The whole world, its like its Ghostbusters II.
Everyones miserable and angry, like theres something in the sewers, some sludge underneath us making us mad at each other. You could be forgiven for thinking it a little supernatural, although it isnt. Its all too human. This time, however, its not Vigo the Carpathian but wherever we are on all these pandemic rules and regs about masks and vaccines.
How one behaves at the store or at church or at school or work, its all confused. Different rules, or the absence of any, in different places, all of it together day after day, wears on body and mind. Nearly two years in, it makes sense were all a bit worn out, many on edge.
Me, running a large church, I take it in the shorts daily from both sides. Some days Ive about had it with all of them. It has got a little better, though, and I think Ive chilled out a bit. But I am exhausted, like Ive been in the middle of some drawn-out family fight. Perhaps you understand me, especially if you run any sort of organization.
And it all comes to a head it seems, the tension most acute, when we start talking about vaccine mandates. All over the country, fights have broken out about it, from Maine to New York City to Alabama and beyond. Its an emotional, moral and complex fight, and one for which we are, I suggest, quite ill-equipped. Not only psychologically are we ill-equipped, worn out as we all are, but philosophically so. The problem, you see, is that not only are we tired, were also lost.
Heres what I mean: After these long, tired pandemic days, were now confronted by a first-order problem about freedom, and we dont know what to think or do. Can a COVID-19 vaccine be required by legitimate authority, or does that violate an individuals freedom? This isnt an easy question to answer; avoid, please, those who think it is.
Rather, underneath the specific question about vaccine mandates, at its root, its a riddled and ancient question about freedom; which, I am convinced, we as a society will not be able to answer any more clearly than our ancestors. Freedom either as detachment or domination, the ancients wrestled with the idea of freedom, too, and with equally limited success. At issue is not our philosophically degraded modernity; this is just a very difficult question. Again, steer clear of those who dont think so.
By one account, admittedly Christian, a person is truly free only when she freely acts according to her undeceived intellect and well-formed will. To choose something foolish or contrary to truth, by this line of thought, is but some form of ignorant enslavement. This, applied to our present predicament, becomes a question about the vaccine itself. Is it moral, and is it good for physical and public health?
On this, outside the fantasies of social media, the Catholic Church (to which Im obedient) is clear: Yes, it is. But can it then be required? To this, the Church hasnt said yes. Rather, I assume, both out of pastoral wisdom and solicitude and because of what Catholics believe about conscience, the Church here is rightfully reticent.
What this means for the many other mandates the Church accepts for example, the many other vaccines required in Catholic schools well, thats a big question. It cant be the case that vaccines, like many other things in the public interest, may never be required. To suggest that would be to step away from Catholic moral thought and, to say the least, public health. As I said, this isnt an easy question.
Henning Jacobson famously took his case against a smallpox vaccine requirement to the U.S. Supreme Court back in 1904. At some level, I appreciate his hesitancy; rolling out vaccines in his day wasnt like waiting in line at CVS. Vaccinations sometimes were exercises in brutal coercion for frightened immigrants and people of color. Philosophically, Jacobson thought mandating a vaccine was a violation of his freedom. But the Supreme Court, ruling in 1905, disagreed.
The court likened smallpox to an invading army; as in times of war, the state could compel a person to serve in the military and risk bodily health and even life, so too when fighting disease, the state does have interest in mandating vaccines. This, aside from our nice impotent theological and philosophical discussion, is the real question.
Will the heirs of Henning Jacobson be denied again? And if so, is it a violation of their freedom? But what if, like other sometimes necessary coercive measures, its in the public interest? Again, would that all people saw the good of vaccinations and willfully and joyfully rolled up their sleeves, but what if they dont? Is freedom at stake?
Again, not an easy question. Aristotle said that freedom does not mean doing what a man likes. That superficial notion is all wrong, he said. Freedom is not free will; thats a dangerous, socially destructive idea and one shared by plainly too many people across the political spectrum. But how do we think all this through when were so worn out and angry, when the body politic and the social imaginary are so degraded and sick?
Honestly, I dont know. Which is why Ive personally decided to get vaccinated, to adapt myself to the comfort of others, to love gently, and to be willfully friendly to the vaccinated like me and the unvaccinated, too. Especially them. Because this isnt an easy question.
Yet no matter how confused I am, I can at least still love the other.
Joshua J. Whitfield is pastoral administrator for St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas and a frequent contributor to The Dallas Morning News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find the full opinion section here. Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor and you just might get published.
See more here:
- Opinion | No, Vaccine Mandates Arent an Attack on Freedom - The New York Times - November 2nd, 2021
- Academic Freedom Alliance Letter on the University of Florida Situation - Reason - November 2nd, 2021
- Vaccination, Freedom and Responsibility - Coronavirus Coverage - State of the Planet - November 2nd, 2021
- Freedom football rules 2nd half to beat Liberty, claim city title - lehighvalleylive.com - November 2nd, 2021
- 'Economic freedom' rankings are contrived, meaningless nonsense - The Real News Network - November 2nd, 2021
- Central Valley Right to Life group claims vaccine protection law prohibits freedom of speech - Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register - November 2nd, 2021
- Bitcoin Community Projects Communicate The Message Of Freedom - Bitcoin Magazine - November 2nd, 2021
- Investigative Journalist Roohollah Zam Tops November Ranking Of The One Free Press Coalitions 10 Most Urgent Press Freedom Cases - Forbes - November 2nd, 2021
- Stalin inaugurates exhibition on freedom struggle - The Hindu - November 2nd, 2021
- G-20 Needs a Freedom and Prosperity Agenda More Than Ever - Heritage.org - November 2nd, 2021
- When Jane Johnson jeopardized her freedom for the people who aided her to escape from slavery - Face2Face Africa - November 2nd, 2021
- Letter: Responsibility of Freedom | Opinion | thepilot.com - Southern Pines Pilot - November 2nd, 2021
- Positive Vibes Only: Mayorkun Performs Liberating Track "Freedom" From His New Album 'Back In Office' - grammy.com - November 2nd, 2021
- Passing reveals pursuit of happiness, freedom and safety - District - November 2nd, 2021
- Freedom to Roam: The Rhythms Of Migration - Folk Radio UK - November 2nd, 2021
- Diversity Dialogues Raise Issues of Women's Rights, Sexual Identity and Individual Freedom - University of Arkansas Newswire - February 20th, 2021
- Capitol Talk: Antifa; 'Religious Freedom', And Limits On Local Control - MTPR - February 20th, 2021
- John Mayall: The blues have given me musical freedom - Olean Times Herald - February 20th, 2021
- Greta comes out in support of Disha, says freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest non-negotiable - The Tribune India - February 20th, 2021
- Mosaic Announces Long-Term Partnership with Freedom Forever - PRNewswire - February 20th, 2021
- Creative freedom restricted by cloaking it in religion - The Hindu - February 20th, 2021
- Statutes of Liberty: Freedom of Information Act Requests are Free for Immigrants and U.S. Citizens - ARLnow - February 20th, 2021
- Woman who fought for racial equity as a Freedom Rider reflects on the past, gives outlook on the future - WLWT Cincinnati - February 20th, 2021
- Rescue horses move to Freedom to teach, provide therapy for people in need of rescue - Boothbay Register - February 20th, 2021
- Sudan: Forces of Freedom of Change refuses army appointments as governors - Middle East Monitor - February 20th, 2021
- Freedom Foods sees another CFO depart troubled Australian dairy business - just-food.com - February 20th, 2021
- Opinion | Give Fred Gray the Medal of Freedom, because no one deserves it more - alreporter.com - February 20th, 2021
- Biden Has No Time to Lose on Freedom of Navigation Operations Against China - Foreign Policy - February 20th, 2021
- The scars of solitary: Albert Woodfox on freedom after 44 years in a concrete cell - The Guardian - February 20th, 2021
- Washington Spirit owners, Freddy Adu, and more: Freedom Kicks - Black And Red United - February 20th, 2021
- Readers Write: Impeachment trial, freedom of speech, the cold weather - Minneapolis Star Tribune - February 20th, 2021
- What the Trump administration meant for freedom of information requests - Columbia Journalism Review - February 20th, 2021
- Freedom and security: On social media platforms operating in India - The Hindu - February 20th, 2021
- 'You have to stay strong': 102-year-old freedom fighter's message to Disha Ravi - Hindustan Times - February 20th, 2021
- Freedom | Definition of Freedom at Dictionary.com - December 3rd, 2020
- Freedom - Wikipedia - December 3rd, 2020
- After 400 Years, The Reason People Come To America Is Still ... - December 3rd, 2020
- Medicare Advantage Plans for Florida at Freedom Health ... - December 3rd, 2020
- Freedom of Religion or Belief club formed at BYU - The Daily Universe - Universe.byu.edu - September 18th, 2020
- Freedom 76 At Grandview Will Be Live On FloRacing - FloRacing - September 18th, 2020
- Aviation Analysis: Revival of Fifth Freedom Flights? - Sam Chui - September 18th, 2020
- Trump Attacks The 1619 Project: U.S. Wasnt Founded On Slavery And Oppression, It Was Freedom - Moguldom - September 18th, 2020
- PAUL TIYAMBE ZELEZA - Beyond Political Freedom to Inclusive Wealth Creation and Self-Reliance - The Elephant - September 18th, 2020
- Backyard pool will bring joy and freedom to Niagara Falls boy - StCatharinesStandard.ca - September 18th, 2020
- Parson James Talks New Single, Lockdown, and Artistic Freedom - vmagazine.com - September 18th, 2020
- Private Railways Will Have Freedom To Set Their Own Fares: Government - NDTV - September 18th, 2020
- McCarthy focused on election, not Freedom Caucus push to remove Pelosi - Roll Call - September 18th, 2020
- Julian Assange, and Press Freedom, on Trial in London - Democracy Now! - September 18th, 2020
- Heres How to Retire at 45 with Financial Freedom - Investment U - September 18th, 2020
- Freedom and Madison off to a 'super' school year - Conway Daily Sun - September 2nd, 2020
- Freedom and Independence group formed to combat Soviet terror founded 75 years ago today - The First News - September 2nd, 2020
- COMMENTARY: Your freedom hinges on freedom of speech - The Cherokee One Feather - Cherokee One Feather - September 2nd, 2020
- Will it be Freedom Hilly cross country course? - The Macomb Daily - September 2nd, 2020
- Joliet Township Sued Under The Freedom of Information Act; Unauthorized Fees - Edgar County Watchdogs - September 2nd, 2020
- OPINION/LETTER: Gun range noise is the 'sound of freedom' - Cape Cod Times - September 2nd, 2020
- What was the Red Sox best trade-deadline acquisition? Freedom from luxury-tax penalties - The Boston Globe - September 2nd, 2020
- Fortify Your Home on the Cheap, Part 2 - America's 1st Freedom - September 2nd, 2020
- Sen. Gardner touts vaccine progress, pandemic legislation at Steamboat Institute's Freedom Conference in Beaver Creek - Steamboat Pilot and Today - September 2nd, 2020
- 'Zombies of the Corn' haunted attraction set for 8th season of frightful fun in Freedom - TribLIVE - September 2nd, 2020
- President Armen Sarkissian: Artsakh Was the Spark Which Lit the Fire of Freedom - Armenian News by MassisPost - September 2nd, 2020
- One Database to Rule Them All: The Invisible Content Cartel that Undermines the Freedom of Expression Online - EFF - September 2nd, 2020
- Personal freedom is still limited in most of the Islamic world - The Economist - September 2nd, 2020
- 'Mental Freedom' part two - The River Reporter - September 2nd, 2020
- Tuesday Freedom Kicks: Gelmin Rivas to D.C. United, continued fallout at Real Salt Lake, and more - Black And Red United - September 2nd, 2020
- Freedom Means Something Different to Liberals and Conservatives. Heres How the Definition SplitAnd Why That Still Matters - TIME - August 31st, 2020
- Trademark Parody and Freedom of Speech in the U.S. - JD Supra - August 31st, 2020
- D.C., Loudoun lose, Weston to Juve done & more: Freedom Kicks for 8/31/20 - Black And Red United - August 31st, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: The real meaning of freedom - The Bakersfield Californian - August 31st, 2020
- Bass: Exercising freedom to be exposed to COVID-19 - Berkshire Eagle - August 31st, 2020
- Dean Cain: NYC becoming land of the flee as people leave in search of more freedom - Fox News - August 31st, 2020
- In Conversation: Georgia Anne Muldrow on Finding Freedom as Jyoti - FLOOD Magazine - August 31st, 2020
- Watershed moment for freedom of speech: Prashant Bhushan on SC verdict. Read full statement here - Hindustan Times - August 31st, 2020
- Trumps ban of TikTok and WeChat would reduce Americans freedom of speech and harm foreign investment in the U.S. - MarketWatch - August 31st, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: It's All About Freedom - Centralia Chronicle - August 31st, 2020
- CLARK B. HALL: Rare images record freedom in the making - starexponent.com - August 31st, 2020
- Tantrum Or Freedom Of Expression Over Face Masks? - wcrz.com - August 31st, 2020
- This is my freedom of speech - Newnan Times-Herald - August 31st, 2020
- There are limits to freedom - Mount Airy News - August 31st, 2020
- Freedom in the Muslim World - Cato Institute - August 31st, 2020
- Shevar Perry to Open Solo Exhibit Moments of Freedom August 24th, 2020 - Suburban Journals - August 31st, 2020