Letters to the Editor

Letter: Empathy is American

With the FDA’s approval of the first Covid-19 vaccines, the rise of the Delta variant, and with students returning to school fully face-to-face, vaccine hesitancy is declining. In addition, with a number of companies requiring the Covid-19 vaccine, and following Governor Pritzker’s vaccination mandate for healthcare and education workers, students, and state employees,vaccination status is definitely on the rise. What this says about Illinoisans is that our behaviors and attitudes are changing.

The biggest rebuttal to ‘masking up’ and ‘vaxing up’ has been freedom and choice. For some who consider themselves ‘anti-mask’ and/or ‘anti-vax’, its about the effectiveness of these measures; for others its about perceived safety issues; and for others it’s about government overreach. Many in the ‘anti-mask’ camp insist they are not ‘anti-mask’, they are ‘anti-mandate’.

Although, the ‘anti-mask’, ‘anti-vax’ and ‘anti-mandate’ folks are in the decline, their voices are certainly not. At any given school board meeting, it is likely a dozen to two dozen people will be protesting, and just as likely to share their frustration during public comment. But the error a number of these folks are making, is that they believe they speak for the whole community. They do not.

Although, I can only speak for myself, and not as my roles of a school board member or instructor at our local community college, I can say that I communicate with large parts of our community on a regular basis. For every voice shouting at a meeting or in a Facebook group, there is another, quieter voice begging leaders to keep public health and safety as priority number one.

I continually hear from the ‘anti-’ groups that their personal liberty trumps public health. Another error in this thinking is that freedom is liberty and that liberty is absolute. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S.11 certainly shows this, stating that states unquestionably have the ability to impose measures in the best interest of the collective. But to cite such cases, is often met with, “That’s un-American!” Why?

I am often confused by this sentiment – how is it un-American to care about my neighbor, to make sacrifices for my community, or to do what I can to help others? Aren’t these American values?

Aaron J. Lawler