A few years ago, I injured my back.
The odd thing about back injuries, unlike many other types of injuries, is that you must remain active to prevent atrophy.
Although it sounded counterintuitive at first, it falls in line with many other things in life that require maintenance to ensure functionality and longevity. Like I said, many things in life fall into this category, but not all. I recall hearing the controversial Associate Justice Antonin Scalia once say rights are not like muscles, they do not require constant use to prevent losing them. This castoff line has always resonated with me, and it continues to be applicable on a regular basis. As fears rise over the increase in COVID-19 positivity rates and national outrage growing over vaccination numbers, I find another instance where this line seems applicable.
Americans are interesting people. The famous saying, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing after they have tried everything else,” is often looked at as a true, yet backhanded compliment. We love our rights and freedoms. We love exercising our rights and freedoms, we love protecting our rights and freedoms, and perhaps most of all, we love the right or freedom to say no.
In fact, we love the ability to say no so much, that sometimes we make sure to exercise it simply because we can, whether or not it makes sense. For example, during the 1980′s and 1990′s many states adopted ‘presumed consent’ policies for organ donations. These policies allowed coroners to determine whether to procure organs from the deceased, notwithstanding explicit evidence the deceased did not wish to become an organ donor.
Although these programs found success, when the programs began to encourage coroners to inform family members of their decision to procure these organs, the policy encountered massive resistance. This is odd, not because family members may have reservations about the wishes of their deceased or religious concerns, but because the United States consistently ranks in the top five nations globally in terms of both donors and transplants. These objections led to the virtually nation-wide implementation of “expressed consent” policies, while most of the other nations with high rates of donations have maintained the “presumed consent” polices. I believe this speaks to a broader truth: Americans want the freedom to say no, even if we ultimately say yes.
There are many things which we have a right or freedom to do, yet we probably shouldn’t. Burning an American flag has been deemed protected speech and I fully support someone’s ability to do so, yet I personally believe no one should do it. Again, rights are not muscles, you can go your entire life without burning a flag to demonstrate your agitation with the American government, yet that right lives on. I think this is true with the COVID-19 vaccination.
I understand some have religious or medical apprehension about the vaccine and worry about its effectiveness and possible side effects. These are often measured concerns, with people weighing the risks associated with getting vaccinated against other beliefs or the possibility of causing other medical issues. However, if the apprehension is simply based on an inner resistance to being coaxed into making a decision, then I believe that is a foolish exercise of your freedom.
Your right and freedom to choose what is best for your personal health will not be diluted or circumvented if you get a vaccine during a global pandemic. If, however, you are fully intent on exercising, I don’t know, maybe workout your core?
• Zack Krizel is originally from Utica and now lives in Washington, D.C., while completing law school, with an interest in practicing constitutional law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.