Vice President Kamala Harris expressed this opinion back on 12 July at a vaccine mobilization event in Detroit. It’s been out there for a while now. Most commentators have given it the “But Willie Brown!” treatment, so feel free to fill up on that at your leisure. (H/t: Gateway Pundit)
I want to briefly make another point, one I see as more profound and fundamental. Here is Harris uttering her words (start at 1:28 for just the relevant passage):
Kamala Harris: I do believe that the act of getting vaccinated is the very essence – the very essence – of what the Bible tells us when it says love thy neighbor. Right? Because what we know is, one can ask, well, “Who is one’s neighbor?” Is it the person who lives to my left, lives to my right? I know them, may borrow a cup of sugar. Right? But what we know it means when we talk about love thy neighbor, is that yes, it may be the person next door, and it may be the man on the side of the road, and it may be a perfect stranger. And in the face of that stranger, you see a friend. That’s what this is about. And so by getting vaccinated you are loving your neighbor.
This prompts the question what else you may have to do, to qualify in Harris’s or someone else’s eyes as “loving your neighbor.” Do you really have to inject things into your own body to demonstrate that you love your neighbor? If so, who sets the boundaries on what those things may be? If the day comes when someone proclaims that allowing yourself to be euthanized is the way to show that you love your neighbor, what will be the principle on which you refute that argument?
Why should you have to?
Harris’s exhortation here is an emotional string-puller, but it turns the rationale of vaccination on its head. People don’t, in fact, get vaccinated for their neighbors’ sakes, but for their own. Vaccination for you is secondary — a distant second — for protecting your neighbor from a disease. Your neighbor’s own vaccination is what protects him from the disease. Greater levels of vaccination in a population should ultimately help lower the instance of symptom development and symptom spreading, but for a given individual, the theory of vaccination is that being vaccinated himself is his guarantee.
It has never been held that we get vaccinated to protect others, nor should we want it to be. That is a moral inversion that can be used against us in innumerable ways that we haven’t thought about and don’t foresee. Each human is a moral actor with intrinsic value that outweighs whatever he may be designated in statistical terms. Human beings are not mere disease carriers, to be treated as if statistics about the behavior of spike proteins in their bodies are the overriding factors that must govern their own moral decisions, or moral decisions made about them by others.
Disease must give way to us, not we to disease. Our genius is defeating disease, not accepting it as a condition that binds us to impose burdens and mandates on each other over it — or to carry or obey them. The individual as moral actor, with moral worth, is a condition of human life transcending phenomena like disease; disease doesn’t alter or dilute it.
It’s actually pernicious for the government to lecture us that the choices it wants us to make are about something as unquantifiable as love. We can leave that to automakers and cooking product retailers, and we should. There’s no prospect of commercial industry pointing a gun at our heads and holding life itself hostage to our compliance with “love”-justified mandates.
It was Jesus who was asked, as recounted in Luke 10, the question Kamala Harris repeated: “Who is my neighbor?” He told the story of the Good Samaritan in answer to it. The Samaritan behaved with great compassion and generosity toward a stranger, but it has always been highly instructive that the behavior Jesus praised involved dressing the stranger’s wounds and paying an innkeeper to house him while he recovered from an attack by robbers. The sacrifices of personal autonomy and property that the modern political Left is always trying to justify are nowhere in Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus also said, in John 15:13: “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” This is an inspiring and gripping proposition. Our spirits can resonate to it and have a strong sense that it is true. But is it something representatives of the government should be invoking to exhort us about public policy and personal choices? As is so often the case, there are things we don’t charter government to do, for good reason — and that’s one of them.