How To Be A Secret Assassin -- Spread COVID
Is deciding to get or not to get vaccinated against COVID a collision of rights, as anti-vaxxers are claiming? Do they have the right not to get vaccinated, because it is a human right to decide what to do with one's own body? (Let's leave aside the obvious for now, that many if not most of these “it's my body” claimants are anti-abortion. The power of rationalization!)
Maybe so. But balancing rights is what a lot of our laws are about. A nation of laws is a nation against might-makes-right. So, is the balancing of rights really difficult in this case?
I think not. I think the balancing of rights in this case is a rather open and shut case. The biggest problem is just visibility of the agent of injury.
If you drive drunk, it's pretty clear that you are a menace to others. When you have your accident and injure others (not to mention yourself), and it's clear that others suffer as a result of your inappropriate self-indulgence, then the cause and the victim are right there for all to see. You drank, you drove, you killed. It's not much of a leap for laws to be enacted to prevent these events by forbidding you to do something to your body – drink alcohol to excess – and then commit and act – driving – that may injure others. Note: it's a preventive law, that you “may” injure others. A certain percentage of the time, you will injure others, not every time, there's just a chance. The law weighs in on competing rights in favor of the potential victims, and there are few who will challenge that societal judgement.
Likewise, do you have the right to step outside your house and fire a gun wildly down the street? No, society says not. You must give up your right to do what you want because it may be injurious to others. Possibly, some of the time, there's a chance.
In fact, some laws go even further than that. Motorists must wear seatbelts. Motorcyclists and bicyclists must wear protective headgear. In these cases, the potential harm isn't to others, but to oneself. Society has judged that the universal law of seatbelts and helmets not only protects the individuals who are protecting themselves, but also protects others, who are influenced by the universality of the laws to follow the societal law-enforced custom. The law protects against the social influence of defiant self-absorption.
And now, closer to home, what about vaccination? For many decades, school children must have been vaccinated against so-called childhood diseases to be able to attend school. It has been controversial recently, it's true, because of the rise of anti-scientific and socially-defiant elements in society. The reasoning used by anti-vaxxers is immensely spurious. The decades-long norm, however, is well-reasoned and accepted. The “violation of body” has been judged to be far-outweighed by the social good of resisting epidemic disease.
Finally, the point of this essay, what about COVID vaccination? Are there differences here that make resistance to COVID vaccination possibly valid? Or does COVID vaccination fall into the same pattern of other regulations of personal behavior in favor of public safety? Only one, and that's really a technicality. Those who don't want to get vaccinated, or those who want to encourage this misbegotten predisposition, can point to the vaccines' not having “official, final” approval, only emergency approval by the Food and Drugs Administration. Which comes, of course, from the both usual and extraordinary typical FDA bureaucratic incompetence, following up their incompetence and uncooperative behavior in delaying COVID testing. The vaccines are as safe as all the other, time-tested vaccines, it's clear, with hundreds of millions of doses administered already.
The biggest difference between driving drunk and shooting wildly in the streets, on the one hand, and spreading COVID, on the other, is visibility. If you could trace the source of each infection, each serious disease, each hospitalization, each death – if you could trace the source to a specific individual as you can with a drunk driver or a shooter, then the connection between individual action (or inaction, in this case) and another individual's affliction would be clear. In that case, perhaps an afflicted person of the family of a deceased might even be able to sue the spreader for reckless endangerment. I don't know, I'm not a lawyer. But at the very least, public opinion could be even more strongly evoked, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving could reappear and do their magic with legislators once again.
Did you ever hear that in an execution by firing squad, one soldier's gun is loaded with blanks, but the executing squad never knows which one it was? So if you're on the squad, you can always claim, it wasn't me. Let's hear it for all those unvaccinated who are claiming, it's not me, after all, I'm healthy, I lead a life filled with exercise and healthy foods – I'm shooting blanks.
I think it's a compelling argument, and rationality would have it that laws mandating universal COVID vaccination should be passed. But “rationality” is a funny word.
I remember when I heard the word “rationalization.” It was puzzling to me – what was the difference between reasoning something out and rationalizing? They seemed to be the same, using reason. Then, when it was explained to me that “rationalizing” was using reason in a spurious way, to defend a position that you wanted to take or had taken anyway, rather than using reason to find a truth wherever it may lie, then, I understood. I saw it immediately as it manifested itself in others! (It took me a little while longer to see it in myself. But there it was. It made me a better reasoner when I understood it.) Rationalizing is universal, and the more you see of the world, and the more you hear from ambitious Republicans and their followers, the more predominant it seems to be.
The power of rationalization is usually stronger than the power of rationalism. So I don't anticipate changing many opinions with this brief analysis. Rationalization is deeply entrenched, and rational argument with opponents generally yields simply a defense, no matter how farfetched. No, the best I am hoping more for helping clarity of thinking for those of us already on the right side of COVID vaxxing thought.
Anyway, that's my hope.