Our Change Must Start Within
Meaningful change in our country comes with goals for racial diversity, equity, and inclusion. Saint Mary’s blundered when posed with the opportunity to reach these kinds of goals when finding a new president.
By Melanie Moyer
Saint Mary’s and the United States have or will receive a new president this year. An email addressed to the Saint Mary’s Community announced the appointment of Richard Plumb as Saint Mary’s 30th president a little over a week before President Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States. The Presidential Search Committee stated that Plumb was selected due to his “broad experience in strategic planning, curriculum development, financial management, fundraising, capital planning, and other critical skills necessary to leverage Saint Mary’s College’s distinguished history and write the next chapter for this remarkable institution.” Similar to President Biden, Plumb has extensive experience in his field and has shown he has the necessary skills to effectively run and improve the institution he has been elected president of. However, like Biden, Plumb carries on the tradition of white men occupying the highest position of leadership in their respective institutions. This should be considered by our country and the Saint Mary’s community in the context of our` commitment to diversity and equity.
Social activists in the Black community and beyond have been fighting for the recognition of our country’s history of racial oppression and white supremacy for decades, but many people have only woken up to the truth of our country’s systematized oppression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color this year. Nonetheless, it should be noted that great strides have been made in the direction of educating people about these issues and making meaningful changes to heal our country’s deep racial wounds in 2020. This healing has been made possible by active work towards goals of equity and inclusion largely by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, but also rely on work done by allies. If everyone in our country, especially those in positions of power and privilege such as white people, continued to actively work towards these goals specifically addressing racial oppression, progress will continue to be made.
The Black Lives Matter protests that took place over the summer have shown us that we need to do more than just symbolic actions in order to make the necessary changes in undercutting white supremacy. Saint Mary’s plays an integral role in making changes both in our community and on a country-wide scale as an institution of higher education. This means our actions must go beyond symbolic and mean something in the general scheme of racial justice.
Saint Mary’s was put in the unique position to fill a presidential seat during a time when our country was questioning its structures that uphold the dominance of the white narrative. Some saw that the school had the opportunity to make significant changes in its historical leadership: Saint Mary’s previous presidents lack diversity altogether. It is a problem when we look at the presidential line of an institution and only see white men. Though one of the school’s initiatives is that “the highest quality of academic achievement can only be realized in communities that are culturally, spiritually and ethnically diverse—where all voices are heard, and all students have equitable opportunities to succeed and to serve,” it is difficult to see how this is followed through with the continuation of a presidential line that lacks diversity. In the Presidential Search Committee’s ‘Kickoff’ statement, they say they provided anti bias training for committee members and had a “strong and diverse” hiring pool, yet they failed to include whether or not there were any diversity requirements in place to ensure that they were considering Black, Indegenous, or People of Color in their process. If sports leagues like the NFL can implement strict diversity hiring principles, our college can as well.
Seeing that white men no longer represent the majority of our student body, at least not since women were permitted to attend the school in 1970, it would create meaningful change if Saint Mary’s worked toward higher standards for diversity in its presidential selection. Having a president who looks like or comes from similar backgrounds as our Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color would have an immense impact on the standards of inclusion at Saint Mary’s. Further, having someone in a position of power that has shared experiences living in this country as a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color and/or a woman would allow them to understand the specific needs of our students and make changes accordingly.
Real change cannot be made if we continue to put privileged narratives in our highest positions of power. If our country is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we need to actively work towards electing a president who is not another white man. Similarly, if Saint Mary’s is committed to these same principles, we need to do the same. It is obvious that Dr. Plumb is more than capable of fulfilling the tasks of an accomplished president, I am not questioning whether he has earned the distinction of being our college’s new president. However, it is important we look inward at our institution’s history of prioritizing the white male narrative before we can tote our standards of diversity and inclusion.
Politicians should be restricted to term limits, preventing them from becoming out of touch with the interests of civilians.
By Katelyn McCarthy
After the defeat of the British in the Revolutionary War, King George III was told that George Washington was planning on resigning as commander-in-chief of the American forces instead of becoming the king of the fledgling nation. In response he stated, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
Washington did do just that, though he would be called upon by his countrymen six years later to become their first president. After two terms, he declined to run for a third. Only three men ever ran for a third term: Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, with FDR the sole among them to win. 6 years after his death during his fourth term, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment, which barred presidents from seeking any more than two terms in office.
No such term limits exist regarding congressmen. Many of our currently serving congressmen have treaded the sacred halls of the Capitol for twice the age of the average college student.
About 40% of the current House of Representatives has spent longer than the equivalent of two presidential terms in office. 48—that’s almost half—of our current senators were formerly governors or members of the House of Representatives. 51—that is over half—have spent more than 8 years in the Senate, not including time spent in other branches of government.
We have created a cult of the politician, inducting them into halls not of service but of celebrity. We have allowed and, by our votes, enabled the development of an American aristocracy which we call “democracy.” While it is true that our elected officials are elected, the fact that we speak of “political families”or blindly accept that the person who has headed our district for twenty years can and should continue to do so for another twenty betrays the idea that the politician exists in a class all of his own. This divides the citizen, who possesses complete and unsurpassable worth, from the politician, placing the latter above the former and divorcing government from the people. Government, so conceived, becomes “Of the politician, by the politician, and for the politician.”
Washington understood that the politician exists to serve the citizen. If one enters the political life, it ought to be with the intention of someday exiting that role. A state that exists to serve its own ends and not the ends of the entire unit is not a benevolent force but a totalitarian regime, or at least a regime with totalitarian tendencies. It is Mount Vernon, not the Capitol, that ought to be the politician’s anchor. This is the surest protector against tyranny, corruption, and a self-serving political “class.”
However, with such a high percentage of our politicians seemingly making the Capitol their Mount Vernon, term limits ought to be placed upon each house of Congress. Doing so would help clear our political waters muddied by corruption, reintroduce the politician into civilian life, and promote the election of representatives who remember what it is like to lack political clout.
If King George III were here today, sitting on his throne and stroking his chin as he gazed across the sea at our American continent, how many of our congressmen would he, according to his standard, rank among “the greatest men in the world?” Where is Washington among them?
Term limits would likely bring him back. I think the king would be pleased.
By Emmanuel Simon
To examine the role of the Church in political matters, one must understand the relationship between the Church and state.
The Church is not the state. The state is not the Church. These two institutions are different. But does that mean that the Church is separate from the state? Not quite.
Though the Church and state are two distinct entities, they share a common goal: to promote and achieve the common good. However, the way that the common good is achieved for both differs.
A state promotes the common good amongst its people by means of enacting just policies and laws. Policies and laws are just if they help the individuals in society flourish. Thus, a just state bans all things that are intrinsically evil, actions that can only be done unjustly. The state concerns itself with matters of environmental, immigration, criminal, economic, healthcare, and social issues.
Heard seldomly in our times, the mission of the Church is the salvation of souls for all persons. The Church teaches doctrines and dogmas that one must believe in order to go to Heaven, including on how one should live in order to live a good life. Ultimately, the Church concerns herself with matters of faith and morals.
The Church and state both differ in that some issues of politics are outside the scope of what the Church concerns herself with. For example, the Church has very little if not nothing to say about whether an I.D. is necessary to vote for elections. However, there are some things, things that deal with morals, where a just state and the Church pass judgment on, for example, that murdering innocent 40 year olds is always evil. Because the spheres of the state and Church overlap to a certain degree, the Church, in her eyes, can pass judgments on the state if the state ever tends away from the common good, the goal desired to be achieved by all societies. For this reason, rather than there being a separation of Church and state, which is impossible and irrational, one must hold to a distinction between Church and state.
Inquiry concerning the Church’s role in political matters is made easier. The Church can and does incorporate politics within its teachings and through the sermons of priests in all matters of morals. Thus, whenever the state acts out of hand, promoting something hurtful to the common good, the Church ought to step in and correct the errors of the state. If members of the Church act contrary to the common good, the state has the ability to penalize these members, since members of the Church are also members of a state. This by no means entails that the Church and state are two equal powers, for though they can cast judgment on each other, the Church can do so in respect to individuals and towards the state as a whole, whereas the state can only judge individual members of the Church, and not the Church as an institution.
The Church and state are meant to help individuals and communities flourish. Both Church and state are necessary prerequisites for living a good life, and therefore cannot be entirely separate.
Opinion Columnists Melanie Moyer, Katelyn McCarthy, and Emmanuel Simon debate abortion. Moyer argues in favor of the ‘Pro-Choice’ position, believing that women, not the government, should have the power to make decisions regarding their own bodies. McCarthy and Simon argue in favor of the ‘Pro-Life’ position, believing that abortion is morally wrong, and the unborn deserve legal protection.
Outlawing Abortion Does Not Mean Ending Abortion
Studies and history have shown that outlawing abortion does not make it go away. If efforts are genuinely interested in preventing abortion in the name of fetal life, efforts would be focused on areas that prevent unwanted pregnancy, financially help new parents, and improve foster care programs. The absence of these actions shows that “Pro-Life” may mean more than what’s on the surface.
By Melanie Moyer
A hanger formed into the instrument used on women to achieve an abortion before it was legalized in the U.S. Women would suffer severe pain, and be placed in extreme danger (Photo by Melanie Moyer).
Women’s bodies are used as political battlegrounds. We grow up with the notion that our bodies are not our own through the hypersexualization of our developing anatomy and our treatment as the reproductive property of men. It comes as no surprise that the unique features of our bodies, such as our uteruses, vaginas, nipples, etc., are treated as if they are some kind of public property we are forced to let others influence. The goal of a patriarchal society is to ensure that those who are not male hold the least amount of power possible. What better way to do so than to make sure pregnancy is not something a woman can choose for herself. How telling is it that we talk about a woman’s womb as if it were a rental unit that she loses control over the minute she becomes pregnant. It would be unthinkable for The Supreme Court to decide whether or not a man should have the option to reject fatherhood. However, a woman’s right to choose is something everyone feels entitled to have an opinion on.
The problem with the argument that compares a man’s ability to reject fatherhood with that of a woman is that many men do not foster life inside their bodies when they become pregnant. It is not lost on me that women and people with uteruses are in a very special position to carry a developing life. The ability to develop life inside oneself is miraculous and beautiful. People with uteruses have the unbelievable opportunity to create something beyond what we are able to comprehend, the mystery of life and creation lies within the ability to rear children from what our bodies give us. Our bodies do the unthinkable during pregnancy: our organs compress, we make room for fetuses the size of bowling balls, the nutrients to create life are made inside of us. To force a miracle of this nature would be to strip it of all its beauty. Childrearing is beautiful and mysterious, and can be one of the most important moments in a person’s life. To take away someone’s right to choose the path to childbirth would be to take away the natural beauty of the process and the life that is created.
Going through the process of having children and becoming a parent goes beyond the moment a child is born and the events that come before it. If anything, parenthood begins for many the moment a child is born. Parenthood is a tremendous responsibility that rears some of the most rewarding results. It requires at least eighteen years of a person’s life and finances, not to mention their emotional dedication. Thus, we must acknowledge that there are financial, moral, and personal responsibilities that exist when it comes to discussing a person’s ability to choose parenthood for themselves. Resources and the time it takes to take care of a child are part of the process of childrearing and parenthood, and it is unfair to expect people with uteruses to take on these roles when it is not appropriate for their lifestyles. Women deserve the reproductive rights that allow them to choose if and when they are ready to take on the responsibility of parenthood. Having a child requires extensive financial and lifestyle security that involves the undivided attention of at least one parent, and since childrearing responsibilities fall on women more often than they do men, improper access to abortion will force many women to sacrifice their lives to care for a child. The narrative that women cannot achieve the same career and spiritual goals as men since they are responsible for caring for children has existed throughout history. Familial responsibilities have made it so women could not lead lives of their own once they bore children, leading to the systematic oppression of women, especially Black women, in the US. The refusal to grant women reproductive rights is thus something that has been systemized in order to aid in the oppression they face. If all people in the US are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, parenthood should not be forced upon people with uteruses.
Reproductive rights come in the form of granting someone’s right to choose parenthood in any shape. Abortion is a reproductive right, but access to birth control and sex education are as well. Studies show that when we increase the normalcy of one sector of reproductive rights, we diminish the demand for another. Birth control gives many the option to have sex without getting pregnant, and sex education helps people understand their body’s ability to get pregnant. Sex education in the United States is inadequate and even harmful, leaving people uneducated and careless with their ability to become pregnant. If we dedicate more time to actually teaching people about sex and preventative measures for pregnancy, we can justify having a discussion about abortion in the first place. Thus, the argument that people with uteruses should be denied access to abortion is hypocritical if it is not followed by the advocation and funding for free and accessible birth control as well as a robust sexual education. Groups that claim to be “Pro-Life” often oppose birth control and sexual education, which tells us that they are actually opposing reproductive and sexual rights rather than a fetus’s right to live. I have yet to see an argument from a “Pro-Life” standpoint that advocates for preventative measures against unwanted pregnancy.
Further, I have never seen a “Pro-Life” argument that advocates for the life of a fetus after it is born. The Constitutional right to life is often used by these groups, but the right to life requires the dignity that comes with it. Proper dignity in life is lost when children starve, live in abusive households, or are emotionally neglected. These events run rampant in the United States but are ignored by the same legislators who have caused them by forcing parents to have unwanted pregnancies. There are little to no programs that parents can rely on in our country that will support them and their children after they are born. Our system gives the bare minimum compared to other countries when it comes to Maternity and Paternity leave, forcing us to answer the question of why parents should be expected to keep a child they do not have the time to provide for in the first months of their birth. Statistics show that increased government-subsidized parental leave leads to lower abortion rates, yet many conservative legislators oppose it. We are once again left with the hypocrisy of denying a person’s right to abortion while not providing any programs to preserve a child’s dignity of life.
Beyond parental leave, childcare is astoundingly underfunded for a country that aims to end abortion. With little to no options for parents to access free childcare, many are forced to bring their children to work or leave them unsupervised. This is harmful to both parent and child, for both of their needs in life are forced into compromise. Access to free childcare is required to ensure that children have a place to go if their parents are forced to have them. In a similar way, school lunches and other government-subsidized programs for kids are required for many kids to eat but are often opposed by those who advocate against abortion. We must strengthen these programs if we expect parents to have children without the financial security to pay for something as essential as food, or else yield to the reproductive oppression that has run rampant in the country.
Despite any financial or childcare support, there will always be people who have children they do not want. Unless these people are given the right to have an abortion, the foster care system will remain under great pressure. However, foster care in our country is in shambles with efforts not being directed to preserving the sanctity of life. Many kids enter this system and face dire consequences, especially Black, Indigenous, and children of Color. According to the Children’s Rights Organization, “in 2019, The Kansas City Star surveyed nearly 6,000 incarcerated people in 12 states. 1 in 4 responded that they had been in foster care.” Further, racial inequities are present, for “once in the system, Black children… are more likely to languish in foster care, less likely to be reunified with their families, more likely to be placed in group care, age out in greater numbers, and become involved in the criminal justice system.”
It would infringe on people’s rights to take away their option to give their child up for adoption or send them into foster care, and this is the option those who are opposed to abortion propose if parents do not want or cannot provide for their children. It is astounding that foster care is what opponents to reproductive rights rely on in their argument for life. These programs require more funding if we want them to create a dignified life for a child. They remain embarrassingly underfunded, leaving many children to suffer needlessly in them. If we want all children who are conceived to be born in an ethical way, we need a rational safety net for when parents die during birth, choose not to provide for their children, or abandon them. If basic requirements of living are not met for these children in foster care, the sanctity of life argument is thrown out the window.
If opponents of legal abortion are successful in outlawing abortion, their only accomplishment will be making abortion more dangerous. Abortions will continue to be performed as they were before abortion became legal in the 1970s. However, these abortions will also go underground, leading to unsafe medical practices that can kill and injure both the parent and the child. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “the abortion rate is actually higher in countries that restrict abortion access than in those that do not.” Further, “unintended pregnancy rates are highest in countries that restrict abortion access and lowest in countries where abortion is broadly legal.” Thus, outlawing abortion is not the answer. The decision to take away a person’s right to safe abortion is the equivalent of handing them a wire coathanger.
Further, lack of access to safe abortion has far-reaching and racially oppressive consequences, with Black, Indigenous, and women of color facing the direst consequences. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “similar to many health outcomes in the United States, there are substantial disparities in abortion rates in the United States, with low-income women and women of color having higher rates than affluent and White women.” Thus, outlawing abortion would impact people beyond the realm of reproductive rights, it also deepens our nation’s wounds of racial oppression.
In the end, it is pretty well known that those in opposition to abortion do not actually carry the philanthropic messages they tote. Legal access to abortion has actually been shown to prevent late-stage, unregulated abortion. This issue is about controlling the bodies of women and people with uteruses. If the life of a child is genuinely the concern of those who identify as “Pro-Life,” they would already be pursuing efforts to end abortion through preventing unwanted pregnancies, supporting parents who cannot afford children, and funding programs that give unwanted children the opportunity for a dignified life. The need for abortion will always be there unless more is done to prevent it. Control is a tactic of a government that exploits those who are unprivileged. Support and opportunity is the mission of an altruistic government that fosters the rights of every individual, even those who are not born yet.
All Human Beings Deserve the Right to Life: A Case Against Abortion
Abortion is morally, and ethically wrong as this act intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. Regardless of circumstances, abortion is never the solution to an unplanned, or unwanted pregnancy, and instead, other solutions must be considered.
By Katelyn McCarthy and Emmanuel Simon
An unborn baby of 20 weeks sucking his or her thumb. Abortion is legal in the majority of states at and after this stage of the baby's life. (Image courtesy of Lennart Nilsson's "A Child is Born").
A refrain one often hears from both pro-choicers and pro-lifers is that “abortion is a complicated topic.” While the feelings of a woman dealing with an unplanned or difficult pregnancy are complicated and very real, the question of whether or not abortion is moral is actually very simple. A definition of abortion that will likely be acceptable to both pro-choicers and pro-lifers is as follows: abortion is the direct and intentional termination of a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus. That this act is unethical we believe can be presented in four simple steps.
Statement One: It is wrong to kill an innocent human being. Most people agree that one does not have the right to take an innocent life. Whether or not this applies to the unborn, we will see.
Statement Two: A zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is an innocent human being. “That’s false!” some might say. “It’s just a clump of cells!” Sure, but all of us members of the Saint Mary’s community are clumps of cells. We are still human beings, aren’t we?
“Alright,” one might say. “A fetus is a potential human, not an actual human.” This statement, however, begs the question, “What does it mean to be a human?”
“To be able to feel pleasure or pain,” some say. Yet animals can feel pleasure and pain, but we don’t call them human.
“To possess a fully developed brain,” others say. If this is the case, then most of our student body aren’t human beings, seeing as the human brain isn’t fully developed until around age 25.
“To be able to support your life on your own, without the aid of a woman’s body,” others add. Most infants and toddlers require an adult in order to survive, yet no one would advocate to kill them.
To be a human is to possess a living human body (not to mention a soul). An unborn child is not a part of a woman’s body. He or she has his or her own body. Did you know that, at the moment of conception, the child’s entire DNA set that he will possess for his whole life is decided? From that moment on, he or she grows and grows, and will not finish growing until he reaches late adolescence.
And, funnily enough, these “clumps of cells” are not so “clumpy” as one might believe. According to the Endowment for Human Development, a non-profit organization with an explicit Policy of Bioethical Neutrality, the child’s heart begins beating in week 5. Fingers form between weeks 6-8. By 10 weeks, a physician can begin to tell whether the child will be right or left handed. Most astonishingly, they state, “Experts estimate the 10-week embryo possesses approximately 90% of the 4,500 body parts found in adults. This means that approximately 4,000 permanent body parts are present just eight weeks after conception.”
By 22 weeks—only halfway through the pregnancy—the mother’s child can survive outside of the womb with medical care. Some babies are born at 22 weeks. Others are aborted. The only difference between the two is that one is outside of the womb and the other is not. A person’s location is not indicative of their personhood.
Statement Three: Abortion kills a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus. Once the abortion has been performed, the mother’s child no longer exists. The baby’s life has ended. The intentional ending of a human life is a killing.
Therefore, since it is wrong to kill an innocent human being, since the unborn child is a human being, and since abortion kills an unborn child, abortion is wrong. To agree with these three steps but to still argue that abortion should be permissible is to say, “Yes, it’s wrong to kill babies, only sometimes it’s not.”
Despite the fact that this statement is self-refuting, what might these “sometimes” be?
Some argue that women should be able to live their lives as they please and that children can hinder their plans. A woman, therefore, should be allowed to abort her child if doing so will enable her to live the life she desires. But is it okay to kill people in order to get what one wants? Is it okay to assert one’s life over the life of someone else?
According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Insitutite, 1% of abortions are due to rape and less than .5% are due to incest. Thus, over 98.5% of all abortions occur when a woman, of her own free will, engaged in sexual activity knowing that she could possibly become pregnant. Regardless of her knowledge of or usage of contraceptives, she knew when choosing to engage in sexual activity that she could become pregnant. To have done so and then to claim that she should be able to abort her child is unfair to the child and an irresponsible way to exercise “choice.”
Take the following example. A person chooses to enter a lottery in which the prizes are a phone and a puppy, with the hopes of winning the phone. The person wins the puppy, instead, and, because it takes too much work, or money, or time, he asks to have it killed.
Would we do this to a puppy? Hopefully not. But we do it to human children to the tune of tens of millions in America alone. It seems like we should take a lesson from the way we treat our pets and apply it to the way we treat our children.
That’s not to say that a mother facing an unplanned pregnancy should be forced to raise her child. If she is unable to keep the baby, adoption, not abortion, is the right option. One might counter that the foster care system is inadequate and that it is better to abort the child. To deny a child a chance at life because the life one suspects the child might live would not be up to one’s own standards is not a decision anyone has a right to make. To improve this program, moreover, the $600,000,000 Planned Parenthood receives from the government (as reported in Planned Parenthood’s 2018-2019 Annual Report) should be reallocated to the foster care system and to other programs which promote the welfare of children and their parents.
Others argue that the right to privacy guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion. The right to privacy, however, presupposes the right to life. One cannot be private if one is not first living. One person’s right to privacy certainly cannot supersede another person's right to life and thereby justify the killing of the other!
Some also argue that access to abortion promotes racial equity. It is an insult to women of color to tell them that their pathway to equality is founded on the blood of their own children.
That abortion promotes racial equity, furthermore, is a false statement. In New York City, a Black child in the womb is more likely to be aborted than born alive. The abortion rate among Black women is five times that of white women, and the abortion rate among Hispanic/Latina women is two times that of white women. How does abortion promote racial equality when black and brown children are significantly more likely to be aborted than are white children?
Ultimately, abortion is the greatest form of oppression. The unborn possess the least privilege of all people in society. To be unseen and hidden away in the warmth of the womb, to possess a body that is budding growth, to have as yet no voice with which to proclaim your worth, to be unable to go where you please—this is the most vulnerable state of the human person. It is the state of the unborn child. As the late abortion doctor-turned-pro-life activist, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, wrote, “Fewer women would have abortions if wombs had windows.”
This, seemingly, is the way that human rights abuses always work. The humanity of a group of people—be they Jews, African Americans, or unborn children—is denied and their dehumanization touted as necessary for the status quo to be preserved. Often too late do we come to recognize the dignity and worth of these individuals, individuals whose lives can never be reclaimed or relived. We hope that we might start seeing through the womb like a window and see inside not a clump of cells or an unwanted burden but a baby deserving of love and respect, a baby like all of us once were.
Author’s Note: Women facing unplanned pregnancies, post-abortive women, young parents in need of assistance, and anyone else with a need can take a look at the various resources provided in the links below. For more resources or assistance, you can also contact Katelyn with Students for Life of SMC at email@example.com
By Katelyn McCarthy
A good general (or king, for that matter) is one who personally leads his troops into battle. He places himself in the same dangers as his soldiers, thus earning their trust. Perhaps we can use this idea to determine whether or not members of Congress should receive the COVID vaccination before the general populace. Should they, like a general, lead the public and be the first to expose themselves to the vaccine and its potential complications, or should they wait in the same line that the public is expected to wait in?
In a sense, for them to take the vaccine before the public is reasonable. As the general rides before his soldiers, a politician might sit on a hospital bench and have a needle driven into his arm. To expect and encourage the populace to do something that a politician might be reticent about would be using the American people as guinea pigs at the service of the political elite. Taking the vaccine prior to the public would show that a politician respects the fears of his people and would also cause some of the citizenry to have faith in the safety of the vaccine.
But a politician is not a scientist. That a citizen would trust a politician to make medical decisions that he or she should emulate doesn’t seem to be the wisest course of action. Simply because a figure possesses authority in some realms does not mean that he possesses authority in all. To trust a politician as to the safety of a vaccine is like trusting a lawyer to pilot your cross-country flight. Politicking and doctoring are not careers which usually go hand-in-hand. While it is true that some people’s concerns might be assuaged by seeing their favorite Washingtonian taking a vaccine, such comfort is not founded in reason but in feelings.
Let’s move to another example. Some say that politicians should be vaccinated so as to be able to more stably preserve the continuity of government by (presumably) being less likely to catch the coronavirus. This view takes the position that the proper workings of government is the most important aspect of human existence. While it is an important one, I do not believe it to be the primary one. The fundamental unit in society is the family. For the continuity of the family to be disrupted (as it has been every time a person has died from the coronavirus) is, in my view, a more pressing concern than that of the continuity of the government.
Is it not a principle of our democracy that all of us are created equal? That no one, be he politician or plumber, is worth more or less than anyone else? Our politicians ought to receive the vaccine, if they choose to, when their turn in line comes. Any comorbidities they may have should be factored in just like everyone else’s. They should receive their vaccine following the plan outlined by their states. Among the categories, “elderly, medical worker, and possessor of comorbidities,” “politician” should not factor in. An elderly plumber with asthma should receive his vaccine before a young, healthy politician; an elderly asthmatic politician should receive his vaccine sooner than a young, healthy plumber.
Ultimately, though, I don’t think that any of our representatives need to worry about where they’ll be placed in line in terms of their inoculations. If anyone can get himself something that he wants, whether or not he is mindful of his duty to respect a public which is of equal standing to him, it’ll be a politician.
Politicians such as Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham have faced backlash after publicly receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Both have previously opposed safety protocols and endorsed superspreader events. Their place in line to receive the vaccine in front of healthcare workers demonstrates a fundamental problem of the privilege our leaders have hidden behind during this pandemic.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” the prince of a country stricken by plague hides behind the thick walls of his castle with the privileged few while his people suffer. Though the story was written a little under 200 years ago, its plot shares eerie similarities with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Poe’s symbolic walls that separates the prince from his people have taken shape in our country as something more complex and invisible. Developments in the distribution of the vaccine have shown that the walls separating us from our leadership takes the form of privilege.
As the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine begin to roll out, Americans are once again made aware of the medical and social inequalities that run rampant through our country. Dynamics of power and privilege have reared their heads in the face of a limited supply of a life-saving vaccine. While the country fights through spikes in cases caused by holiday celebrations and the winter months, vaccines have been improperly stored, intentionally left out of refrigeration to expire, and distributed to those in power who have arguably made the pandemic worse. Those who have been a part of the effort to slow the spread of the virus have reasonable grounds for being frustrated by this mishandling of the vaccine distribution. However, those such as healthcare workers who have put their lives on the line to keep our economy running deserve to be utterly outraged by the situation.
Many healthcare workers around the country are still waiting to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. For them, this means returning to a workplace in which they are continuously exposed to the virus by those who most likely chose to ignore social distance and mask protocols. Further, hospitals around the country are continuously overwhelmed by the extreme increase in caseloads. Healthcare workers have experienced the worst parts of the pandemic, ranging from their experiences of seeing countless people succumb to the virus to social distancing from loved ones in order to keep treating patients.
It takes a degree of entitlement to ignore the pandemic and expect to receive medical care from these healthcare workers. However, some politicians have gone beyond this already astounding level of entitlement to also expect to be vaccinated against the virus before these healthcare workers. Many politicians who have received vaccines before healthcare workers, have had a direct hand in minimizing efforts to slow the spread of the virus, encouraging people to ignore the need for masks and social distance protocols. It goes without saying that these politicians have chosen to be reckless with their own exposure to the virus and encourage others to do the same. They hide, shouting behind their walls at us to ignore safety protocols in the name of their economy.
It is nonetheless difficult to say that politicians who have opposed lockdowns and other protocols to slow the spread of the virus should be denied the vaccine until others are inoculated. The persisting argument for their access to the vaccine is that of their duty to leadership. If nothing else, it would be unfair to those who follow social distance protocols to experience a sudden shift in leadership if their senator or representative got sick.
Further, it should be noted that many politicians have taken the vaccine in order to build confidence in the vaccine’s safety. However, their act of receiving the vaccine after stark resistance to any other actions to slow the spread of the virus is still hypocritical and demonstrates poor ethics of leadership. Leaders should not hide behind their privilege while advocating for those on the outside to put their lives at risk for the sake of the economy. We do not live in Poe’s world of castles and monarchs who can hide away from their subjects and throw grand masquerades during pandemics. Instead, our democratically elected leaders should strive to hold their constituents’ health and safety as something they cannot ignore or hide from.
How to make a New Year’s Resolution that sets goals, and helps improve your life.
Some find the end of the year as an occasion for evaluating one’s personal strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Such self-reflection and ambition to become a better person is what prompts one to set goals to achieve over the next year. We call these goals New Year’s Resolutions.
But New Year’s Resolutions have become increasingly unpopular in our day, especially because of the limiting circumstances due to COVID-19. For this reason, some have found it unnecessary and undesirable to create a New Year’s Resolution.
We should not have such a mind-set. Just because events seem to be in a pause-like state does not mean that we individuals should stop becoming the best version of ourselves. New Year’s resolutions are therefore helpful in trying to become who we want to be.
When setting a New Year's Resolution, one sets a goal for him or herself. Goals by their very nature aim at some sort of desirable end. Goals are therefore what people intend to achieve.
Now, that which is first in intention is last in execution. For example, suppose Sally intends to read twelve three-hundred paged books a year. How can Sally do this? Well, perhaps she can read one book a month, since by the end of the last month, she will have read all twelve books. But how will she read one book a month? Well, she will have to find or make time to read one book a month. How will she find or make time? She will do this by examining her daily schedule and seeing when is the best time to read. If she consistently cannot find time, she can make time by, say, swapping wasted time for reading. Sally finds that she wastes time on social media. Thus, whatever time Sally would spend going on social media each day could be used for reading her book.
Usually, Sally is on social media for about two hours a day, and it takes Sally one hour to read ten pages. Thus, if Sally cuts her original social media usage in half, she would have time to read ten pages each day, and therefore one book a month, and therefore twelve books at the end of the year, just like she intended. Here, we see that Sally’s intention/goal is what helps her find the means for achieving that goal. The ‘how’ questions guide one’s reasoning to see how one should begin doing what one intends. Thus, all that is left for Sally is to read ten pages a day.
One common mistake I’ve noticed when setting my own resolutions is that my resolutions tend to be too broad. Such goals are too difficult to be achieved since broad goals aren’t exactly tangible (either literally or metaphorically). One quick fix to this mistake is to create S.M.A.R.T goals. S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Notice how Sally’s goal is specific because she wants to read twelve three-hundred paged books as opposed to merely read books. Her goal is measurable because if she reads at least one of those books a month, she is on track. The goal is attainable because Sally only needs to read one hour a day. The goal is realistic because she is reading 300-paged books a month (or ten pages a day) as opposed to 1000-paged books a month (which is about 34 pages a day). Sally’s goal is timely or time-related because the readings will be done every day.
Setting goals helps one reconstruct his or her daily lifestyle, inspiring one to flourish. What better time to set a goal than the new year, since the new year, in some sense, is a new beginning!
Ryan Ford '23,