Let Freedom Ring – The Threat of Losing Free Speech

It became clear to me while listening to a podcast that the deeper issue today is about freedom, and not the COVID pandemic. The podcast discussion centered on compelling people to take a vaccine, whether that be for COVID or to fulfill childhood schedules. The host offered the suggestion that it was reasonable for some people to decline the COVID vaccine due to personal medical freedom and the guest, a pediatric medical doctor, strongly disagreed and insisted that freedom did not extend to medical choices about vaccines. Because the focus of the discussion was around young children and the COVID vaccines, and because I have a six-year old daughter, this shocked me. Not because I am anti-vaccines, but because the COVID vaccines have known side effects and the danger of extreme COVID in children is rare. Both my wife and I are completely against our six-year old daughter being forced to get the COVID vaccine. I personally feel many vaccines are safe, effective, and a blessing to us all. But the COVID vaccine is still in the experimental stages and both efficacy and safety remain a moving target.

Freedom is important to me and should be to you as well. There was a time, not too long ago, when brave people truly put their lives where their hearts and mouths were, many died. I am not that brave, would not risk my life, nor do I want to do the hard work our forefathers did to gain the freedoms we have today. Democracy is the child of freedom and important in its own right.

The most fundamental tool for maintaining democracy is free speech, and we should be most careful about what we allow to be censored. With most things, it is easy to become lackadaisical and take for granted that which has been around a while, but this is not something we should risk by these attitudes. We must protect democracy and its tools at all costs or we could very well face a return to servitude and the need for brave people to risk their lives again. During previous social unrest in the United States, freedom of speech was never censored, not much, and the press was wholly independent. Neither of these two things are true during our COVID pandemic.

For example, at no time during the last century, perhaps the entire history of the United States, have the words of an elected president been censored. Until President Trump was censored and had his accounts terminated by large tech companies. Many people hate Trump enough to find this justifiable but that is what allows this tragedy of censorship to happen. There have also been prominent scientists, doctors, and commentators that got censored. We cannot allow this to happen, not for a pandemic that causes fear, not about the differences of opinion on fighting a war in Viet Nam or the middle east, and not about anything else, lest we lose this critical freedom of free speech. The mainstream media has not remained independent, and has erroneously reported facts that later turned out to be untrue. This is a clear red flag and bad things happen when the media becomes politicized and opines more than being engaged in independent, investigative journalism.

We assume freedom is all encompassing, black and white, all or nothing. That is not true, we do put limits on freedom. Nearly all people agree that freedom should not extend to people who murder or torture or commit genocide, and are willing to outlaw it. In other words, we take away the freedom to commit such obviously heinous acts and because we want these types of behavior to be outlawed, freedom must be gray as opposed to black and white. Most importantly, we have given ourselves the right to determine where lines get drawn within the gray. This is a process that occurs over generations and requires education, correct information, debate and thought. Without these things the general populace can be swayed with incorrect or inaccurate information and lines may get drawn in the wrong place.

The 2020 COVID pandemic is forcing average citizens to consider deep issues and draw conclusions too quickly. Our leadership has not been strong enough to slow down the decision-making process and allow educated and thoughtful legislation based upon facts that may not become apparent for years. The world governments are suddenly, and in concert, acting like medieval rulers or dictators, with absolute power over societies. This should be concerning to each individual because it will be the masses that either allow this to go on or take measures to stop it.

The questions of whether or not the vaccine protects an individual from contracting the virus or completely stops the spread of the virus are already answered by the press and the politicians, despite not having accurate information and the virus being a moving target.  On the other hand, other important questions get very little public consideration and are swept under the carpet, such as whether or not the vaccines harm people and if there are better options available. These questions are critical to determining whether or not we should move personal health freedoms into the gray zone.

Despite widespread belief and statements by the mass media and politicians that these questions are answered, they are not and cannot be answered because we do not have enough information. We are learning as we go and it is becoming more clear as each day goes by that much of what we thought was going to unfold either has not or is markedly different than expected. For example, we now know that the vaccine offers some protection but far less than we hoped. Fully vaccinated people still get infected with COVID, moreover the vaccines do not prevent the spread of the virus. It will take many months or years to understand exactly what level of protection was achieved by the vaccinations. We also know the vaccines do harm some people, there is a medical risk to taking the COVID vaccines and it will take years to know how many people were harmed and to what degree. The question of better options is widely disputed but still unclear. Many treatments have evolved and much has been discovered over the past two years. Anecdotally it looks promising that multiple other options are available and effective. Some are controversial and some are not but the broadest example is that ventilators should not have been the primary treatment for severe COVID and that other means are far more effective.

We have allowed fear to guide our decisions. We have dismissed considered thought and careful decision making. We have allowed this same fear to turn our heads away from the censorship and bias that is occurring right now and eroding the freedoms we have fought thousands of years to achieve. Bravery and courageous actions happen differently today than they did thousands of years, or even one hundred years ago. We do not need to put our physical bodies in harm’s way, but we do need the courage to think carefully and act and vote accordingly. Our system is not perfect but it works. We do have the power to determine the outcome of this important turning point in our history, which while the virus caused its necessity is not the main issue at hand. The main issue at hand is freedom, including the right to public debate. It is important to think very carefully before allowing authorities to resort to censorship. And such drastic measures require transparency and careful review of facts that will take time to become clear.