Re: Roy Exum: Vaccine & Masks
Full disclosure: Roy’s mother, Helen Exum, and my mother, Beckie McCallie, were best friends. Since I’m some years older than Roy, when Mrs. Exum and my mother visited at my home, I “babysat” Roy. Yes, Roy and I played games together. And now, he is the famous journalist. And though we hold some differences on politics, we remain friends.
I wrote the following letter to Roy earlier this morning in response to his latest commentary.
Brother Roy: I was thrilled when you recently came out very strongly in favor of the vaccine. I thought your positive stand would make a huge difference in Hamilton County for those who don’t understand how their refusal to get vaccinated is hurting us all.
I was a child of the 1940s, but I knew what the war effort was, and I participated every single day in smashing tin cans and putting them in the “save” bag, and doing other things my parents put on my list “to do!” I was proud to do anything I could to further “the war effort” so that “our boys” in Europe and the Pacific would be successful and come back alive.
As I watched the newsreels, I was absolutely amazed, enthralled—and horrified, with tears in my eyes, seeing American men with huge packs on their backs, going ashore on Pacific islands, or maybe D-Day, and often never reaching the beach. But we had demanded that they do that, and with few exceptions, none of them said, “You can’t make me; I have rights!”
I have always thought - no, I knew, they did that for me, so that I could live and grow and participate in this America. Years later, I would join the U.S. Navy - partially for me and partially for my country, because that’s what I was taught about “my rights.” It is my right and my privilege to do this for me….and for you, my American brother and sister.
In my childhood, we also took a series of “shots,” inoculations, so that I would not get sick, and so I would not spread measles, chicken pox, or polio to any of my friends. It was expected; it was demanded, and I was and am an American patriot, doing my duty.
But today, Americans have a “right” not to get a shot in the arm or wear a little cloth mask because their “right” to do what they want to do - in the face of a deadly pandemic that we might have been able to vanquish months ago - is more important than helping themselves or their fellow human beings live.
Maybe my problem as a WWII baby is that this new idea of “freedom” and “rights” conflicts with my “old fashioned” patriotism for which so many American soldiers died on the battlefield. Maybe getting inoculated against a disease or wearing a mask is more difficult today than it was then. Maybe I have no responsibility for my fellow Americans anymore.