Letters to the Editor: Sept. 25-26
'We can trust the vaccine'
In the United States, weather warnings are given for public welfare. Such warnings enable people to endure safely the storms that rumble across our lands annually. When supercells are present, local TV and the National Weather Service say, "Take your tornado precautions," or something similar.
Violent weather isn't hypothetical. Consequently, the Shawnee school district is building a safe room for a local elementary school. It's a good thing to have safe rooms for schools. It's a good thing to have personal precautions in place for our dangerous weather days. Kids are worth it. You are worth it.
Some people believe that paying for personal safe rooms is too expensive for something that may not happen. Understandable. These days, not many people have extra thousands for a storm cellar. Nevertheless, provision of some sort should be made by responsible individuals for weather that could kill them.
Shifting gears: Some folks don't believe the science behind Covid mitigation efforts, and they press schools to negate such efforts. Additionally, some don't believe the science behind vaccinations. For consistency's sake, it seems then that these same folks shouldn't believe the science and engineering behind safe rooms. Why spend the money to build them? Sure, a safe room could be used for other purposes, but why not just buy a storage building for ten grand instead building a safe room for a thousand grand? The attitude seems to be: Let's just take our chances.
For a virus that is killing two thousand people daily across America, and presently making more and more children sick, shouldn't provisions be made for protection from that virus?
We have such provision at-the-ready. The Covid vaccine didn't start from zero. Data from mRNA tests, other vaccines, as well as a long history of medical research regarding vaccines, were already in place when scientists began research for a new one.
Through science, the Lord has brought about something miraculous, to wit, three available vaccines. With millions of shots now in arms and with good protection in those arms' bodies, we can trust the vaccine.
Killer storms happen annually, and safe rooms protect kids from violent weather. If such storms happened here daily, Shawnee would be uninhabitable.
But Covid happens here daily. Until vaccines are available for children, mitigation efforts (masks, distancing, washing hands) are the only type of safety net available for them.
"Mitigation" and "tornado precautions" singularly exist as refuge from peril.
What does it mean to be an American?
I’ve been thinking recently about what it means to be an American, to have a shared stake in this country and its fortunes. In some ways the question is unanswerable: We are a diverse country, and we each answer the question in our own way.
Yet there are traits in common that resonate across communities and political beliefs. You could start, for instance, with a belief in the promise and ideals of the United States, in its Constitution and laws, and perhaps above all in the independence and opportunity that many Americans consider their birthright.
Yet all along we’ve balanced this quest for liberty with a sense of responsibility. As an American, you accept certain responsibilities: to cast an informed vote; to respect the laws and if you disagree with them to work through the system to change them; to defend the Constitution; and to respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
This last is not a nice-to-have add-on. It’s baked into our system. The success of American democracy rests on all sorts of values: open-mindedness, civility, competence. But we also possess a restless and impressive desire to make things better—to improve our communities and the lives of the people who live in them. At its heart, the American system—our representative democracy—is about how we resolve our differences in order to move forward.
This means we solve our problems together, by working with all kinds of people, trying to forge common ground and communicate our ideas effectively. In the end, this means that the country depends on a set of common virtues in its citizens—mutual respect, tolerance, humility, honesty, and a willingness to step up to challenges—that underlie our ability to make progress together.
All of this may seem starry-eyed these days. There are plenty of Americans who have no patience for those on the other side. Yet the basic need we confront as Americans has not changed, and that is to use the political system to resolve our challenges.
There are all kinds of fault lines in American politics right now. Resolving them is an ongoing challenge. But being an American means confronting that task, doing our best to find solutions that most Americans can live with—and recognizing that the chance to do all this as ordinary citizens is one of the gifts that being an American bestows on us.
Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; he was a was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.