Are vaccines and masks really the issue? Is consensus possible?

COVID vaccine

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One of my daughters came home from school years ago. She was clearly upset.

Door slammed.  Book bag thrown to the floor.  A kick at it.  As she turned toward me, I inquired what was wrong.

Her upset then turned to me and my (may I suggest “imaginary”?) failures as a parent. I patiently took her in my arms and quietly asked, “What’s really bothering you?” She tearfully relayed a slight, now long forgotten, that happened at school.  It wasn’t the door or book bag or me.  

We all suffer, at times, from the “kick the dog” syndrome. We vent our frustrations on others or about unrelated issues or, regrettably, our poor dog.  

It’s time for our community to refocus on what’s bothering us.

Are vaccines and masks really the issue?

As a college student during the tumultuous 1960s, I developed (and still have) a basic suspicion of authority and carry an independent nature. Misgivings of authority are healthy. As my dad frequently stated, “If it were not for the grain of sand, there would be no pearls”  Raising questions and doubts can be a good thing.

Isn’t it possible that what’s really bothering us isn’t vaccines or face masks?

How many of us objected to the series of immunizations for our newborn child?

Or to the sequence of health examinations performed at school as a matter of routine? 

Or to child restraints in cars or trucks? 

Or to prohibiting smoking on flights or at the table next to us at restaurants?

Or additives to keep our water supply safe? 

Or efforts to keep drunk drivers off the roads?

Or to the many other actions we accept each day for our health and safety? 

Few.

The difference? We lack consensus in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many of us believe our personal and behavioral freedoms are under attack.  Our communities are angry about the direction of our federal and state governments.  Some of us have employment, business and personal challenges or disruptions. Others fear loss of their jobs.  Many who are working are tired of seeing our taxes being squandered on ne’er-do-wells who won’t work despite plenty of available jobs and thought-to-be useless or ineffective welfare programs. Constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, are said to be eroding. No one seems to give a damn about our concerns. And now they are going to order us around under the auspices of COVID-19.  How could things be otherwise? 

Look at the results from recent elections in Adams County. Gov. Pritzker garnered support from just 25.36% of Adams County voters. President Trump received more than 72% of our votes. We will be dammed before we let (expletives deleted) Pritzker or Biden or their lackies tell us what we will do or not do.

It doesn’t help that political leaders in Illinois unashamedly shirk their responsibilities, allowing the governor to fill the legislative and regulatory void.  It doesn’t help when political aspirants for local or state offices whip up a frenzy with calls to take on the government. It doesn’t help when those who should be providing advice to local officials cower from their responsibilities. Should it come as a surprise when a frustrated speaker at a public meeting reportedly struck a school official and now faces possibly lifelong consequences?  Is this what we want?

What we have lacked is health guidelines that are simple, clear, consistent and, most important, from a trusted source.  The result is a litany of reasons to reject vaccines and masks, ranging from unproven vaccines to side effects of vaccines or wearing masks to various conspiracy theories to a slippery slope government overreach. 

Curiously, kids don’t seem to be bothered by masks. They simply want to get back in school to be with their teachers and friends and activities.

So are vaccines and masks really the issue?  

I have been vaccinated, and I wear a mask when required or requested. I don’t do it because I like the way the president or governor or others have handled things. I don’t.  I’ve done so out of respect and concern for others in our community.  Knowing some who have suffered the effects of COVID-19 or died from the virus, I take seriously the call in our Constitution that “We the people of the United States” seek to “promote the general welfare.” 

That’s the call to each of us.

Regardless of how one might feel about Macoupin County Judge April G. Troemper’s order in a recent COVID-19 case, she recognized that schools are “struggling” to keep kids safe and in school.  In their efforts, she said, “students, teachers, and staff must also do their part to cooperate with any and all safety measures that are implemented …” This “requires teamwork” and “requires everyone.” 

She cautioned, “Failure of any one person or entity to comply with what is required does not equal teamwork.”  Rather, “It just promotes self-destruction of a common goal.” 

As we turn the calendar to another anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack — a day of national consensus, resolve and yes, teamwork — perhaps we can reach a consensus and work collaboratively to confront the issues that really are bothering us.

I truly doubt it’s vaccines and masks.

Jim Rapp has been practicing law for nearly 50 years and has published extensively on education law, civil rights and other legal matters. He is a founding partner of Muddy River News LLC.

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