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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

Politics, Pandemics and Freedom

I’m on a rant this morning. I just spent several hours on line, playing the lottery. Praying to hit the right button at the right time in order to get a vaccine for COVID 19, I gave up after three hours of refreshing the page. I’m hopeful that as production ramps up, it will become easier for me to get an inoculation against COVID.

Getting a vaccine is even more important to me today than it was yesterday. Yesterday Governor Abbot of Texas told the state that he was dropping the mask mandate and that businesses were free to open 100%. What he didn’t say is that there is a slight uptick in cases of COVID in Texas, and that only about 6% of the population have received the vaccine. Many of us continue to play The Hunger Games, spending hours on line, hoping to be one of the lucky ones that can get an appointment for the shot. Governor Abbot’s move was not in the interest of the people of this great state, though he did dress it up, put lipstick on it and try to pass it off as protecting my freedom. Freedom for what? For going to the grocery store and shopping next to a couple who spent the past two nights at a bar, mask-less, elbow to elbow in a potentially contaminating soup ripe for the contraction of COVID?

What Abbot did, was not leadership. The move was a self-serving calculation that he thought would bring him some much needed popularity. It's like telling the kid who is failing one of her classes in school, not to worry about studying, just go out and have a good time. Abbott essentially told us to go out and have a good time. Then he wrapped up his statements in the flag, punctuating the whole thing with words like freedom and choice.

What I’m missing in our government is statesmanship. Statesmanship has all but disappeared from the political landscape in Texas. Last week my mouth dropped open when I saw Senator Ted Cruz stomping the stage at CPAC like an blubbering baby whale screaming “freedom” at the top of his lungs. He’s was a shining example of a leader devoid of statesmanship, let alone any shred of dignity.

Does freedom mean being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it? While I’d argue that freedom does mean choosing how you want to live your life, there are instances that require us to come together to fight a common enemy, or strive for a singular good – like freedom from a pandemic -- we are, after all the UNITED States of America. When the objective of our elected officials is to retain power and popularity at any cost, then leadership is impossible, let alone mindful of what is best for the common good. When I was growing up, this was called selfishness and it was not thought of as a desirable or admirable quality.

As many Texans celebrate Abbott’s lifting of the mask mandate and the opening of all businesses, social media sites are flooded with praise and “you do you/ I’ll do me” kind of rhetoric. It’s interesting to note that once again, choice and freedom don’t extend to women’s personal reproductive health care choices. . . a digression in my rant I realize, but it helps to make my point that that a good portion of politics is rife with hypocrisy.

It used to be that power meant the ability to influence action, change and behavior. It was a component of leadership, often leadership by way of example. In recent years, power has come to mean bullying and blustering. It’s in this knee deep sludge of misconception surrounding power, strength and the cry for freedom, that I continue to worry, and worry is not freedom at all. I worry about the spread of infection. I worry about whether or not I’ll get a vaccine in time. I worry about what will happen to our economy if we don't get a handle on the virus. Most of all, I worry that we have lost a sense of nobility in governance that is supposed to be a service job with the goal of caring for the wellbeing of people.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get online again at 5:00, hoping to find a vaccine. I’m pretty sure that Governor Abbot and Senator Cruz have already had theirs.

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