Vaccines and the Declaration of Independence

Permit me, gentle readers, to recommend a book: “Starship Troopers”. If you’re looking for a gift for that stubborn conservative in your life, it should do fine.

But, recognizing that you probably won’t have time today, and you may not actually have a copy on your shelf at present, I’ll paraphrase a bit and apply that to the vaccine debate. After, you can go buy the book at the link provided above. (Independent booksellers will benefit, not Bezos.)


Our Declaration of Independence is an amazing document. Not only is it the politest declaration of war in history (“An it please thee, noble King, kindly kiss our collective asses, for thou art demonstrably incompetent to do more for us”), it’s also one of the most profound works of fiction in existence.

Tell a man who’s starving in the wilderness or drowning in the Atlantic that he’s got a natural right to live and he’ll laugh at you. Tell a man imprisoned for a victimless crime he’s got a natural right to liberty and he’s apt to shiv you — and unless you’re his lawyer you’ll deserve it. No right is harder to maintain, nor more dearly bought, than that of liberty. That third one, about the pursuit of happiness, is ludicrous; the inside of your skull is your own, and nobody can take away what’s in it without depriving you of your life. You can pursue happiness all you like; nobody ever guaranteed you could actually achieve it.

The greatest fiction of all is that of equality. It’s asserted, without blush or demur, by a member of the landed gentry, and a representative of the slave-owning classes, to a Parliament and King by then long since enriched by the slave trade — and it’s ludicrous for more reasons than just that; no two leaves on a tree have the same chances at survival. No two acorns, no two worms — and to imply that any two people are equals is so palpably absurd as to be beyond question.

It’s a work of purest fantasy, a gossamer web spun not to make others laugh, but for a far nobler purpose: to make others ASPIRE.

Today, I live in a country where we strive to make all persons equal not in potential or ability or wealth, but rather under the law. We fight bitter political battles over rights to life; prison and criminal justice reform are matters of high urgency; the pursuit of happiness is engaged in by all and sundry. The only purpose of government is to safeguard those rights and others. It is empowered to act for the good of the many, the few, and sometimes the one.

The bottom line is this: There are those among us who are willing to risk danger in order to protect the rest. There are those willing to sacrifice comfort, to forgo social activity, and even to voluntarily surrender their freedom to travel (and how can one pursue anything without traveling?) in order to safeguard the other members of society.

And there are those who won’t.

This is simple fact; it carries no moral weight with it. I am no better a man because I chose vaccination and because I’m staying at home with COVID than any other who doesn’t. The only thing that makes me a better man than some can’t be measured by my willingness to keep a rag over my face. I am who I am, and I’ve chosen as I have. That’s all.

And that’s the part of this that Mr. Heinlein’s hero, Johnny Rico, doesn’t have it in him to see.

Some of us are brave; some are born heroes, and will doubtless one day get other people killed. Some are foolish; others are prudent to the point of self-stifling. And some people are cowards, terrified of needles or doctors or their own mortality. I’m no better than they are; in my life, I’ve done terrible things — and so have you, dear reader, so don’t be too quick to condemn the selfish or the coward who refuses to get a shot for the good of others. There, but for the grace of God, go we all.


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