I’m a liberty junkie. You can try to persuade me to do anything, even change my life or beliefs. Just don’t force me.
2020 was the year we were forced to change our lives.
It doesn’t matter if we made the best of it and turned lemons into lemonade. What matters is that we had no choice.
And for good reason. A lethal and contagious virus forced our hand. Suddenly, we were no longer free to do stuff we took for granted. We had to get used to wearing masks. We had to restrict our activities and destinations. We had to pay attention!
One of the deepest expressions of liberty is the freedom to not pay attention. You are free to be oblivious to anything and everything. As long as you don’t hurt anyone or break any laws, you can lead your life as you wish, even if it’s a life of self-absorption. That is the contract of a free nation.
I’ve always admired people who could create beautiful lives by being oblivious to the madness of the outside world. If this outside world does not impact them directly, why worry?
Of course, it is virtuous to be engaged with the world, to volunteer and help others, to aspire to altruism. But these are matters of choice. We are free to promote those values and encourage others to pursue them, but in a free society, individual liberty comes first.
What is extraordinary about 2020 is that it made perfect sense to lose many of our liberties. Something more fundamental was at stake—the preservation of human life.
“Live free or die,” the official motto of the state of New Hampshire, may have been an appropriate toast for a general of the American Revolutionary War, but in 2020, a better motto might be, “Live a little less free and live.”
The miraculous arrival of a vaccine at the end of 2020 will save countless lives. We should be deeply grateful for that. But let’s not forget what the vaccine also means. As more and more people get inoculated and lose the fear of getting infected, the vaccine will give us back, slowly and gradually, our liberty.
As more and more people get inoculated and lose the fear of getting infected, the vaccine will give us back, slowly and gradually, our liberty.
If I want to continue to not have guests at our Friday night Shabbat table, it will be my choice. But don’t bet on it.
Happy new year.