Ever Notice That Guns and Inoculations Have Something in Common?

No, It’s Not the Word “Shots”


Looking for Balance – or Choosing Not to Do So

It should be fairly obvious that questions around gun ownership and vaccinations touch on major issues of personal liberty and community responsibility. Not either – both. And yet, the debate has been so long and so rancorous on one of these (guns), that people tend to move immediately to an all or nothing position. Given the divisions in the nation in the post Trump era, the same thing has quickly come to the arguments about requiring or expecting vaccinations.

That is unfortunate, to say the least. There are some valid issues on both sides of both issues. Some understanding of that and a willingness to talk it out beyond yelling bumper stickers at each other is a worthy goal.

It’s All About Me – Guns

I admit to being disappointed, if not surprised, in how self-centered much of the “I can have any weapon I want, and you cannot make me wear a mask of get a vaccination” crowd is in their thinking. And it pretty much seems to be one crowd. If you think that about guns, the odds are high you think that about vaccinations as well.

So very often this is a black or white issue for advocates, with no room for any community situations. Any tolerance of discussion is treated as a dangerous “slippery slope.” First you take away my tank, and next thing I know, you are after my pistol. Insistence on treating everything as an unbreakable continuum rather than as a series of options and tradeoffs is a formula for stalemate. Frankly, it is also childish and unrealistic. We are capable of better.

Looking for a Doable Solution

I spent most of my adult life carrying and using lethal weapons. There is zero rational for having assault weapons, large magazines, and other implements of war in civil society. I would be pleased if we disarmed completely as a society, but I recognize that is not going to happen, for many reasons.

So, I am willing to recognize the feelings of those who wished to be armed and am prepared to look for some reasonable point of national policy that honors their position while keeping the rest of us safe. This does not come easily to me. Our fixation with guns is a national disgrace, and a curse. We must find a way forward.

We are awash in weapons and see random mass violence daily. No rational person could make the case that more guns and looser controls make us safer. The evidence is overwhelming to the contrary. Surely at some point we as a nation will recognize this and get on with sane policies. But not today, it would seem.

It’s All About Me – Vaccinations

It would seem the same about vaccinations. Many medical decisions are deeply personal. I would start with abortion, for example. But no one should have a “right” to risk breathing deadly viruses into the community at large on the basis they do not want a shot. In some logical cases, public health outweighs personal liberties. We decided this long ago with smoking.

Similarly, if you are known to have tuberculosis, there are strict treatment and quarantine protocols, because this is deadly, airborne stuff. Same with COVID. You have no way to know if you are a spreader or who may catch it from you. So, get the damn shot and/or wear a mask. Period. No argument of personal liberty outweighs your civic responsibility. Doubly so if you work in health care or as a first responder.

We Live in Community

 Others among us are really focused on the community aspects of all this. For many people, the more traditional stance in some cultures of community responsibility outweighing individual rights is a foregone conclusion, at the 100% level. Thus, another brick wall for dialogue.

For me, the case for community is overwhelming on both of these issues and should be the baseline for policy and law. But in saying that, it necessary to recognize that some level of leeway is necessary to get to an end state that is sustainable. For example, once we truly get to a herd immunity level – everywhere, not just as a national average – it should be possible to grant a bit more leeway to those who are resistant to vaccinations and who want to have weapons at home. But until we reach reasonable levels of safety on both counts, we should continue to insist on community service and safety.

By the way, the fact that in many areas of resistance to vaccinations, the numbers improve dramatically when matched with lotteries, free beer or donuts, and other goodies tells me this may not be such a deep, deep philosophical issue after all, but something poked along by right wing pols and media.

 About That Balance Thing

I stumbled into an online discussion last week that someone else started about vaccinations. I felt a reply was in order to a posting by a fellow who was on the other side of the vaccination issue. We wound up making quite a few exchanges and to my pleasant surprise, we both made an effort to understand what the other was saying.

Neither of us convinced the other, but we both left with a bit more appreciation of the other side and, more importantly, thanked each other for a civil discourse in place of trading insults. That was a welcome occurrence. More of that, please.

Can We Loosen These Gordian Knots?

In truth, I don’t know.

In the end, however we define that, no one is moving away. We need to find solutions that most of us can live with. We also need to isolate the screamers and extremists by offering opponents some room to maneuver. I am willing to show a bit of patience and willing to have the conversation anytime I can find someone on the other side willing to do the same, be it on guns or vaccinations.

There is no doubt in my mind that community responsibility trumps individualism on both issues, but I am modest enough to acknowledge that there is some value in other positions. If I can find 80% solutions that bring along 80% of my fellow citizens, I will take it. Yes, the outcomes are important, but so too is our badly wounded sense of national community.

                      Bill Clontz

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