Sunday, August 29, 2021

An Open Letter to the Governor of Oklahoma

In your delusions of defending the freedoms of Oklahomans, you and the legislature have guaranteed the absolute and inalienable rights of some Oklahomans to breathe coronaviruses into the faces of other Oklahomans. You have forbidden mask mandates in state agencies, such as the university where I work, and forbidden vaccination requirements. As a result, I am unable to defend myself from getting germs breathed in my face, and I cannot protect my students from having germs breathed into their faces, by a minority of Oklahomans who proudly refuse vaccination and refuse to wear masks. You have guaranteed that our current flood of covid cases will continue unabated. You must be proud of yourself for promoting the unnecessary sickness of thousands of Oklahomans.

Why don’t you go ahead and finish your work? Why stop with covid? There are other germs that can sicken Oklahomans. There are currently state laws that protect Oklahomans from exposure to these germs. Why don’t you strike down those state laws, and leave us even more vulnerable to contagious diseases? You have gone just partway in your blaze of conservative glory.

I refer in particular to salmonella. Some people are asymptomatic carriers of salmonella, and some of them work as food handlers. At the present time, salmonella outbreaks are rare because employees of food service providers are required by state law to wash their hands after using the restroom. This simple measure prevents infected food service workers from spreading the disease. But this state law, from your viewpoint, infringes on the fundamental freedom and dignity of food service workers by requiring them to wash their hands. Why don’t you eliminate this law? The deaths of a few hundred Oklahomans from salmonellosis is a small price to pay for the absolute freedom of food service workers to do whatever they want. Will you be a champion of freedom all the way, or only partway?

A disease that used to be common in America is typhoid fever. Like salmonella, it was spread from the unwashed hands of symptomless carriers to the people who eat the food they prepared. Frequently, the people who eat the food would die. The most famous of the symptomless carriers was a cook named Mary Mallon, now known as Typhoid Mary. Law enforcement caught her as she fled, and forbade her from ever again working as a cook. This was, of course, an infringement upon her American freedom. But they did it anyway. When she refused to stop working as a cook, she was imprisoned for the rest of her life.

But, today, in Oklahoma, according to the principles that you hold so dear, it would be illegal to prevent Typhoid Mary from working as a cook in a public school cafeteria. A school would be required to hire her if she was, in other ways, qualified for the job. The deaths of a few hundred schoolchildren would be, from your viewpoint, a small price to pay for Typhoid Mary’s freedom to choose whatever line of work she wishes.

Finally, there is a disease that was singlehandedly responsible for the deaths of about ten percent of people who have ever died in human history. That disease is smallpox. Through massive, often forced, vaccination of millions of people throughout the world (mostly Asia and Africa), a project led by the United Nations World Health Organization (of which you have a low opinion), this disease has now been eradicated. Nobody will ever again die of smallpox from natural transmission. There are still smallpox germs in freezers in the USA and Russia. We can only hope there are no bioterrorist groups that have the germs in their freezers. By your principles—that nobody should be forced to be vaccinated—smallpox would still be killing thousands if not millions of people.

And why is it okay to require measles vaccinations, but not covid vaccinations? Perhaps your crusade for freedom should expand to include the repeal of all vaccination requirements. Measles and mumps could then make a comeback for which you could claim the honor.

Schoolkids dying of measles, salmonella, and typhoid fever, and millions of people dying of smallpox—this is the kind of paradise that the world would be if it had followed your principles of “freedom.”

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