Especially as We Approach a Million Covid Deaths in the United States.
At a different time, during a different type of conflict, Lincoln called for charity for all. As we battle the deadly disease of Covid and one another over policy positions, we need to learn from his lesson and create policies that are based on tolerance for all.
This won’t be easy to do because people who support vaccines and masks are certain that they are right. Likewise, so-called anti-vaxxers, and various types of people who oppose tyranny also think that they know best as we approach 1 million Covid deaths in our nation.
I am no different. I accept the expert medical consensus that vaccines, masks, and other public-health strategies protect the community from disease by reducing transmission. Meanwhile, as the debates continue, our fellow Americans keep dying from Covid.
Even though I feel strongly about my positions, I also continue to listen to what people from a variety of perspectives say. And I am comfortable admitting that I don’t know everything. This humble realization forces me to adapt my thinking as I wrestle with the public Covid battles we are experiencing.
So, let me tell you about some of the evolved positions I entertain now. These positions make sense to me because I believe that tolerance for all is the best way for us to fight Covid.
For example, I was upset when I learned that a handful of states, including my state of Florida, gave unemployment insurance to people who lost a job because they refused to get vaccinated. I believed this act rewarded people for doing something destructive. I still believe it is destructive for most people to refuse to get vaccinated. But punishing people who object out of conscience is also destructive because it is fighting the wrong war. In short, my simple concept is this: We need to fight Covid, not one another.
Providing unvaccinated Americans with unemployment coverage gives them some basic protection. They don’t deserve to starve because I disagree with them. It also buys time as the Supreme Court continues to confront numerous challenges to the so-called vaccine and mask mandates. In some instances, the Court has struck down government action. Other times, though, the Court, comprised of a clear conservative majority, upholds government authority.
Most recently, the Supreme Court, with six Republican appointees, dealt the Biden administration a victory and a defeat. The Court ruled the federal government can’t require businesses with 100 or more employees to insist employees get vaccinated or tested weekly.
The same court, on the same day, also decided that the federal government has the legal authority to demand that medical facilities require most of their healthcare workers to get vaccinated as a term of employment.
I am not an attorney, and I am certainly no Constitutional scholar. But the split decisions create more confusion as we struggle to deal with a novel Coronavirus, a 100-year pandemic. Confusion from conflicting scholars, experts, and politicians is another reason we the people can form a more perfect union by adopting tolerance over political warfare.
The drive for tolerance also creates another obstacle. Do we just give respect to people of conscience who don’t want to get vaccinated or wear masks? I think that is wrong and destructive. To borrow the words of a gifted editor I know, elective tolerance is not really tolerance. Therefore, tolerance for all is the key. And that means we have to consider the needs and attitudes of all members of our community, including people who fear going to work as Omicron or other variants go wilding in the population.
For example, it is all too easy to knock public schools and the unionized teachers who work there. It’s time, though, that we give them and people with their concerns as much respect as the anti-vaxxers demand themselves.
I also know it is true that we must keep our schools open for the well-being of students and the parents who care for them. So, it won’t be easy, but we’ve got to find a balance that meets the needs of people of conscience who fear infection while we make sure our children can stay in class.
Of course, the push to keep schools open is proof that our actions have consequences. Ironically, this is also the argument used to support vaccine and mask mandates. Some rightly say, in my view, that an individual decision to decline a safe and effective vaccine puts people in the larger community at risk. But the counter charge is emotionally powerful, even if I think it is wrong. Tyranny, anti-vaxxers protest loudly if people back vaccine mandates or weekly testing.
Fortunately, though, we have some very sharp minds discussing these complex issues. I hope they will figure out how to protect the needs of anti-vaxxers and people who fear our individualistic response to Covid puts many members of our community at risk. I back tolerance for all.
As for vaccine mandates, I believe the point of vaccines is to confer increased immunity. But we know that some people have natural immunity which also does a good job of fighting Covid. So, I don’t think we should force people with natural immunity to get vaccinated; although I accept the mainstream expert position that people with vaccines and natural immunity are the safest from getting seriously ill and dying from Covid.
What about the rest of the people who don’t want to take a vaccine? I hope they change their minds and get vaccinated, although I realize they probably don’t give a damn about what I think.
I also hope policymakers consider a lesson I learned from visiting my father recently at a local nursing home. The residents and staff at Hampton Court Nursing Home, in North Miami Beach, get a Covid test every Monday morning. This is not a forever policy; it is specific to the ongoing pandemic and the variants that keep coming at us.
Weekly testing helps the nursing home leaders try to slow the spread of the virus. For example, early on, my dad’s roommate tested positive. In response, the staff moved my father into a private room. And I could not visit until they learned more. Fortunately, a second test, one that is considered more accurate, proved the roommate was negative. But the test gave the staff time to try to limit Covid spread in an indoor setting.
Likewise, I don’t think private businesses need the federal government to tell them what to do. I think caring, compassionate people who run businesses ought to decide that it makes sense to provide maximum safety for employees who work indoors. Weekly testing during the pandemic, and when new variants start spreading, is also good business for business owners who believe the customer is always right.
Sadly, I suspect my evolving positions will upset as many people as they please. My hunch is nothing will work for some people unless I buy their every thought, argument, and purported piece of evidence. Ironically, taking such a stance is a form of tyranny of thought that I reject. I hope people who tell us they oppose government tyranny possess enough tolerance to at least consider my evolved thinking.
Toward the end of the Civil War, months before he was assassinated, Lincoln concluded his second Inaugural Address with these words:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
The work these days is protecting people from serious illness and death. The wounds are many, including what I see as self-inflicted political wounds coming from all sorts of people who won’t keep an open mind. Of course, caring for those who have borne the battle will be a long-term project. That project will be easier to complete if we find a way to generate tolerance for all.
This piece initially ran at Substack newsletter. Visit here.