One of the most annoying, and damaging, aspects of our 21st-century American culture is the erosion of social boundaries. Aggravated by social media, our culture of rugged individualism and respect for independent thought is shifting into one dominated by busybodies, bullies, and wannabe tyrants. It is a culture that drives the expansion of government as busybodies find their way into power over our lives. If we want to shrink our government, we must start with our culture.
This cultural shift is inescapable in our government school systems where they are teaching generations of young Americans that it is appropriate for government workers to be the authority over all aspects of their lives. Gone are the days when a school’s staff was only responsible for students when they are at school. Many school administrators and teachers now think that they have the responsibility and authority to manage the lives of students outside of school. School busybodies are intent on directing students on everything from eating to birth control to race relations to religion – everything that used to be considered the private affairs of students and their families. Many parents and families were surprised by the reaction of school officials when students organized their own proms. In response to COVID-19, many schools imposed onerous restrictions on proms or canceled them altogether. Wanting to have a traditional prom experience, some families and students organized their own proms. Instead of being supportive, or, at the very least, indifferent, some school officials blasted parents and students for being irresponsible, uncaring, or stupid. School officials have no business interfering in a private event, but the fact that they felt entitled to lecture parents and students speaks to how far they feel their authority extends.
We are also seeing the rampage of the busybodies in the roiling public debate over the COVID-19 vaccines. Thanks to the incredible success of Operation Warp Speed, we have reached the point where vaccines are widely available. Virtually everybody who wants to be vaccinated can do so with ease. They are so readily available that a person could wake up in the morning, decide they want to be vaccinated, and have a shot in the arm by nightfall. While we will not know the long-term effects of the vaccines for many years, they have proven remarkably effective for their intended purpose of warding off COVID-19 and its variants.
With all the information available and the infinite complexities of people’s circumstances, people have different opinions on the necessity of getting vaccinated. Some people are passionate about getting vaccinated. Most of them have already been vaccinated which is why the vaccination rate is declining and supply is abundant. Some people are adamant that they will not be vaccinated and are willing to accept the consequences of their decisions. Then there are the throngs of people who are relatively indifferent. They may get vaccinated. They may not.
In a different era, people would make their own choices about getting vaccinated and everyone else would respect their decision. In this era, whether or not someone has chosen to be vaccinated has become a matter for public discussion. “Have you been vaccinated?” has become a common subject of small talk at work and in casual conversation. Woe to those who are not vaccinated or do not express the appropriate level of determination to be so. They will attract a torrent of clucking tongues and derision from the people who think that their choice is the correct one and cannot abide you making a difference choice. There is a yawning chasm between caring about your neighbor’s health out of sincere concern and chastising their choices because of how it impacts you.
If the busybodies and bullies were only making noise, it would be annoying, but tolerable. What makes them intolerable is when they impose their views on everyone else with the power of government. When the neighborhood bully gains power over you through government, we walk the path that ends in tyranny.
Somewhere along the way, “live and let live,” and its more ornery cousin, “none of your business,” stopped being part of the American culture. The cultural shift away from individual rights and responsibilities is corrosive to our way of life. The cultural rot that infects proms and vaccines is part of a larger infection that is running rampant through our society and government. We must reverse the shift by being intentional about respecting individuals, their choices, and their rights.
If you are wondering if I have been vaccinated, it is none of your business.