Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week:
Aaron Rodgers has always had an independent streak. It is a character trait that has made him one of football’s greats on any given Sunday and made people scratch their heads at his unconventional grooming choices. In hindsight, it seems obvious that Rodgers would chart his own course to protect himself from COVID-19.
The bones of the story are rather dry. Rodgers did not want to take a COVID-19 vaccine and chose a homeopathic protocol to boost his immune system instead. He has subsequently come down with COVID-19. Our collective experience shows that he could have just as easily contracted COVID-19 if he had been vaccinated, but the revelation that he is unvaccinated has invited scrutiny.
The flesh of the story is full of depth and nuance that bring to the surface the entire national conversation regarding vaccines, mandates, health care autonomy, natural rights, responsibility, privacy, and honesty. While the confines of this column will not allow us to explore the entire body, let us pick at a few scabs together. Thankfully, Rodgers took the time to wax expansively about the issue on “The Pat McAfee Show.” His explanation was like one of his expert fourth-quarter game-winning drives — aggressive, thoughtful, creative, layered, and difficult to counter. In his interview, he spoke truths that many Americans know, but are fearful of expressing for fear of a repressive response from the government/ media/Big Pharma/Big Tech medical totalitarians. First, many of the rules that government and businesses have enacted in response to the pandemic are idiotic. They defy logic, ignore the science of how viruses spread and disregard our actual experience or results of these rules. Many of the rules are designed to allow people to demonstrate the virtue of subservience to authority and shame those who think independently. Making a speaker wear a mask at a podium when everyone else is vaccinated and unmasked “makes no sense,” as Rodgers said. It makes even less sense when we know that vaccinated people are spreading and becoming infected with COVID almost as easily as the unvaccinated. Our national experience is that the greatest value of the vaccines seems to be in lessening the severity of an infection — not preventing the spread of it.
Second, “health is not a one-size-fits-all” proposition, said Rodgers. Doctors have known this for centuries and there are entire health care practices built around leveraging knowledge and technology to deliver personalized health care. The human body is an intensely complex creation. To think that there is one treatment or drug that is universally effective and necessary defies centuries of learning. In Rodgers’ case, he claims to be allergic to two of the vaccines and considered the risk of negative effects of the vaccines to be greater than the risk of a healthy young man getting a virus that is statistically less dangerous to him than driving to work every day.
Third, Rodgers asserted his freedom as a thinking American to make a choice for himself based on the information he chose to consume. He made a health care decision for himself that would have been a private choice as recently as two years ago. He thinks that health care decisions should be private, and up until the pandemic melted privacy laws, it would have been. While some may make the case that Rodgers’ case is different because he is a public figure, consider that our federal government has just enacted a mandate for tens of millions of Americans that will force Americans to disclose their medical status on pain of pauperism.
Which brings us to the very definition of freedom. What is it? Are Americans still free in the age of COVID? Freedom is the broad latitude to exercise one’s natural rights without restraint. It is the ability to speak one’s mind without punishment. It is the power to decide what medical treatments to receive, if any, without coercion. That is not to say that freedom can be exercised without criticism, but that nobody — especially one’s government — can wield coercive power to stifle the exercise of one’s rights.
We cannot be said to live in a state of freedom when we cannot express opinions to make our own health care decisions without being penalized by our government whether that government is acting directly or reaching through our employers with the fist of regulation. We do not have freedom if we are only permitted to speak, pray or receive health care that is approved by our new pharmacratic overlords.
At its core, freedom means that people can speak and make personal medical decisions even if they are self-destructive, kooky, or just plain stupid. Whether you agree with Rodgers’ decision about his health care choices, it is his choice to make. In a different era, we allowed our government to exercise power over us only when there was heat created by the friction of opposing freedoms grating against each other. We no longer live in that era. Now we live in an era where we allow our government to wield direct and indirect power to regulate our personal medical decisions and silence speech that does not conform with the current government-approved canon. Rodgers has said that his thoughts on the pandemic will make the left cancel him and the right champion him. Perhaps, but for me, his thoughts humanize him because he is an American who has the same rights as the rest of us. He is frustrated and angry about the increasingly heavy boot of oppression that is suffocating our liberty with the garrote of public health policy.