities. For example, when I have expressed my opposition to the city of Boston’s requirement that people present proof of vaccination in order to enter restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms, people have responded by telling me that I had better stay out of “their” city, and that people like me are not welcome there. When mandate opponents declare their intention to stop visiting restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms in Boston, they are ridiculed by those who assert that the entire purpose of the mandate is to keep people like them out anyway.

On a moral and philosophical note, comments like these are wrong. There is simply no valid reason to dislike, exclude, stigmatize, or look down on people who opt against vaccination. People have an absolute right to decline medical interventions, and in no circumstance is the decision to get a medical procedure morally superior to the decision not to get one. Any government policy whose purpose is to “keep out” people who have done nothing wrong is unjust and discriminatory, and anyone with human decency would oppose such policies, not cheer them on.

On a personal note, these comments are hurtful. I have always considered Boston my city just as much as anyone else’s. Although I do not live in the city itself, I have lived in the suburbs of Boston all my life. I am a fan of all the Boston sports teams, have a Boston accent, and consider myself to be from Boston. I worked in Boston for many years. Since childhood I have enjoyed visiting museums, attending Bruins, Celtics, and Sox games, enjoying special events in the city, and eating and drinking at its restaurants and bars. As I became a young adult, I learned how to navigate on the “T.” Exploring the different Boston neighborhoods and taking photos of the buildings, statues, and landmarks became one of my biggest hobbies.

But the city has changed. Over the past two years, it has become increasingly apparent that Boston is no longer a place where people like me are welcome. The statues, monuments, and holidays that honor my culture and reflect my values have been abolished and removed, replaced by those honoring other people’s cultures and values. And now, because I believe in privacy and medical freedom, I am barred from participating in public life. People, many of whom are likely younger than me and who likely have lived in the Boston area for less time than I have, are telling me to “stay away” from “their” city and are bragging about policies designed to “keep out” people like me. 

The destruction of the Christopher Columbus statue, the abolition of Columbus Day, and now the requirement that people show proof of vaccination in order to go about their lives – each of these losses was a punch to the gut. The city that I loved, and that I considered a part of my identity, is no more. Now, when I hear or see the word “Boston,” I feel sick to my stomach. Something that once filled me with joy and pride now makes me feel visceral disgust.

I wrestle with the question of what is the best thing to do about this unfortunate situation. Should I hold out hope that the mandate will eventually be repealed, and pray in the meantime that it does not spread to additional types of businesses or other cities and towns? Is there a chance that Boston might one day return to being a city where I feel included as opposed to hated? Should I identify myself with the specific suburb than I live in, as opposed to the Boston area? Or should I move to a different state or perhaps a different country, where people of my values, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and medical status might be more welcomed?

The answers to these questions depend on how the situation unfolds: whether courts uphold vaccine mandates or strike them down, whether or not mandates spread to the Boston suburbs, and whether or not they are repealed as covid numbers decrease. As someone on the autism spectrum, it is difficult to have my future up in the air. When I bought my home, I operated on the assumption that it would be where I would live for the rest of my life. When I started my job, I assumed that I would continue with it until I reached retirement age. The possibility of having to uproot myself and establish a new life in a completely new location is daunting. But it may be the only option if I wish to once again have a life that is worth living. Existing in the Boston area, where my history and culture are condemned as racist, where human dignity is not valued, where individual rights are ridiculed, and where I am treated as an outsider despite having lived here for my entire life, is not tolerable for me.

The discriminatory and exclusionary sentiments of vaccine mandate supporters are even more objectionable when one considers the fact that, to a large extent, these are the same people who have so vocally supported the ideas of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion in other contexts. When it comes to the pandemic, however, these values are thrown out the window. Demanding that everyone make the same choices as you is the antithesis of diversity. Condemning people for their personal medical decisions is the antithesis of tolerance. And eagerly calling for people to be kept out of “your” city is the antithesis of inclusion. 

It is my opinion that those whose opinions dominate our public discourse do not truly believe in diversity, tolerance, or inclusion at all. Instead, they only value people who are like them, and believe that anyone who is different deserves to be shamed, ridiculed, and punished. This way of thinking is similar to that of popular kids in middle school who bully and exclude anyone who dresses differently, talks differently, or thinks differently. I never expected that as an adult, I would once again be living in a world dominated by a mentality that people used to mature out of by the time they reached high school. How pathetic that those who hold positions of power in our society are no better than middle school bullies.