"REOPEN AMERICA", 1979, Allison Warner, CDC, Continental Congresses' Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, Corona Virus, COVID 19, Declaration of Independence, Face Masks, Human Contract, Life Liberty Happiness, National Right to Life, Right To Life, Senior Year, Sherwood High School, Social Distance, Thomas Jefferson, Tyranny, WHO
I dated Allison Warner over the winter and early spring of 1979. It was our high school senior year and there are two 1979 conversations with her that I remember distinctly. One was Alison calling me a lady’s man, as in someone who valued the company of females far more than males, and the other was that one of the things she really liked about me was that I did not act first, regret later, and then justify poor judgement with a declaration of, “Well, it seemed like the thing to do at the time.”
Allison likely gave 17 year-old me too much credit for thinking before acting but she was right, I like my actions to follow my principles. I am, to use that old-fashioned, outdated term, ethical. I work hard to have my beliefs, morals, and principles guide my actions. Quaint, huh? (BTW- a third thing I distinctly recall was when Allison told me we weren’t right for one another. Oh! Such teenage angst!)
Actions following beliefs is the essence of ethics and it was circa 1979 that I began to conceptualize Thomas Jefferson’s preamble of the Continental Congresses’ Declaration of Independence from Great Britain as hierarchical as opposed to a simple laundry list of Inalienable Rights. The second sentence pf Jefferson’s Declaration begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I hold that these are listed in order of necessary conditions. One must have Life to achieve Liberty and with Liberty we have an ability to pursue Happiness.
I’m not alone in declaring Life, Liberty & Happiness to be hierarchical. The National Right to Life movement states:
National Right to Life carries out its lifesaving mission by promoting respect for the worth and dignity of every individual human being, born or unborn, including unborn children from their beginning; those newly born; persons with disabilities; older people; and other vulnerable people, especially those who cannot defend themselves. Our areas of concern include abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the killing of unborn children for their stem cells.
I share The Right to Life’s concerns of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide and absolutely add concerns over capital punishment, war, crime, environmental protection, the need to provide assistance and education for those in poverty, and inequality in justice to the laundry list. (We also part ways concerning laws prohibiting elective abortions beginning before the second trimester, but I digress.) The Right to Life must precede the Right of Liberty. QED. A priori. Gotta be alive ta have liberty and no Right is unassailable or without restriction.
The Human Contract demands that under many circumstances we must prioritize the Greater Good over Personal Liberty. This prioritization is precisely why we have laws proscribing our actions, why “Liberty” does not equal unlimited license to do as we please. All actions have consequences and demanding our Rights without acknowledging our Responsibilities is to behave at the level MS Warner bemoaned when stating her disdain for, “Well, it seemed like the thing to do at the time.”
We have a responsibility to our community to act responsibly. We must act in ways that protect our most vulnerable and to preserve Life, a necessary condition of Liberty and pursuing Happiness. Accepting limits on our actions is part and parcel of the Social Contract and in these COVID Pandemic times we must do what we can to protect the worth and dignity of every individual human being and to understand that inconveniences such as Social Distance, wearing protective masks and following CDC guidelines for restarting our economy are essential building blocks in preserving Life so we may go on to enjoy greater Liberty and pursue Happiness once again.
To label as tyranny that which is required to preserve Life is to place the Human Contract on its very head. To call for Happiness, Liberty, Life demonstrates the thought process of a narcissistic, myopic child. We all need to acknowledge the necessity of protecting life and act responsibly. It is the least we can do for one another, for the Greater Good, and to honor the principles our nation’s founders laid out in our Declaration of Independence.