Is personal freedom more important than saving children?

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Brad Franklin

A little over a year ago, I was touting “personal freedom”. Even as this country was going into month six of a quarantine, I was defiant. I wasn’t a fan of restaurants and venues being shut down. I hated that my gym was closed. It bothered me that my daughter couldn’t interact with other kids in person. I was inconvenienced. Uncomfortable. And while already harboring a distrust of authority, I didn’t like being “mandated” to wear masks.

It was back in February of 2020, when word of a highly contagious virus spreading to the states began to make the news. I paid little attention to it. I figured it would be relegated and contained overseas before it became a problem. Experts talked of a pandemic. I balked at the idea. Coronavirus cases began to rise. I dismissed it. Even as things began to take a turn for the worse, I predicted that we would be done with this virus in a couple months. Surely advanced medical science would defeat this nuisance early on. We’ll never have another small pox or measles outbreak right? What was happening wasn’t small pox or the measles, it was something worse. And my individualistic attitude was irresponsible at best.

In March of 2020, my wife and I had to close the doors on the building that housed our business – The Kundi Compound. Our business survived on having in-person events and with all social gatherings shut down, the writing was on the wall. Then in April, I had an aunt pass from Covid. I watched “R.I.P.” posts begin to take over the timelines on my social media feeds. I was cautious, but still not convinced. Even as I reluctantly wore a mask, I made all of the excuses. “Black folks are less susceptible;” “it’s only elderly people dying;” “it’s mostly overweight people dying.” Whatever made me feel better about my choices.

At the top of 2021, Covid vaccines started becoming available. And as any Black person in America should be, I was skeptical. Black folk have a history of being lab rats…of being poked and prodded. It was a big “no, thank you” for me. I figured enough Americans would get the shot, create herd immunity, and the numbers would go down without me ever having to see a needle. And for a moment, it almost looked like I was right. But then, there was science.

A new threat, the Delta variant emerged. The virus mutated, got stronger, more contagious, and more dangerous. And in the span of four months; I had classmates die; I had a Chapter advisor and father to one of my line brothers die; two Jackson Hip Hop icons died days apart. And then, an 8th grader in Raleigh, MS (M’Kayla Robinson) died of Covid days after being exposed in school. My daughter started the 6th grade this year. A line has now been drawn. Young people are getting sick. Children. Toddlers. School-aged children. Children who were the same age as my daughter. Seeing pictures of them with tubes and machines all around them is sobering. On Monday, my wife and I got our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. As of this writing, we are a little over a week away from being fully vaccinated. It is the responsible thing to do if you have school-aged children.

Here’s the thing folks. This isn’t the flu. And this isn’t some covert conspiracy to put a tracking chip in your brain. This is a morphing virus that is killing people. If it doesn’t kill you, it can incapacitate you. And if it doesn’t incapacitate you, you can still pass it on to someone who might not fare as well.

I’m not “advocating” everyone takes the vaccine. I’m not judging anyone who doesn’t. This country’s history is enough for reasonable doubt. I get it. I’m advocating for us all to be more informed. The Covid vaccine is not a “cure”. It’s not going to prevent you from getting sick. It’s designed to give you a fighting chance against the symptoms. A fantastic immune system won’t prevent you from getting covid. Even the fit, who regularly take Vitamin C or D, who work out, or who run long distances every week can get Covid. The only difference between them and folks who aren’t “in-shape”, obese, or have compromised immune systems is that they may not have to be hospitalized.

Ultimately, it boils down to this. Do you care about being seriously ill or dying (or someone you love) or not? Do you want a possible trip to an overwhelmed hospital or do you want to recover restfully at home? UMMC is seeing patients in a parking garage because beds are full. Covid patients are writhing on the floor in pain lining up for antibody treatments all over the country. And yet, we have parents in Madison and Rankin County screaming in school board meetings to prevent children…defenseless children…from being mandated to wear the one thing that might stand in between them and getting sick – masks.

Last week, Mississippi jumped to number one in Covid cases. This past weekend, we eclipsed 5,000 cases. Our governor said he’s not going to “politicize” the virus. And while he fiddles, people are dying. People who didn’t have to die. If we can’t rely on competent leadership, then we’re going to have to rely on community. An unselfish, accountable community. This isn’t about personal freedom anymore. Its about giving a damn about the people you come in contact with. Please schedule your vaccination today!