COVID-19 helps shape American patriotism

Published 3:21 pm Friday, September 10, 2021

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As COVID-19 rebounds via the Delta variant, efforts to require or entice individuals to get the vaccine increase. Ohio offered a $1 million lottery prize to vaccinated individuals; other states are contemplating giving individuals $100 to do so.
In light of the stakes, I suggest that we give recipients the equivalent of World War II service flags to place in their windows with a blue star for every member of the family who has been vaccinated.
Americans justly value their rights, but rights have correlative duties. As citizens who live under a Constitution that respects our rights, we have the duty to respect the rights of others.
Even as they mutually pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honors to one another, America’s revolutionary patriots worried whether the nation had adequate virtue to secure and maintain republican government.
Would Americans rise to the nation’s defense if it were attacked?
While people throughout the world are craving vaccine access, many Americans are proclaiming their right not to get vaccinated, even if this might cost them, or their acquaintances, their lives.
Quite frankly, I don’t have any quarrel if they live hermetically-sealed lives and don’t come into contact with others. Otherwise, they are simply freeloading by waiting for everyone else to get vaccinated for herd immunity to kick in.
I am pleased that we no longer have a draft, but wonder what we would think if an able-bodied family member or neighbor called to service refused to do so, after more than half a million Americans had been killed by a foreign foe?
If this were an act of conscientious objection, I hope we would respect such beliefs. But what if it was simply a way to avoid the chance of getting killed or wounded? Would we laud this as an assertion of personal rights, or would we denounce it as an act of cowardice?
Patriot Nathan Hale reportedly proclaimed “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Are modern Americans, especially those who laud our free enterprise system, so pusillanimous as to refuse a vaccine so that our country could once again resume business as usual?
I dislike wearing masks, and I know that some people believe that going without such masks is also a right, but evidence suggests that most adults would be able to dispense with them if only more of us were vaccinated. Fortunately, this is not a war that requires us to spill our own blood, or leave our families for foreign battlefields, but if patriots throughout our history have been willing to hazard their lives, it isn’t very much to expect people to get a jab or two in the arm to protect themselves and others.
If we hope to maintain America as the home of the brave and the land of the free, we should be willing to do our part, if not to save our own lives, to save the lives of those around us. It’s patriotic; it shows care for our neighbors; and if enough of us do it, it will put us back on the path to normalcy.
I’d be delighted to see COVID-19 blue stars in every window.
(Dr. John R. Vile is a Professor of Political Science and Dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University and author of The American Flag: An Encyclopedia of the Stars and Stripes in U.S. History, Culture, and Law. This opinion by Dr. Vile appeared in the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal)

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