If Fighting Terrorist Attacks Is a Government Responsibility, So Is Fighting a Killer VirusRoundup
tags: public health, Vaccination, COVID-19, collective action
Claire Potter is Co-Executive Editor, Public Seminar and Professor of History at The New School.
Imagine Barack Obama saying in January 2009: “You know, the airline security measures put in place after 9/11--friends, it’s a significant infringement of personal freedom to paw through people’s belongings just because of a couple of dozen terrorists. It’s divisive. People resent being undressed and searched in public. And infringing on Americans’ freedom to travel with more than 3.5 ounces of face cream--well, what will the government take from us next? So, fellow Americans, we think it’s worth the loss of a few airliners and all their passengers--not to mention countless lives on the ground--to preserve the freedom to travel without federal interference.”
Yet, fundamentally, this is what right-wing pundits and politicians believe about Covid: that disabling and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans from Covid-19, many of them children and babies who cannot make any choice for themselves is the price of freedom.
To put it bluntly, unvaccinated parents and teachers are infecting children and babies in ever-growing numbers. By mid-summer, Americans under the age of 12 represented 13% of Covid cases: that was 400 childhood deaths. The number is far higher now, as childhood infections rise with community spread. This week, four children smothered from the effects of the disease in Georgia alone.
But the total numbers now are even more heartbreaking because this catastrophe was so preventable. On September 4, the most recent day for which the CDC has data, that number is a provisional 3,742: more deaths are as yet unreported. As the Miami Herald has reported, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is actively hiding and fudging the numbers on daily infections and deaths from Covid.
Vaccine refusers are killing their children and killing each other to support an extreme idea about human freedom that is unsupported in United States law. If right-wing pundits reject a vaccine mandate, that is what they support. It’s not a “tribal” point of view--it’s a logical fact. And it’s insane. (OK, that’s a tribal point of view!)
On 9/11, 2,977--excluding the 19 hijackers-- people who had no choice in the matter died because the Bush administration failed to take known threats seriously and implement stringent security protocols at U. S. airports that would have matched similar protocols in Europe and Israel. So there is a 9/11 happening every day now, and the right-wing does not want that to stop.
And yet, even as governors in the most hard-hit, unvaccinated states are signing orders permitting overwhelmed hospitals to invoke “crisis standards”--which means stashing the sickest people in conference and break rooms in an attempt to save lives that they know they can save--conservatives are still howling that the Covid vaccine is a “personal choice.”
Take this morning’s New York Times guest essay by Robby Soave, a senior editor at the libertarian Reason. (I want to interrupt this message to say that, by giving this clown access to its readership, The New York Times has just bounced Soave from his normal 50,000 readers to a million or so who are rarely exposed to libertarianism in the wild. This is, I think, a good thing.) Soave makes the argument that mandating the vaccine is unlawful. Furthermore, he proposes because Biden rejected a vaccine mandate in December, and Jen Psaki, his spokesperson, reiterated that position as recently as April 23, that to do so now erodes the moral authority as president.
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