As coro­n­avirus bans be­gin lift­ing, no one is ex­pend­able

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion - By Rabbi Jack Mo­line

It took me 20 years to ac­knowl­edge that I was mid­dle-aged, and by then it was time to join AARP. But at 67, I am ac­cept­ing the la­bel of dis­tinc­tion that puts me at greater risk to con­tract COVID-19. I am a senior.

I own that des­ig­na­tion so that you un­der­stand I have skin in the de­ci­sion around when so­cial dis­tanc­ing and quar­an­tine restric­tions should be lifted. My wife and I are healthy and com­fort­able and un­der sur­veil­lance by our adult chil­dren. They want us to live, and we con­cur.

That’s why I lis­ten crit­i­cally when peo­ple — mostly younger and mostly not with a back­ground in the phys­i­cal sci­ences — con­sider my life an ac­cept­able risk in the road back to the sta­tus quo ante.

There is in­deed a lab­o­ra­tory for the ap­proach of build­ing gen­eral im­mu­nity. It is Swe­den, where healthy peo­ple go about their busi­ness as they choose. The in­fec­tion and death rates are higher than among their neigh­bors, but their health min­istry is con­vinced that, in the long run, the pop­u­la­tion will de­velop a nec­es­sary re­sis­tance to the virus. Older peo­ple and those with com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems are strongly en­cour­aged to re­main se­questered. Therein is an im­por­tant caveat.

The high­est pro­file pub­lic fig­ure in this coun­try to sug­gest a re­turn to “nor­mal” is a con­tem­po­rary of mine, the lieu­tenant gover­nor of Texas, Dan Patrick. From al­most the begin­ning, he has in­sisted old peo­ple, in­clud­ing him­self, are will­ing to die in the name of avoid­ing hard­ship for their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. Per­haps be­cause I do not live in Texas, Patrick did not con­sult me or any of the grand­par­ents among my ac­quain­tances. Us­ing the same polling meth­ods he did, I feel con­fi­dent in pro­claim­ing him wrong.

The ad­vo­cates for end­ing the restric­tions ar­gue that the govern­ment has no author­ity to re­strict what they choose to do to their own bod­ies. They too are wrong, as any phar­ma­cist or ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tor with a DUI con­vic­tion will tes­tify.

When one’s health or the health and safety of oth­ers is at risk, the govern­ment has not only the right but the obli­ga­tion to step in. As the old le­gal saw goes, your right to swing your fists ends where my nose be­gins. The same goes for your “right” to spread the coro­n­avirus.

But is a thin­ning of the herd from the drain on so­ci­ety’s re­sources a rea­son­able stance to take? I mean, we are all go­ing to die of some­thing, right?

I am struck by the metaphor — thin­ning the herd — as if some Dar­winian ideal ought to su­per­sede the so­ci­eties of hu­man be­ings who have dis­cov­ered morals and mean­ings that al­low us to rise above the in­dif­fer­ence of na­ture’s bru­tal­ity. We are not Texas longhorns or feral hogs, left for dead or the shoe fac­tory if we can’t keep up. Quite the op­po­site.

The qual­i­ties that make us hu­man are of­ten quite ir­rel­e­vant to phys­i­cal sur­vival — music, art, poetry, phi­los­o­phy, faith, al­tru­ism, cer­e­mony and ... wait, I know there’s one more. Oh yeah. Love.

I re­mem­ber en­coun­ter­ing an es­say by Rabbi Abra­ham Joshua Heschel on the sub­ject of old age. It was de­liv­ered at the White House Con­fer­ence on Ag­ing in 1961. Rabbi Heschel was mid­dle-aged when he de­liv­ered it. I was 9 at the time, but I read it when I was a teenager. This is what he said:

The re­sources of a so­ci­ety mean noth­ing if those who can­not or could never con­trib­ute to the ma­te­rial wealth of that so­ci­ety are con­sid­ered ex­pend­able. The de­ci­sion to risk sac­ri­fic­ing them on the al­tar of eco­nomic pros­per­ity is a vi­o­la­tion of what it means to be hu­man. His­tory has made that clear by the dis­dain with which the herd thin­ners — the tyrants and dic­ta­tors, the en­slavers, the se­lec­tion-mak­ers, the rob­ber barons — are held.

The phys­i­cal in­fec­tion by the coro­n­avirus is not the only chal­lenge in these times. It has also con­tam­i­nated a seg­ment of our pop­u­lace with the no­tion that the weak, the dis­abled, the un­der­in­sured, and the old folks like me are ex­pend­able.

There is no drug, ven­ti­la­tor or dis­in­fec­tant that can cure that sick­ness. But I do com­mit my­self to work­ing on a pre­ven­ta­tive for as long as I am priv­i­leged to live.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.