The effort to overcome the COVID pandemic showed a lot of promise over the last year as the most vulnerable were largely vaccinated and the authorization to inoculate Americans as young as 12 years old became a reality. What is left are the children under 12, those that are hesitating for a variety of reasons and the segment of the community that is making a political statement by refusing to mask up and vaccinate.
The issue has been significantly complicated by the fact that the virus has largely mutated to a Delta Variant that threatens those that have already received the vaccine and more importantly to families, as Delta is directly affecting younger children in significantly larger numbers. As a result, COVID, especially in its latest form, is forcing us to confront the question of our rights as a free people in light of our responsibilities to promote the welfare of the country.
The preamble to Constitution is clear about “the general welfare” as the major reason for its existence. That being the case, our institutions have taken this priority as fundamental to their mission in governing during this critical period. That “general welfare” clause in the Constitution can be challenged when it conflicts with individual freedoms also guaranteed by the document. This challenge implies that the guaranteed freedoms are enjoyed by everyone equally.
What I consider my immediate family includes three granddaughters ages 17, 13 and 11. The 17 and 13 year old are fully vaccinated but my 11 year old is not. At the same time, all three are under the tutelage of parents that have authority over their lives. Although their human rights are part of our order, their political rights are limited by age conventions and laws.
This example demonstrates the fact that although the Constitution guarantees the individual rights of everyone, for understandable reasons, its application leaves out the freedoms of a large segment of our population. So, when our institutions work to comply with the language of the Constitution, they must also think and act in behalf of the voiceless among us.
For us as individuals, the task is to assess our rights in light of the responsibility to respect our fellow Americans that may or may not be able to exercise theirs. We must look to our family, children, neighbors and community to see if the exercise of our rights infringes on theirs.
The arrogant use of our individual freedoms without caring about how this affects others is unAmerican. The first lesson in learning to be a nation united is about the respect for one another. It is becoming more and more evident that in this pandemic, one of the most egregious of abuses of individual rights has been the choice not to be vaccinated for political reasons. This reveals a tendency to think that we can hurt those we are targeting by doing this. The irony is that those we hurt the most are ourselves and our own. That is why it is a tragedy to see many of the eligible go unvaccinated and end up in hospital wards along with those they infected. It is even more tragic when the abuse of individual freedoms negatively affects the health of the nation and its struggle to overcome the pandemic. The journey toward a solution can begins with words such as those offered by Benito Juarez, the architect of Mexican democracy who once stated that “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”