In 1777, Gen. George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, ordered his troops to get inoculated with the smallpox vaccine. He was afraid that the epidemic would wipe out his troops before the British did. 

He was also afraid that if sick troops went home to their families on leave, they would spread the disease faster. We were fighting for freedom, the freedom to create our own laws for the good of all.

With freedom, comes responsibility. Washington wanted his troops to be healthy and safe. Can you imagine if they cried and said, “No way, this is my body and you cannot tell me what to do”? 

Since then, thousands of laws have been passed regulating behavior for the good of all. During World War II every household had ration stamps that told them how much fuel, gas and food they could buy. From 1940 to 1973, every 18-year-old boy had to register with the Armed Forces or face the consequences. We have mandatory car insurance, registration and licensing in Illinois. The list is endless.

Today, we had vaccine and mask mandates that many people cried about. We have almost 1 million dead in the U.S.A. as I write this. How many lives could have been saved if everyone did his part? 

If every American had received the vaccine on schedule, we could have shipped millions more doses worldwide and ended this pandemic much earlier. As the virus recedes and mandates are lifted, let us reflect on the needless loss of life and burnout of health care workers.

  In my neighborhood, on a main street, two houses have yard signs with the slogan “Freedom Voter.” Intrigued by a new type of sign, I recently took a closer look. The small print listed the same tired anti-vax and anti-mask slogans. 

The “freedom” to be selfish limited the lives of 1 million Americans and made many millions sicker than they needed to be. Freedom does mean the ability to choose one’s one course of action. But not at the expense of others. With freedom comes responsibility, maturity and selflessness.

Jan Goldberg

Riverside