Everyone needs to work together

I'm third. You're third, too.


I truly don’t understand the argument about personal rights when it comes to wearing a mask -- or get vaccinated. 

What it resembles is what one hears from a child when they don’t like what they have to do.  “I don’t want to; you can’t make me”.  An adult would respond to that child with “there are things we have to do,” set the example, and over time teach the child about things like responsibility, manners, social norms, and how to be a socially responsible adult.  Most of us get these lessons growing up, like it or not, and then we become grown-ups and pass the lessons along.

It's not just the government. Everyone you see wearing a mask wants you to wear one, too. 

When I was growing up it was ingrained in me that we are part of a family and society.  What was made very clear was that I have a responsibility to my community; I don’t get to act on any whim, behave unsocially or be a problem for my neighbors.  Manners are important; it is the system that shows us how to be kind to each other, to demonstrate respect for our elders and neighbors, it is the model for how to treat each other as we want to be treated.   That knowledge didn’t just manifest itself in me, it was taught and shown by adults. 

I clearly remember my grandmother talking to me about this when I was 18 and hitchhiking around the country.  “What are you going to do for the world?”  Geez, uh…I dunno.  She spoke to that ignorant kid in a way he could hear and understand; she set the hook that made me realize that my behaviors are not all about me, there are larger considerations.

I admit to being extremely confused by the people who won’t get vaccinated, unlike those who don’t want to but still do get vaccinated.   All we are being asked is to do a simple act for the good of the community; it’s not about the self.  There are numerous examples of this behavior and concept throughout history and in our culture.  For instance, there is the concept of the commons where we share resources. It is up to all of us to nurture the commons and protect them either as individuals or “by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates” (Wikipedia).

Accordingly, we don’t knowingly pollute our water supply even if it’s convenient or cheaper.   Our entire military system is based upon people sacrificing their own desires, individual choices, well-being and sometimes lives for the good of our society.   There is the religious parable, I’m third, where the individual is down the list of what’s important and who is the priority; the individual is last.  We do things to nurture, help and protect each other, not for ourselves but because it’s the right thing to do.   This unselfish behavior is an example of how we can live our lives, how we can do what we must when the times demand.

Scientists advise that there are basically only two paths out of the COVID pandemic and we as a society must choose which way to go. They are:

  • One choice is everyone gets vaccinated as quickly as possible while continuing to wear masks; then we stop the transmission of the disease rendering it less dangerous than the common flu. We now have the ability, if we choose, to make it stop killing people.   That’s a big deal.  
  • The other choice is that a significant population doesn’t get vaccinated or wear masks and we have to wait until the disease sickens or kills enough people that we reach some kind of “herd immunity”.

I simply can’t understand why we’d choose the latter, especially since the latest group getting infected are children who have no recourse and deserve everyone’s protection.

The benefits of the first option seem overwhelmingly in favor of that choice.  First and foremost, it means fewer people getting sick, fewer people dying. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the rate of breakthrough cases reported among those fully vaccinated is well below 1% in all reporting states, ranging from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.29% in Alaska. Plus, their data shows virtually no deaths from COVID in vaccinated people (only .01% of infected people in two states).  That in itself seems reason enough. It also means

  • Less stress on our health care system. The ability for families to visit people in the hospital.
  • More people are able to work indoors and in close proximity to customers.
  • The ability to have live theater and musical performances indoors.
  • Eliminating the need to wear masks in public places, public transportation, schools.
  • Eliminating the fear, distrust, and anxiety people feel in public places.

This is one of those times where one has to put the community first, not ourselves. 

Our refusal to get vaccinated is taking a terrible toll on our front-line health providers.  That’s so unfair, it’s akin to attacking the very people trying to keep us healthy and alive.  There are always unknowns and uncertainties about the path and personal consequences.  It’s time to set those questions aside and choose to do the best thing for the most people. And that is to get vaccinated, wear your mask, convince others to do the same so we end this trauma as quickly as possible with the least damage to the most people.

Pat Cole  -  pcbiglife@gmail.com - is a former member of Olympia's city council. As a private citizen, he seeks to set a positive tone and lead informed discussion about local civic issues. 

Disagree?  Have your own opinion? Send it to us and, if it's on a topic of local interest and not slanderous or a personal attack, we'll run it here in The JOLT.


5 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • DanaMadsen

    What's not to like? Well said.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2021 Report this

  • jlongley

    Pat, thanks for another of your thoughtful, well-considered, and helpful opinion pieces. Your commentary always seems to take us forward -- in understanding the issue at hand, and how to non-judgmentally understand the many sides. Keep it up.

    Jim L.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2021 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    Today's Olympian carried a story about Thurston County's COVID status -- only half of us fully vaccinated. There was also an editorial about humanity's failure to adequately address climate change. The similarity struck me. It's like we're little kids refusing to take medicine that will restore us to health.

    This refusal to do what we need to do in our own best interest is weird, self-defeating.

    More broadly, it calls into question the viability of democracy itself. After all, democracy is based on the idea that we will choose what is best for us. It's one thing to do small things that are not good for us -- like more dessert -- but quite another when millions of lives are on the line.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2021 Report this

  • sunshine39

    Take responsibility! People who refuse to be vaccinated should be refused access to hospitalization. Our hospitals and our medical staff are overburdened to the point where they can't care for truly ill people with cancer and heart problems. Why should health resources be used for people who have not taken care of themselves by getting vaccinated? These same people expect care when they become ill.

    What is wrong with people that they do not understand that we must all work together to benefit the community ?

    Friday, August 20, 2021 Report this

  • DanielFarber

    Unfortunately, of the two options you list, only one gets us out of the pandemic mess. For if we truly just wait for herd immunity to save - some of us - that doesn't account for the potential and most likely probable reality that viruses mutate. If left unchecked throughout the world, those mutations could continue to add up to higher and higher rates of disease. Even amongst the vaccinated.

    There is no guarantee that mutations will doom us unless we get our act together with massive public health measures. I just don't think it is rational to tempt that fate.

    Sunday, August 22, 2021 Report this