DALLAS NEWS: Placing the greater good above ourselves
The pandemic presents us with a situation that asks us to temper our individual rights
In 44 BC, with Julius Caesar assassinated and the Roman Republic at its end, the philosopher Cicero, understanding his own execution could shortly follow, wrote a series of letters to his son that would become a sort of guide for how human beings should live.
Cicero put forward important concepts of our obligations as free people — obligations that consider how we are bound together in a life of shared responsibilities that are inseparable from our individual rights.
Justice, civility, human fellowship — all flow from the observance of our duties to ourselves and to one another. We thought of that as we watched images of protesters standing on the steps of US state capitols loudly protesting against what they see as the tyranny of the restrictions much of the country is under to try to slow the spread of infection from a deadly virus.
Some of these protesters are anti-vaccine oddballs or huckster manipulators. A few enjoy brandishing their weapons, knowing it sows fear. But many are good, hardworking people who fear what will happen to their livelihoods, their businesses and their families if they cannot return to work soon. That fear is not unjustified. That’s why it is appropriate for government officials at every level to work to reopen segments of the economy responsibly.
What was troubling, however, was that in too many of the protests the thread of thinking was that individual liberty is supreme and that it does not itself come with responsibilities to the larger society. What is being asked of us now is more than has been asked in a generation or more — to place the greater good above ourselves.
This is a great deal to ask, but it is not unreasonable given the likelihood that if we fail to do that we will only prolong the sacrifice by giving the disease another chance to spread widely, putting us right back where we started. Individual freedom is sacred, and by balancing it with our duties to one another we enhance our ability to live freely. Dallas, April 23