we, the many

There was a funny...ruling (or something?)...a while back.  Well, it wasn’t funny in actuality--it was only funny because of all the jokes my family made about it--jokes I won’t say because you will get offended.  Well, maybe not you.  But definitely someone would decide to be.  Offended, that is.  

And was it a ruling--a la the Supreme Court? Or was it only a news sensation?  That I can’t remember, but in the high court of public opinion, Hobby Lobby got the shaft.  And all I remember about it was that for some reason someone (or some group of people) were mad because Hobby Lobby (on the basis of being a religious-affiliated company) didn’t want the insurance they gave their employees to cover contraception. 

A country that was founded upon the concept of separation of church and state, but everyone was up in arms because it took away the employees’ “rights”.  And I said to my mom, of those people, “Nobody took away your rights, fools.  You still have the right to contraception, if you choose.  You just are going to have to pay for it out of pocket.” But you didn’t lose your “right”.  The scope of your personal choices just shifted along the spectrum of everybody’s rights.  You just lost a perk.  If you choose to exercise your OTHER right to accept gainful employment--and you choose to be employed by this entity, then your choices became limited, but your rights didn’t become limited.  

And that is a super important distinction--one that people who like to lob angry words in the name of communication don’t want you to pay attention to.  Like I tell my 2nd graders--”You are one of many.” All 7 years olds have the right to run in the classroom.  I can’t bring them up on criminal charges if they want to.  I certainly can’t violate their rights by sitting on them or tying them to a chair.  But where their rights intersect with the rights of others--I might have to insist that for the safety of others, they follow this rule.  Again, they don’t have to, but if they don’t want to, their choices may become limited. 

They may have to do their work in the office. 

They may have to do it out in the hallway. 

They may have to have a conversation just.like.this about it with me when I have some free time.  When do I have free time?  You can bet your bottom dollar its at recess. BUT their choices became limited, not their rights. 

Not because I am mad at them--but because they are one of many. It’s the same reason I joke with them that our classroom is a democracy and--if there are 23 of them--they each get one vote and so do I, but my vote counts for 24.  And there is always great, silly laughter after that.  A squirming 7 year old variety gnashing of teeth.  It isn’t true, of course, but I use it as a way to explain the concept of “one of many”  

“You care about you, and that’s awesome!” I tell them. “That’s what I want you to do.  I want you to make decisions based on your choices. But...you only care about what you want or need in this one single moment.  And I care about what you are going to want and need in all the moments.  And I also care about what everybody else wants and needs in this moment and in every moment.  I care about you in the future.  And I care about what is best for you as a person and as a group, and what is safe for you.  I care about the things you don’t know yet about you.  And that’s why my vote counts for 24.”  I’m not taking away their rights--but choices become limited when you are one of many.  

I am going to say this now, and half the people are going to think I have an agenda and the other half are going to believe I am socially irresponsible that I don’t.  I was just never, really particularly worried about COVID. I had that luxury because the people I love in life were immediately pulled out of the fray.  I was lucky enough to not be terrible financially impacted as a year-round salaried employee.  My parents live in a retirement community and did an excellent job of keeping themselves safe while the unknown persisted.  The kids and I were, obviously, pulled immediately out of schools and out of any pressing concern.  Dan works for himself and works outside doing chip repairs to windshields or replacing them.    

I didn’t have family members who were actively in poor health, so I didn’t have any fear in the specific.  I didn’t have loved ones in the hospital or in nursing homes, so I didn’t have that heartbreak and heart burden. Through good grace and luck, every person who I did know who had COVID was able to recover in a reasonable amount of time, so that darkness didn’t touch my life.  Words cannot express how immeasurably grateful I am for that. 

As far as the practical, day-to-day?  COVID didn’t take my social life from me or make me lonely in any way.  We very quickly saw the writing on the wall and chose our “people” like spokes on a wheel.  Immediately we became a pod of about 6 houses.  Each of us picked one or two other houses to move in and out of freely, and we operated within only that group.   I used the time to create, to decompress.  I have often said that I worked both more and less than I ever had in my entire life. 

So when I say that I can see both sides of this vaccine conversation, it is because I can.  But, also please understand that it is because I have had the luxury of peace, so my brainstem was never activated.  I didn’t follow the newscycle religiously (read: at all)--possibly grossly irresponsible--but I am telling you now, I can tell who did follow it and what they followed by their overzealous-ness.  And yes, from the outside looking in--it’s all overzealous.  Both sides.  Yes, I’m looking down the aisle at you.  And also, you over on the other side.  

So, I have had the luxury of time to research without agenda--and without ethos demanding my way. I have spent so much time in prayer and meditation that I have the luxury of empathy for people’s fears - and people’s non-fears. I get it. I completely get it. You know, the world can’t exist on the edge of it’s fears and it’s offense all the time.  Sometimes you just have to free fall into the arms of the universe.  To believe that God--like our parents when we were younger--will answer every prayer and sometimes the answer is NO.       

It’s not healthy to imagine you are driving the train all the time, that if you can just pour all your anger into things that you can keep the world from being what it is -- made up of flawed people who are only capable of using 10% of their brains.  (And that’s a high estimate.  I’m convinced the advent of television and social media has likely made it drastically lower.)

I did get the vaccine.  Not out of fear, but out of opportunity.  Simply put, I liked that set of options better.  I perceive a larger, safer set of options based upon that choice, and those were options I wanted to have.  Now, am I guaranteed those options?  No.  I am one of many--and if the many need to mask up again--then I’m easy.  Will I like it?  Also no.  But my rights aren’t taken--that’s bombastic wording, the toolbox of those unwilling to actually communicate.  My options are simply limited while we investigate how to keep the many safe.  

But you have to understand that I’m a free-faller.  I trust the universe.  I don’t click on things on social media that are filled with anger and hyperbole, so my world (even my online world) isn’t open to that style of thoughts. I trust myself and my research.  And I trust that if I am wrong, that God has answered my prayer with  a “no”--and I’m willing to be okay with that as well.  

On the other hand--I know people unwilling to get the vaccine.  And I get that too.  I respect their willingness to trust the universe.  I once met an old Native American man who lived on a reservation in Colorado.  Do you know?  He has never had a vaccine.  Never had health insurance.  Admittedly, he operated within a smaller population of people, by choice.  But he just believed that much in his path.  And if it was time for him to go, he believed it was time for him to go.  And there will be a trail of...yeah, but...yeah, but...yeah, buts...after I say that. Right now you want to tell me your yeah, buts.  

Yeah, but.  You don’t get to take away his rights either.  He chose to not participate in these programs, but understood that his choice provided him with a limited number of options, compared to others.  And he was always willing to stay between those lines for the safety of family, friends, and strangers.  He didn’t travel very far. He did keep himself away from family members who were very sick.  He didn’t fly on planes or travel vast distances away from home.  He was respectful of his smaller pool of options, given that everyone didn’t believe the way he did.  He also took responsibility for himself and didn't expect everyone to change their lives because if his choice.  

Now that’s an extreme example--both philosophically and with regard to personal accountability--and certainly not anywhere near the mainstream example.  But it points out that if you choose to take the option that is more centered around your individual beliefs, then you are going to have to adopt respect for the many, and accept that your pool of personal options might be more limited than that of others.  

And whatever this conversation becomes, whether it becomes an imperative or whether it remains always a choice.  Let us all--we, the man--do the big work of understanding that your rights remain--but your options are on a sliding scale, based upon your choices.  

Are you entitled to your unalienable rights?  Yes.  But you are not the only human on the planet.  You are one of many, and we allllll have the same rights.  

So our rights come with choices.  And, sometimes, limits.  Just like my classroom.  Their ability to move about freely is limited by the impact it could have on others.  Like the age-old statement that our freedom of speech doesn’t extend to falsely yelling fire in a movie theater and causing a panic.  That's not your freedom of speech, that’s a misdemeanor.  Why?  Because speech that is dangerous and false is not protected under the laws of free speech, as opposed to speech that is dangerous, but also true--which is.  

At the end of the day, it comes down to common sense.  Simple truth. You do have the right to choose.  And your choices may not be perfect.  Nevertheless, your choices come with options. And options can be limited.   If 2nd graders can understand that--then surely we, the adults; we, the different; we, the thinkers; we, the many, can find the grace to understand that as well.

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