Steve McGann  |   Friday Oct. 1st, 2021

There was a theme in last month’s issue of this magazine. Articles by Angie Ripple, Michael Gillan, and Christopher Dyrland-Marquis explored cooperation, samaritanism, neighborliness. In short, they all seemed to say: This is Montana, let’s act like it. But our governor and the state legislature have decided that this is not Montana but some northern scenic hybrid of Texas and Florida. House bill 702, signed into law in May, says that individual vaccination status is protected information. With this law, the Republicans are restricting businesses (Wait, what?) from requiring vaccinations. Or imposing any penalties on those who are unvaccinated.

The human cost of the pandemic has been devastating. Death and disease, lingering ill health and disability, personal and financial tragedy, the overwhelming of our health care system, and medical professional stress and burnout. That politicians are making any decisions concerning this crisis is ridiculous. Public health professionals and scientists should be in charge. Non-health public officials should stand back and help out as instructed. The speed and efficacy of vaccine development was a miracle of modern science. Every person should receive it. If this had happened in the late spring when it was generally available, we could be well on our way to the finish.

Instead, the Delta variant rages nationwide and we remain nervous and frightened with a lack of information. There are enough unknowns about the infection itself without compounding things with condoning, even encouraging, antisocial behavior. Who is vaccinated? Are those not wearing masks infected or communicable? What are the rules and who is following them?

The first job of any leader is the welfare of those they lead. If the “freedom” of any member of a group is put above that of any other member, the group breaks down. There is chaos. Our Constitution speaks of domestic tranquility, common defense, and general welfare. We the People. It is a communal document. Individual rights exist but never at the expense of the group. Thus, we are all equal, no one is special.

Thinking about the type of “I, me, mine freedom” that some promote, I picture a toddler announcing what he is going to do and nobody can stop him. We protect toddlers from their impulses. It is the job of society and yes, government, to protect us from those who do not grow up. Yet now the governor and the legislature are protecting us from those who wish to protect us and themselves and their employees from the virus. Sound confusing, even outrageous? Well, it certainly is.

My take on last month’s articles by Angie, Michael, and Christopher was not that they were praising Montanans’ neighborly and cooperative behavior, but that they were pointing out that it is and should be the norm. With a reminder thrown in to keep that in mind. Most people will do the right thing if properly informed. Some have to be led. Our elected officials should consider that rather than irresponsibly promoting irresponsible behavior to further their base political aims. We put them in charge; we should demand better decisions that include our Montana values. Our lives are at stake.

About the Author(s)