Gary Horton | We Need Freedom from Selfishness

Gary Horton

“It’s not about health, it’s about control!” 

“TYRANNY disguised as SAFETY!” 

“Freedom of Choice!” 

“No masks, no tests, no vaccines, no passports!” 

“Don’t Comply!” 

Last Saturday, The Signal reported on a “medical freedom protest” staged outside the county Health Department at the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard. About 100 protesters waved homemade signs bemoaning all things anti-COVID, railing against public efforts to subdue the COVID threat. Dozens of sign-wavers and bullhorn-shouters engaged passing-by drivers to resist masks, mandates, vaccines – reject anything the government would have us do to keep one another COVID-safe. As is the current practice, requisite American flags were used as self-justifying props – even sound medical choices are now framed as winning or losing “our freedoms.” 

My wife drove by the display and thought these folks had lost their minds. “Don’t they know about the COVID surge all around us right now?”  

Apparently, they don’t, because ironically and sadly, in the very same Saturday Signal issue, over on page five, was the headline, “Outbreak hits pair of cheer squads.” 

Some 25 students and staff were infected with COVID-19 when cheer teams from Castaic and West Ranch high schools attended a voluntary cheer camp at Indian Wells July 25-28. Twenty-five COVID cases exploded from relatively small cheer squads mixing it up for just four short days. From that, suddenly, we had 25 cheer team members inadvertently spreading the disease to their friends, families and associates. As has been the pattern, COVID-19 symptoms don’t often show up from days to two weeks, so spreading the thing unknowingly is super-easy. It’s not like you get a big red dot on your forehead warning you and everyone else you’ve got the damn thing. Hence, masks and vaccines are required in close public settings! 

While our kids were getting sick and accidentally getting others sick as well, folks back over at the “medical freedom protest” rebuffed any responsibility we have toward one another. The Signal quoted, “It’s getting these masks off our children who need that social connection and those social cues (and) who need to breathe healthy air. 

“It’s the freedom of choice. It’s not to take anything away from anybody else. It’s not to take away the validity of anything. But the freedom of choice. That’s the country we live in.”  

So much for the Christian value of being our brother’s keeper. “Hey, it’s my freedom that matters. Sorry your mom died, or your friend is on oxygen or lost a liver, kidney, or lungs…”  

School fires back up this week and all our kids will be back mixing it up every bit as much as our local cheer squads did. Twenty-five healthy teens got sick in four days. What might happen with tens of thousands of kids together in classrooms if every precaution isn’t taken? And just what price must the general public pay for the supposed “medical freedoms” of a science-denying few? 

The juxtaposition between those anti-mandaters, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and 25 sick cheer squad members is personal. I know the father of one cheer squad member who drove down to Indian Wells to pick up her up. One week later, everyone who was in his car came down with COVID. And he got it… bad.  

He was knocked out for nearly two weeks. Asked how his COVID-19 illness was, compared to a bad case of the flu, my buddy replied, “Easily 10 times worse. I’ve never been so sick in my life. I thought I was going to die.” 

He described his illness: Open fever blisters on chest and back. Nights filled will chills, terrible aches, stomach sickness. Struggling to breathe with a fear of pneumonia, which continues to the present day. Zero energy and sleeping 20 hours a day… “The worst you can imagine,” my friend reported.  

And all for doing the nice fatherly thing of picking up a daughter from an innocent cheer camp… 

My friend is a true COVID-19 believer now. And he wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  

And that’s the key point: Cooperative compliance with mask mandates and vaccinations is perhaps more about protecting your friends, neighbors and loved ones than it is about protecting yourself. It’s about being a good citizen. 

Our American freedoms do allow us leeway in risking our own lives. We can eat and drink poorly. Act irresponsibly. Jump from airplanes. Whatever. Our freedoms allow us to harm ourselves to a great extent! But we’re not allowed to hurt others. Harming others and putting them at risk is against the law, and here, there’s no question about “our freedoms.” We can mess up our own lives, but we don’t get to mess up others’. 

But COVID is invisible. It’s sneaky. You might have it and you don’t know it. The guy next to you could be nice as apple pie but he could be a super spreader. You don’t know. It’s not obvious when we’re endangering others or being endangered. What we do know is that right now we’re in a COVID spike, that lots and lots of our friends are getting sick, and many are seriously ill and too many are dying.  

Stopping this cycle isn’t an infringement of our “freedoms.” It’s our moral duty to friends and family to take completely reasonable and scientifically validated steps to protect one another during a highly unusual period of our lives.  

My strapping 32-year-young grandfather died in 1918 from the Spanish Flu pandemic. There were no vaccines then and folks of that day suffered terribly. Oh, what they would have done to have vaccines! Here, in our age of wonders, and thanks to many, we have effective vaccines and prudent public policy. 

We have these incredible gifts to fight this insidious pandemic. Yet some cite “freedom from tyranny” as the rationale for purposely endangering others? I can think of few other actions as selfish, self-centered and mean-spirited.  

Get vaccinated, wear masks as directed, and let’s be our brother’s keeper until we beat this thing. That’s the real American thing to do. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board. 

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