I am now officially fully vaccinated. With the new CDC recommendations, it would seem as if I’m able to go back to doing many of the things that have been long denied.  

While personally, I’m happy to shed masks when appropriate, eat indoors, gather with friends, I don’t feel any sense of extreme joy or even relief. I imagine this is in part because my children, other family members and over 40% of our country are still not vaccinated. Some of whom seem to have no inclination of ever doing so.

It is easy to be frustrated by those who resist vaccination – regardless of their reason.  We see their exercise of individual freedom as an act of selfishness. Often they are two sides to the same coin.

At the same time, others can be equally frustrated by those who appeared to jump the line. They ask their doctor if they have any “pre-existing conditions” that allowed them to get vaccinated earlier. Or they travel great distances away from their community to get vaccinated in another. There they may be taking a spot in line that could have been used by  a resident who lacked flexibility in time and resources to go anywhere but their local community.

As I had written here previously, frustration is often born when someone doesn’t play by our own personal rulebook or doesn’t adhere to our moral code.

We see this all the time. Some get frustrated when others elude taxes by working off the books. Others when they see people taking dodgy tax deductions. Both are essentially doing whatever they can to minimize the taxes they pay. In the end, we are all the worse because it means our country has fewer resources to address our issues.

And that is often the real problem: When we all have different rule books, chaos can ensue and the greater good is sacrificed at the altar of freedom

I’ll give you a more mundane example that may hit closer to home for some of you.  

At dinner we have one rule, you have to try one bite of everything that’s served. If you don’t like the bite, we’ll figure something else out. The only regular exception we make is for our youngest child who several months ago swore off meat, out of her love for animals.  

On Tuesday, we had chicken for dinner, drumsticks to be specific.They are a favorite of our middle child. When the drumsticks were passed to my wife, she said, “I’m ok, I don’t feel like drumsticks tonight.” To be fair, some of her response was driven by a desire to give hers to our daughter so she could have more. But in “breaking our rule” she set off a cascade of reaction.

The next night, my middle daughter said she “didn’t feel like having the soup” that was served. She pointed to my wife’s previous decision over the chicken to justify her stance. And she had a point.

Perhaps our one bite rule was ill conceived, yet it was still a rule we largely followed. As soon as one person opted out, everyone saw it as permission to follow suit.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  Well, we’re trying to have one family dinner not operate a local diner.  One meal prepared for everyone is a helluva lot more efficient than five meals prepared for five people.

It is the slipperiest of slopes when we all are left up to individual judgement.  We are connected as society by rules and norms. When they fall, we fail.   

It does no good to judge others and it seems absurd to try to offer incentives to coax the unwilling. (The fact that Ohio is offering a $1 million lottery to entice people to get vaccinated is as unwise and unfair as offering only one daughter a year’s supply of ice cream for dinner if she ate her one spoonful of soup.)

So what’s the answer?  I have no idea. Other than trying to have fair and nuanced conversation with those whose behaviors might seem selfish and more importantly examining our own that others may see similarly.

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