We often hear that our constitutional freedoms preclude us from having to wear masks or be vaccinated if we choose not to (e.g. Philip Catron’s Aug. 23 letter, Gov. Hogan's divisiveness continues). I do not believe this understanding of our personal liberties is correct.
First, let me say, I am a conservative as understood by Edmund Burke, John Locke, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Disraeli, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Robert Dole, John McCain, George Will, David Brooks, William Buckley and Charles Krauthammer. The dogma of personal freedom trumping everything is libertarianism, a political philosophy in its own right. Donald Trump is not a “conservative.” I do not believe his approach to governing is a recognized political philosophy with a formal name, as yet.
While I do not dispute anyone’s constitutional right, neither do I not recognize a right to allow others’ nonsense to jeopardize my health. And, while I understand they believe in what they are saying and doing, and do not think it is nonsense, I similarly believe that masking and vaccination protect us all. So, why should I subordinate my opinion to theirs? As an individual you may have some peculiar right to jeopardize your life by drinking alcohol to excess and speeding. However, if you do it, you also jeopardize the lives of people who choose not to drink and speed, so we don’t allow it. So, it should be with masks and vaccinations.
In fact, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution do not place personal liberty at the pinnacle of our rights. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution are derived from enlightenment thinking which recognize that absolute freedom is the “war of every man upon every man." (Thomas Hobbes). Therefore, Rousseau wrote in his thoughts on the “Social Contract” that even though in a state of nature man is perfectly free, we voluntarily give up some freedom to the state to secure for ourselves the blessings of order and the protection of the state.
John Locke distilled this to simply saying that compliance with the law is necessary for men to be free. Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison and other American patriots were fully versed in enlightenment thinking and expressed it in practical terms in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Individual liberties are specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, an appendix to the Constitution. The Constitution is not a blanket endorsement of license to do exactly as we please without regard for the consequences to others. In fact, if patriotism is, as liberals assert, a conservative value, what better expression of patriotism could there be than concern for fellow citizens' health and attempting to protect it?
Expressed more succinctly: “just get the damn vaccine.”