bookmark_borderPeople who do not get the vaccine are not “moochers”

A recent editorial in the L.A. Times claims that people who choose not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine are “mooching off the rest of us.” I strongly disagree with this idea. 

First of all, the editorial repeatedly uses the verb “refuse” to characterize the decision not to get a vaccine. I disagree with this word choice, as it implies that the decision not to get a vaccine is a bad thing. In my opinion, it is not. People have a fundamental right to decide for themselves whether or not to get a vaccine (or any medical procedure, for that matter). Both options are equally valid and acceptable. 

The editorial criticizes Rep. Madison Cawthorn and Sen. Rand Paul, who have (in the author’s words) “defended the right not to be immunized as an exercise in individual freedom” and are “casting themselves as courageous individualists.” These two gentlemen are 100% correct. The right not to be immunized is an exercise in individual freedom, and those who defend this right are courageous individualists. 

The editorial tries to debunk Cawthorn’s and Paul’s arguments as follows: “The hazards of refusing the vaccine don’t confine themselves to the individual refuser. Vaccine resisters are putting the rest of us in danger, too. Unvaccinated people who contract COVID-19, even if they don’t become seriously ill, can pass the virus to family and friends.”

It is true that not getting a vaccine can have indirect effects on other people. But this is no reason to take away people’s freedom to choice. Every decision that a person makes has the potential to indirectly affect other people, but no sane person would argue that people shouldn’t have the freedom to decide on anything. The deciding factor is not whether a decision carries risks for other people but whether a decision violates others’ rights. In aggregate, the choice not to get the vaccine does increase the odds of catching Covid-19 for everyone in the community. But this choice does not violate the rights of anyone. There is no right to live in a world without infections diseases, or a world where one’s risk of catching any particular disease is below any particular threshold. The demand that the vaccine be made mandatory does violate people’s rights, however. Those who make this demand are essentially attempting to force medical procedures on other people, something that blatantly and unquestionably violates rights. They are arguing that the ability to live in a community with low rates of Covid transmission is more important than the ability to make one’s own medical decisions. I vehemently disagree with this claim. People have the right to make their own medical decisions regardless of what effect this has on the community’s risk level. In other words, no one has the right to demand that people be made to get medical procedures against their will for the sake of reducing their own risk or that of others.

The editorial goes on to insult Cawthorn, Paul, and others who think like them (including myself): “In fact, they’re acting as epidemiological moochers. They’re free riders, relying on the rest of us to protect them by helping the country reach herd immunity. Their relatives and friends, especially those 65 or older, should give them a wide berth. And their voters should treat them as what they are: dangerous to the health of their communities.”

I disagree with this characterization as well. No one is morally obligated to undergo any medical procedure, even if doing so would have indirect benefits to others, and no one who opts out of a medical procedure is a “moocher.” It is true that Covid-19 vaccination has what is called “positive externalities” – meaning that in aggregate it does tend to benefit society as a whole by reducing the overall amount Covid transmission. But there is no rule that if an activity has positive externalities, then everyone should be required to do it. I would be perfectly happy to live in a world where no one got the vaccine, but given that a lot of people are choosing to get it, there is no way for me to avoid the positive externalities. A moocher is someone who deliberately obtains a benefit without paying for it; therefore it is not accurate to describe people who do not get the vaccine as “moochers.” 

Additionally, although each person has the right to make his or her own decisions about who to associate with, it is intolerant, mean-spirited, controlling, and nosy to take another person’s medical decisions into account when deciding whether or not to spend time with them. I would never make a friend or relative’s vaccination status a factor in whether or not to associate with them, because it is none of my business. 

It may be true that Cawthorn and Paul are infinitesimally contributing to their communities’ virus risk. They are also bravely standing up for individual rights at a time when doing so is unpopular, and therefore desperately needed. That is far more important. 

bookmark_borderThe statue genocide in New Hampshire

The statue genocide that has been perpetrated by the Black Lives Matter movement is such a painful topic for me that it is often too difficult for me to read about it. But on occasions when I feel able to do so, I try to research this topic, both for a website that I am working on that memorializes its victims, as well as for the purpose of determining if there are any states in the U.S. that have been untouched by the genocide and therefore are possible places where I could live. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any. When researching the possibility of moving to New Hampshire, I came across an article from the New Hampshire Union Leader outlining the efforts of the politically correct bullies to ruin everything in the state. There are numerous problems with the article and with the people quoted in it, which I will outline below:

First of all, the entire premise of the article is wrong. The author, Shawne Wickham, characterizes the destruction of everything good in the world as a “soul-searching” motivated by learning more about monuments and the historical figures they represent. It is assumed that everything from getting rid of Aunt Jemima from the pancake mix, to taking down a weathervane depicting a Native American at Dartmouth College, to renaming Franklin Pierce University, to renaming the city of Keene, to altering the Hannah Duston Memorial, is a good thing. But these are bad things which eliminate the richness, beauty, and diversity of our world and move us closer to a society in which every person thinks the same and every place looks the same. We should be aiming to add more beautiful, amazing, wonderful, distinctive, glorious, unique, and diverse things to our world, not to eliminate the few existing ones. New Hampshire has never had any statues of Christopher Columbus or of any Confederate generals, and the article presumes that this is a good thing, but it is not. What would actually make the world a better place is to add more Confederate statues and more Columbus statues to our public spaces, but, as is the case with almost all of the media coverage over the past year about the topic of statues, this is not even presented as an option.

A major topic of the article is the statue of Hannah Duston in Boscawen, NH. Duston is a woman who was captured by Native Americans in 1697. The Native Americans killed her baby, and she eventually escaped and killed 10 of them in revenge. University of New Hampshire Professor Meghan Howey and Abenaki leader Denise Pouliot joined forces to “address” the statue (there again is the false assumption that the existence of statues that are at all different, distinctive, or controversial is a problem that needs to be solved, as opposed to a good thing that the world needs more of). Their plan is to create a park called “Unity Park N’dakinna” around the statue, including interpretive signage as well as a statue of an Abenaki family. The project will involve various experts such as artists, historians, and landscape designers, and a statewide fundraising campaign is planned. My question is… what is the point of all this? Without Columbus statues and Confederate statues, the world is not a place worth living in. There is no point in expending resources on any statues, parks, or public spaces until all of the Columbus statues and Confederate statues have been put back up. It is not fair that one group of people gets to design a park that represents their history and values, while other people are forced to live in a world where everything that represents their history and values has been destroyed. It is a slap in the face to read about all the thought, effort, expertise, and money being used to create this park, while I am no longer able to enjoy any parks in my hometown of Boston because they remind me of the fact that the statue of my hero, Christopher Columbus, was brutally beheaded and the city has made no effort to hold the perpetrators accountable. To focus resources on this park, while everything that makes my life worth living has been destroyed, is to tell me that my pain does not matter, that my feelings do not matter, and that my happiness does not matter. It is to tell the Italian-American community and the Confederate community that our lives, and the lives of our ancestors, do not matter.

Another topic of the article is Confederate statues. Ellen Townes-Anderson, a professor at Rutgers, argues in the article that obliterating statues of Confederate leaders does not amount to erasing history, because battlefields, museums, and books still exist and are still available to those who wish to learn. This is true, but what makes Confederate statues so important is not just their educational value but also the fact that Confederate leaders deserve to be honored and glorified. They fought bravely for the cause of individual liberty and self-determination. The existence of beautiful statues honoring deserving people and causes is an essential part of what gives cities, towns, statues, and countries their identities. It is a crucial part of having a world that is worth living in. Elizabeth Dubrulle at the New Hampshire Historical Society argues that Confederate statues are particularly bad because “they did commit treason… Where in the world would you put up statues to people who committed treason?” Anyone who uses the “treason” argument to criticize the Confederacy reveals him/herself to be an authoritarian and a bully. Every person and/or group of people has a fundamental right to leave his/her country and form a new one, and that is exactly what the Confederates fought to be able to do. Anyone who thinks that the Confederates committed “treason” by forming their own country is an authoritarian who tramples on individual rights. Dubrulle also mentions that Confederate statues were allegedly created to promote a racist agenda and that the Confederacy has come to symbolize white supremacy in modern times. But the motivations behind a statue’s creation, as well as people’s perceptions of the statue today, are not the deciding factors in evaluating the statue. What truly matters is who the statue depicts and what that person stood for, which may or may not match up with popular perception.

It’s horrific enough that magnificent statues of Columbus and of Confederate generals have been viciously destroyed across the country, but the ideas suggested by the people quoted in the article – such as renaming the city of Keene because its namesake participated in the slave trade and stripping President Franklin Pierce’s name from a university and law school because he had the audacity to compromise with the South on the issue of slavery – are downright ridiculous. Howey, the professor at UNH, suggests that this new way of looking at history is “much more interesting and nuanced,” but I see it as the opposite. The so-called experts quoted in the article, and many people in general, are essentially attempting to get rid of everything that honors anyone who is not considered 100% perfect according to the social norms of 2021. This makes history, and by extension the world, bland, boring, conformist, and soulless. History has been my passion since I was 10, and there is nothing interesting or appealing about this way of commemorating and studying history. 

Rutgers professor Townes-Anderson says in the article that it feels for the first time “like real change is possible… we have the best chance we’ve had in a long time.” But the change of which she speaks – the eradication of Confederate statues from public spaces – is a negative change, not a positive one. The BLM movement is turning the world from a place that is mostly bad, with a few beautiful and good things still left, to a world that is 100% bad, in which the few remaining beautiful and good things have been destroyed. Media coverage of this topic needs to recognize this. Instead of being presented as something neutral or even positive, the statue genocide must be treated as the horrific injustice that it is.

bookmark_borderChristopher Columbus statue in Revere, MA

The city of Revere, Massachusetts is home to a wonderful, beautiful, and (sadly) rare thing: a statue of Christopher Columbus. Located at St. Anthony of Padua Church, the bronze statue is now a lovely light green and depicts the explorer gazing skyward and pointing to a globe with his right hand. The statue was made by Alois G. Buyens in 1892. He was originally located at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End of Boston but moved to Revere in the 1920s. He and a statue of St. Anthony stand on either side of the church’s front entrance. 

Here are some photos of this version of Chris, who has so far (knock on wood) managed to survive the genocide that has claimed so many of his brethren. 






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bookmark_borderRubbing salt in the wounds

As part of the senseless war against every person and thing from history that is unique or different, there has been a concerted effort to obliterate the legacy of Christopher Columbus. One of the most despicable instances of this has taken place in the city of Columbus, Ohio. Reprehensibly, the city decided to remove two beautiful statues of the Italian hero: one outside city hall and one at a community college. Making this even more disgusting is the fact that the statue at city hall was gifted by Columbus’s hometown of Genoa, Italy in 1955. Genoa and Columbus were considered sister cities until the latter decided to spit in the face of the Italian-American community by repudiating both its Italian counterpart and its namesake. 

A recent column by Theodore Decker of the Columbus Dispatch makes light of this situation in a way that I find offensive and disrespectful to those who have been hurt by the city’s actions. The column is titled, “Amid a raging storm, Columbus finds a safe harbor on Statehouse lawn.” Thinking that perhaps some entity had actually decided to think for itself and keep a Columbus statue in place, I clicked on the article. Unfortunately, the title was somewhat deceptive. Far from having announced the intention to let Columbus stay, the Ohio state government had determined that the city’s only remaining statue of its namesake, located outside the State House, will likely be obliterated along with the other two; there will just be a five-year process to make the decision official.

In the column, Decker pokes fun at Columbus and portrays the heartless and bigoted assault on him as something neutral or even positive. “Columbus the man, as you know, has taken a bit of a blow to his reputation, what with the pretty much indisputable allegations of genocide and all,” Decker writes. The allegations of genocide are actually very disputable; see this paper by the Sons of Italy, for example. Additionally, Decker points out in a flippant and almost gleeful tone that the explorer has “fallen from grace,” that the two statues of him were “swiftly vanquished,” that the city’s “love affair with Columbus the man was fading,” and that his reputation has been “tainted by, well, the complexities that accompany historical reality.” And he jokes that the statues were moved to “the city’s top-secret government base, Area 1492.”

Making matters worse, Decker seems to take delight in the fact that one of the few people with the courage to defend Columbus – State Rep. Larry Householder – happened to be arrested for money laundering. “Nobody is perfect,” Householder pointed out in defense of Columbus. Decker takes a dismissive tone towards this comment, but it is actually an important and meaningful point. The attitude of the anti-statue crowd is, indeed, that anyone who is not perfect by their standards should be destroyed. This ideology is disturbing because of its bigotry and intolerance, because of the inconsistency with which it is applied, and because it strips the world of everything meaningful, distinctive, and interesting. Householder is therefore correct to take a stand against it.

But this point is lost on Decker, who seems to care about nothing but reveling in the misfortune of others. I don’t get what the money laundering charges against Householder have to do with Columbus, and I don’t see the purpose of pointing them out, other than to further stigmatize and inflict additional pain on those who are already on the minority side of an issue. What is the point of writing a column that consists solely of kicking people who are already down and rubbing salt into the wounds of people who are already hurting? The brutal campaign of destruction against Columbus is not funny. It is a vicious assault on a brave and remarkable man who is unable to defend himself. Seeing a man who I love and admire being treated this way is heartbreaking, infuriating, and soul-crushing. To make light of these despicable actions demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for those who have been harmed. No matter what imperfections Christopher Columbus might have had, it is indisputable that he risked his life for what he believed in. Has Decker ever sailed into uncharted territory, braved sickness and starvation, interacted with people from a completely unknown civilization, and established a settlement in a foreign land? My guess would be no. Instead, it appears that he does nothing but sit on his butt writing columns that ridicule and insult people. He should consider actually fighting for something that he believes in, or attempting to contribute something positive to the world, as opposed to gleefully pointing out the flaws of others and delighting in their misfortune.

bookmark_borderGood news for a change: young Jeb Stuart monument

In the demoralizing wasteland of 2021, good news is difficult to come by. But a small piece of this rare commodity came into existence on February 9, when Laurel Hill, the birthplace and boyhood home of General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, erected a monument to the young cavalryman.

Seeing the pictures on Facebook brought a smile to my face and a little bit of much-needed joy to my heart.

Although the monument is relatively modest in size, it’s heartwarming to see a Confederate statue actually being put up instead of taken down.

Check out the Jeb Stuart Preservation Trust’s Facebook page for more excellent content.

Additionally, more information and pictures can be found at Laurel Hill’s official website.

bookmark_borderThoughts on the destruction of Frederik V statue in Copenhagen

A few months ago, a group of artists stole a bust of King Frederick V from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and dumped it into Copenhagen Harbor. By the time the statue was found, it was ruined beyond repair, its head and neck eaten away by the water.

Frederick’s crime? Ruling over a country that had colonies and participated in the slave trade and sugar trade. At the time of Frederick’s rule (from 1746-1766), Denmark had several colonies, including the Danish West Indies, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, and minor outposts in India and Ghana. Denmark abolished the slave trade in 1792 and ceded most of its colonies by the 20th century. 

According to a New York Times article, the group said in a statement: “We want an art world that relates to and takes responsibility — not only for the actions of the past, but for the ways in which colonialism is still active today.” They added that they wanted to demonstrate solidarity with people affected by colonialism and to spark dialogue with Denmark’s institutions. Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld, a professor at the academy, was fired for her role in the statue’s destruction. According to the Times, she said that she “hoped to trigger a broader reflection on cultural institutions’ role during the colonial period” and to draw attention to existing laws that some people consider to be “harsh and discriminatory.”

People have every right to hold and express any opinions they wish about colonialism, slavery, discrimination, or any other topic. But to steal and destroy a work of art is never OK. It is the ultimate in arrogance to presume that your beliefs give you the right to steal and destroy the property of others, particularly when the property in question is a beautiful and irreplaceable statue. Destroying a work of art is an act of aggression, not only against the institution or individual that owns it but also against the artist whose skills and hard work created it and anyone in the world who loves and admires it. Aggressing against others is not an acceptable way of starting a dialogue with them or inspiring reflection. It is ironic that this act of vandalism was motivated by a desire to protest against harsh and discriminatory laws. In my opinion, destroying a work of art is one of the harshest actions someone could take, and it is also discriminatory against people who do not share your beliefs.

The Academy Council, which owned the bust, condemned its destruction and implored people not to impose the norms of the present on people from the past. An opinion piece in the Danish newspaper Berlingske wrote: “The methods of identity politics are intolerance, exclusion, cancel culture, and physical destruction.” It described the mindset as “nothing must be left, everything existing must be leveled.”

This is 100% correct. Hypocritically, it is the people who profess to value tolerance and inclusion who are the most exclusive and intolerant. It is the people who profess to value kindness, justice, and human decency who perpetrate vicious acts of destruction against those with whom they disagree. 

Art history professor Mathias Danbolt, according to the NYT article, criticized people who use “the logic of deflection” and complained that “the scandal is never about the visual, political or cultural history of colonialism” but instead about the destruction of the statues. I disagree with his take. The destruction of statues and other priceless works of art is the real problem. To treat it as such is not deflection, but recognition of how truly heinous and atrocious it is. History contains a nearly infinite number of people and events, some good, some bad, some just, some unjust, and some in between. In my opinion, no event in history compares in brutality, injustice, and sheer awfulness to the statue genocide perpetrated during 2020 and 2021. Most people likely disagree with me on this. If you consider colonialism and slavery to be bigger problems than statue genocide, you have a right to your opinions, but I have a right to mine as well. It is not deflection to have a different opinion about which injustices are the most worthy of criticism and condemnation.

bookmark_borderAlabama votes to save statues

In this era of all-out assault against everything Confederate, statues will remain relatively safe in Alabama, at least for the time being. This week, Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee voted down legislation that would weaken the protections in the the 2017 Memorial Preservation Act, which forbids cities and towns from taking down monuments over 40 years old and fines them $25,000 for doing so. 

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, who sponsored the legislation, characterized it as a “reasonable compromise” and said that opposition was motivated by racism, according to the Associated Press. “We are in the state of Alabama and there is still much to be done with regards to the issues of the Confederacy and the beliefs of those individuals who believe in the Confederate monuments, in the Confederate flag,” she said. “Dr. Maya Angelou once said, ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ They have shown who they are.”

These sentiments are deeply wrong for numerous reasons. First of all, opposition to removing statues is not motivated by racism. It is motivated by the fact that a world without statues honoring a wide variety of historical figures, including Confederate ones, is not a world worth living in. As someone on the autism spectrum who loves historical figures more than anything else in the world, I have spent more days than I can count over the past year crying, screaming, and being completely overcome by grief and despair because of the devastating destruction that has taken place. The enormity of the damage that Givan and those who share her beliefs have inflicted is impossible to convey in words. There is nothing racist about opposing the complete destruction of everything good in the world.

With respect to Givan’s claim that her legislation is a reasonable compromise: when a person or group of people is attempting to obliterate from the world everything that makes life worth living, compromise is not the appropriate response. The only reasonable option is to restore all of the Confederate statues and symbols that have been taken away. Opening up the possibility for removing even more statues should not even be considered an option.

Additionally, it is disturbing to read Givan’s comments about “the beliefs of those individuals who believe in the Confederate monuments, in the Confederate flag” and how “there is still much to be done” about this. What kind of person views the existence of people with dissenting opinions as a problem to be solved? This is totalitarian and is the ultimate in bigotry and intolerance.

Finally, it is true that opponents of Givan’s legislation “have shown who they are.” They have shown that, unlike Givan and supporters of the legislation, they believe in tolerance and inclusion. They believe in honoring a diverse array of historical figures. They believe in a world that actually contains beauty, goodness, and things that make life worth living. I’m not sure why Givan considers this a bad thing. 

According to the AP article, Rep. Mike Holmes, a brave defender of statues, was asked about “the feelings of slave descendants” and replied that there is no proof the Civil War was about slavery or white supremacy. He is 100% right. I would add an additional response of my own: the feelings of slave defendants matter the same amount as the feelings of anyone else. The fact that someone was descended from slaves does not give that person the right to inflict unbearable agony on other people. The fact that someone was descended from slaves does not give that person the right to obliterate all beauty, all goodness, all uniqueness, all diversity, and all hope from the world. It does not give a person the right to trample on the rights of those with different backgrounds, values, and beliefs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement complaining that “these dehumanizing symbols of pain and oppression continue to serve as backdrops to important government buildings, halls of justice, public parks, and U.S. military properties.” They also complained that “preservation laws prohibit communities from making their own decisions about what they want to see in their public spaces.”

To call Confederate statues “dehumanizing” is the farthest thing possible from the truth. Confederate statues are beautiful, wonderful, amazing, glorious, and inspiring. It is their destruction that is truly dehumanizing. Removing statues divests the world of everything that makes life worth living. It destroys hope. It treats people like me, who love history, as if our feelings do not matter, as if our wishes do not matter, and as if our happiness does not matter. Anyone who does not see this has no soul.

On the SPLC’s other point, prohibiting communities from making decisions about which statues should be allowed to exist is actually precisely what the law should do. No one should be able to remove any statue, ever, because that violates the rights of the people who like the statue. Once a statue is built, it should remain forever, and no one should be able to take it down. Therefore, Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act is morally right, and all states should enact similar laws. It is excellent news that this law is staying in place. 

bookmark_borderMorgan Freeman is a bully and a bigot

I recently stumbled across a disturbing tweet by Morgan Freeman, in which he demands that the hotel that hosted CPAC denounce the event because its stage was shaped like a rune. If that sounds absolutely ridiculous, that’s because it is. 

The one good thing about this situation is that the Morgan Freeman in question is not the famous actor, but just a despicable excuse for a human being who happens to share the actor’s name. 

Freeman’s tweet is below:

In case it is not immediately apparent how ridiculous this is, allow me to explain. First of all, there is no proof whatsoever that the stage was designed to look like the odal rune. The CPAC stage looks like a pretty typical stage shape to me, and it is entirely plausible that the resemblance to the rune was coincidental. Second, even if the stage was intended to look like the rune, why is that bad? Runes are Viking letters. The fact that the Nazis happened to use this rune does not make the rune a Nazi symbol; it is a Viking symbol that happened to be used by Nazis. There is no rule that if a symbol has ever been used by Nazis, then no one is allowed to use it ever again. 

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