You Can’t Make Me!
By NANCY PATRICK
America prides itself on freedom. I can do whatever I want, and no one can tell me what to do! I’ve heard that more than ever since the world entered the COVID pandemic. This critical time in history has provided my first experience with a worldwide issue that has occurred simultaneously around the globe.
As I watched international news coverage, I learned that people around the world were wearing masks and quarantining. I observed that in many countries, governmental authorities entered people’s residences to force them to obey their countries’ restrictions. Public transportation systems closed down, non-essential businesses closed, non-emergency medical procedures waited, schools closed, and families hunkered down in their homes.
Even in the United States, most of us accepted the pandemic as a common problem we all shared. During the first year, people abided by the rules and treated each other with respect. Then, by the end of 2020, scientists had developed vaccines that worked effectively to prevent COVID and/or control its effects. What a miracle!
Well, so I thought. I certainly wanted the vaccine at the earliest possible opportunity, and I think the majority of my acquaintances felt the same way. As months passed and many of us received our vaccines, I began hearing that a vocal number of people declined the vaccine.
At first, I didn’t think too much about that except that I didn’t understand why anyone would not want the protection. I do know that many of those who declined said they had doubts about the safety of the vaccine because of the speed of its development. They said it had not been tested enough, and they didn’t trust the CDC or World Health Institute. I didn’t judge them for their opinions, but I did think a lot about social responsibility.
About this time, many people stopped wearing masks after their vaccinations made them feel safe. Unfortunately, no one could know if the unmasked person was truly vaccinated. I continued wearing my mask in public as a way of showing respect and concern for others.
As time has passed, COVID has morphed into other mutations, namely the Delta variant. Hospitalizations continued to cause major concerns in health facilities. Health care workers struggled with exhaustion and depression from workloads and death among their patients.
Still, those who declined the vaccine continued to denounce it even more vocally as authorities began mandating vaccines for employees. Mandates run the gamut from federal government employees all the way to employees of local businesses. Some people have participated in public demonstrations.
I read one sign that struck me in particular. It said, “I’m not against the vaccine. I’m against the mandate.” Then I understood. Somehow in our society we have developed such a spirit of independence that we have forgotten our social obligation to the whole rather than the individual.
As I thought of the objection to mandates, I began listing all the mandates I have followed in my life. The first ones originated with my parents and their use of the word “no” or a slap on the fanny.
Those early lessons prepared me for school and all the mandates involved. Registration, district lines, seating charts, report cards, and class rules of behavior. One of the mandates I hated involved the mandatory measuring of students—height and weight.
As a large girl, I remember the humiliation of having my height and weight said aloud as another person recorded these vital numbers; yet I conformed to the rule.
My childhood occurred before medicine had developed all the current vaccinations for children. Therefore, I had all the childhood diseases like measles, mumps, and chicken pox. Even without vaccinations to prevent the diseases, my mother took my little sister to the doctor who gave her some kind of shot that lessened her symptoms.
Luckily, my generation experienced the first polio vaccinations. We gladly waited in line for those shots. My generation had witnessed polio’s crippling and devastating results.
Other wonderful medical advances that improved my childhood included tuberculosis and small pox vaccines. I remember the tragic stories of those epidemics sweeping across communities, killing thousands of people.
I will mention one more vaccine for which I eagerly waited. I knew many people who had suffered the agony of shingles, and I knew I did not want that disease. I learned that people sixty and over could obtain a vaccination that would protect them from shingles. I went to James McCoy’s drug store on my 60th birthday and gratefully received my vaccination.
I have gone into such detail to illustrate my dismay that so many people in our country refuse to get a COVID vaccination. I do understand the instinctive resistance when someone tells me to do something rather than asks me to do it. I get that.
My problem with all this anger is that our leaders did at first ask us to get the vaccine. Then when COVID numbers continued to rise and the Delta variant filled our hospitals, some people still refused the vaccine. At that point, I fear I lost some of my patience and understanding for the American motto “You can’t make me.”
True, no one can make you get a vaccine. Sadly, some people have now discovered that their refusal has a consequence as they lose their jobs for defying their employers’ mandates. I truly grieve that the COVID pandemic which has decimated so much of the world has not brought us together in a spirit of unity.
I pray that God will impress on the hearts of all people the responsibility to love and care for each other. We do not live as islands. As individual parts, we comprise a whole—the whole country, the whole world.
A writer I greatly admire, John Donne, wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing