The Covid Delta variant has driven up cases nationally 200% in the last two weeks. Delta: the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet, nutrient-rich land at the mouth of a river, and Elle Wood’s sorority (with Nu) in Legally Blonde. Benign, right? Yes, until very recently when it has been used to identify a new, highly transmissible, even more deadly variant of Covid 19.
I’m fully vaccinated, but to protect people in my family who are either too young to be vaccinated, or who are medically compromised, I’ve had to curtail the few activities I’ve resumed post-Covid. While I’m not going to get much sympathy for this, I just had to miss a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. I don’t think there are many Requiem fans out there lol, but I’m into anything Mozart.
This leads me to the much-touted issue of “rights” in this country. Rights have always been a popular concept in our hyper-individualized culture, certainly more popular than the companion concept “responsibilities”. But since the pandemic has ravaged the globe, rights have become a rallying cry for (guess who?) the Right. There’s a lot of talk, yelling actually, about my rights – the right not to wear a mask, the right to be in crowded places, the right not to be vaccinated.
And those people are correct. Unless another insurrection succeeds, we are a free country. (My father used to declare himself “Free, White, and Twenty One.”) In the year and a half of the pandemic, I haven’t heard one argument against these rights, including from the Left.
But neither have I heard any talk of what it means when a person’s exercise of their rights interferes with my rights. Don’t I have a right to begin to lead a normal life again? Infections are now concentrated in the MAGA states in the South, where vaccination rates are abysmally low. Where’s my right to prevent people from these states coming to my state and spreading their germs around? Imagine the hue and cry if someone suggested this!
Covid cases are beginning to clog hospitals yet again, especially in the South. Serious cases are concentrated among unvaccinated people. Recently, 99% of Covid deaths have been unvaccinated people.
If those people have a right to refuse the vaccine, why don’t hospitals have the right to refuse to treat them? They should have the “right” to care for themselves at home, rather than take a bed from someone else, a cancer patient perhaps. What about the rights of our exhausted and beleaguered health care professionals? Who is speaking up for their rights?
Catholic hospitals have the right to refuse treatment, even when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger. Women have died as a result. So why can’t hospitals in general refuse treatment for those who have decided to play Russian roulette with their health?
I can’t say I was thrilled to get the shot. It was so new, and like many people I had lots of questions and reservations. But I trusted the science that the shot was the best option for myself and my family. And also for my community. While I had a right to refuse a shot, I also believe I have a responsibility to people around me. All this howling about “rights” has drowned out any notion of the common good.
While we may be able to survive as individuals, we can only thrive in community. We don’t have a “right” to all the benefits that accrue from living in a community if we take no responsibility for the health and well-being of that community.