America 2022: Where Everyone Has Rights and No One Has Responsibilities

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Feb 27, 2022, 12:50:08 PMFeb 27
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America 2022: Where Everyone Has Rights and No One Has Responsibilities

By Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2022

The conflict between Neil Young and Joe Rogan over the anti-vaccine
propaganda Rogan spreads
through his podcast triggered a heated debate over the boundaries of
free speech on platforms like
Spotify and whether one entertainer — Young — had the right to tell
Spotify to drop another —
Rogan — or he’d leave himself. But this clash was about something more
than free speech.
As a journalist who relies on freedom of speech, I would never advocate
tossing Rogan off Spotify.
But as a citizen, I sure appreciated Young calling him out over the
deeper issue: How is it that we
have morphed into a country where people claim endless “rights” while
fewer and fewer believe
they have any “responsibilities.”

That was really Young’s message for Rogan and Spotify: Sure, you have
the right to spread antivaccine misinformation, but where’s your sense
of responsibility to your fellow citizens, and
especially to the nurses and doctors who have to deal with the fallout
for your words? This
pervasive claim that “I have my rights” but “I don’t have
responsibilities” is unraveling our country
today.

“We are losing what could be called our societal immunity,” argued Dov
Seidman, founder of the
How Institute for Society. “Societal immunity is the capacity for people
to come together, do hard
things and look out for one another in the face of existential threats,
like a pandemic, or serious
challenges to the cornerstones of their political and economic systems,
like the legitimacy of
elections or peaceful transfer of power.”
But societal immunity “is a function of trust,” added Seidman. “When
trust in institutions, leaders
and each other is high, people — in a crisis — are more willing to
sublimate their cherished rights
and demonstrate their sense of shared responsibilities toward others,
even others they disagree
with on important issues and even if it means making sacrifices.”
When our trust in each other erodes, though, as is happening in America
today, fewer people think
they have responsibilities to the other — only rights that protect them
from being told by the other
what to do.

When Rogan exercised his right to spread misinformation about vaccines,
and when Spotify stood
behind its biggest star, they were doing nothing illegal. They were just
doing something shameful.
Because the Rogan podcast episode completely ignored the four most
important statistical facts
about Covid-19 today that highlight our responsibilities — to our fellow
citizens and, even more so,
to the nurses and doctors risking their lives to take care of us in a
pandemic.

The first three statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention’s latest surveys.
First, unvaccinated adults 18 years and older are 16 times more likely
to be hospitalized for Covid
than fully vaccinated adults. Second: Adults 65 and older who are not
vaccinated are around 50
times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than those who have
received a full vaccine course
and a booster. Third: Unvaccinated people are 20 times more likely to
die of Covid than people
who are vaccinated and boosted. The fourth statistic is that the
emotional toll and other work
conditions brought on by the pandemic contributed to some two-thirds of
nurses giving thought to
leaving the profession.

A McKinsey study last month about the stress on nurses quoted Gretchen
Berlin, a registered
nurse and McKinsey partner, as saying: “Many patients, especially at the
start of this, had only the
nurses with them for those final moments, and I’m not sure that we’ve
provided the decompression
space for what that does to an individual who has to see that and
support people through that over
and over again. … The level of stress that individuals are dealing with
is going to have massive
implications on everyone’s well-being.”

Many hospitals today are experiencing an unprecedented 20 percent annual
turnover rate of
nurses — more than double the historical baseline. The more nurses
leave, the more those left
behind have had to work overtime.
“We have hard-working frontline staff in critical care settings
stretched thin caring for critically ill
Covid patients — with the overwhelming majority of those patients having
a potentially avoidable
illness had they only been vaccinated,” explained Packer. “It is
disheartening and distressing.”
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