America, Show Me Your Papers

America’s ‘exceptionalism’ refers to her status as being “the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” Compared to nations that became free only after escaping the confines of communism or fascism, America was founded – at least in theory – on the creed of freedom. It’s not surprising, then, that Americans enjoy some of the most stringent protections of civil rights globally, and it’s rare that our freedoms are challenged in any meaningful way. The recent string of vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and shut-downs across the country, however, has resulted in a sudden – and unjustified – departure from the unwavering protections of freedom that we have long enjoyed.

        COVID-19 vaccine mandates, for many reasons that ultimately boil down to unprecedented rates of polarization, were bound to create yet another opportunity for die-hard partisans to pick their side. Predictably, debates over vaccine mandates have not just been a simple matter of for-or-against but have rather raised fundamental considerations concerning freedom, empathy, racism, and humanity itself. And as political debates have long departed from silly questions about taxes and big government, so too have the stakes of choosing the “right” side skyrocketed. Liberals and conservatives, therefore, have been steadfast in their resolve, with those on the Left citing public health hazards, those on the Right citing liberty concerns, and those in the middle facing identity crises as they wrestle with which party they resonate with most.

        While the left-wing wisdom on fighting COVID-19 has tended to call for more regulations, the reality is that more mandates don’t seem to be the answer. In recent trends, free states like Florida that have mask mandate bans, for example, have had equal or better results than closed states like New York. In Florida, vaccine mandates, mask mandates, virtual-only education, and lock-downs are all prohibited. Despite having relaxed COVID-19 regulations, cases and death rates in Florida have been significantly lower than both the national average and that of closed states in recent months. Since August, “hospitalizations have decreased 87%” in Florida, and case rates are now the lowest of all 50 states. 

More broadly, free states across the United States today have relatively low unemployment rates and strong economic growth. Closed states such as California and New York lead the nation in the highest rates of unemployment, with seemingly no advantage in COVID-19 performance.  The federal government has had the benefit of seeing which states are performing best, but it will not follow, nor even educate the public about the model of any state led by a Republican.

        The federal government and the CDC are quick to urge people to get vaccinated, yet there’s reason to believe the “shot-or-test” approach has not worked. The Biden Administration’s entire focus has been to pressure people to get vaccinated. However, under the same Administration, even with the vaccine, more Americans have died from COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020, when vaccines were not readily available. Today, only 60% of the U.S. population is vaccinated.

Additionally, blacks and Hispanics are vaccinated at a much lower rate, compared to whites. The black disparity in vaccination rates is probably due to their justified, decades-long distrust in a government that abused them. Black people, therefore, stand to be disproportionately affected by the breaches of power by federal and state governments. In “show me your papers” vaccine mandate states, black participation will likely be rendered obsolete in society as a result – particularly in restaurants, shopping malls, sporting events, and museums. The Biden Administration’s robotic approach of masking, vaccinating, and shutdowns lacks any creativity, results in racially disparate outcomes, and most importantly, lacks results.

        Consequently, the American people have lost faith in government and science pushed by the media. The complete lack of charismatic leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, censorship of opposing ideas, indifference to the origins of the virus, and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s political versus scientific advice have ruined our faith in once-upon-a-time nearly divine institutions. You can add the fall of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his brother to the list of ways the American people have lost their heroes, and faith in leadership, during this pandemic.

        Our government has shredded the rights of its citizenry. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights focus almost entirely on freedoms from government control, yet edict after edict have been designed to limit our freedom. Thankfully, our courts eventually overturned virtually all mandates, such as those requiring private-sector employers to mandate vaccinations on their employees.

        The American people are smarter than their government. Provide honest information – from all sides – and they will make good decisions. Focus on unbiased, apolitical information and we will beat the virus. In the meantime, Americans might look to Australia, a once-thriving democratic republic that has since lost its way with totalitarian tactics against its citizens, as a template of our future if we do not change direction.  

In the face of uncertainty, we must not lose sight of the values that inspired our framers to bestow on its citizens wide-ranging rights and freedoms, and protections from government.  We must never exchange our fundamental rights for some disillusioned notion of safety that chains us to the whims of unqualified, autocratic leaders, who have come to love of power over love of country.

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About Valentina House

Valentina House was a contributor to the Michigan Review.