Friday, March 24, 2006

chew on this, sayeth the lord

My mother once said I'd make a good rabbi. This, despite my strong feeling that though God may have existed, or did exist, once, s/he's totally made for the hills by now; and what some would consider the passive nature of my religious practice since leaving JDS. Not to mention my devotion to sushi.

But I'm preambling. (Like rambling, but with a purpose.) This blog entry at Alas, a Blog about forced immunizations got me thinking about a concept that was discussed a lot in my high school: the rights of the individual vs. the community. One of the nicer aspects of religion is that it encourages its adherents to look beyond their immediate individual wants and needs sometimes and take into consideration the requirements of the larger group.

Of course it's an idea that very easily gets out of hand -- viz., the trial of the Afgani man who might be sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

For all the piety in America today, though, we're an incredibly selfish nation. We believe we are entitled to everything -- if we can pay for it. And then sometimes even when we can't. Part of the root cause seems to be that we Americans worship our individuality, because our concept of "freedom" is all tied up with "whatever I want."

Kim's piece at Alas muses about the responsibility of parents to immunize their children even if they might not want to, a perfect example of considering the rights of the community when in opposition to your own. The community benefits from having its children immunized. No question. Should an individual parent then be able to opt out? Kim, after some hemming and hawing, thinks that they should: "Even so, after some time thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that I don’t agree with forced vaccination." But why? What's the logic, the reasoning? Why should the individual's capriciousness outweigh the needs of the community?

Kim doesn't explain. And I don't understand. Individuals, however much they might like to, can't have control over every facet of their lives. We have to pay taxes (boo!) for example without getting any say in where them taxes go. Yet we in America have a pretty sweet deal. No one requests that we sacrifice anything, even temporarily, for the larger good, except perhaps our desire to shoot someone in the head because they've pissed us off. Is it really so much to ask, then, that in matters of HEALTH, when COMMUNICABLE, LIFE-THREATENING DISEASE is at issue, we put our personal preferences aside and follow the advice of our doctors? For the whole country's sake?

Addendum: Obviously simply throwing religion into the mix isn't going to solve the problem. The right-wing / evangelical movement to demonize the new HPV vaccination for example drives me nearly as angry as warlords in Afghanistan considering executing a man for converting from Islam. Oh happy medium. Where are you hiding and why?


src said...

don't even get me started on the HPV thing. AHHHHHHHHHHH.

i, too, have had many people tell me i should be a rabbi. i actually think it would be the perfect career for me too, well, except for the whole god thing.

Nate said...

Shouldn't it be,

"except for the whole G-d thing?"

I picked that up from a Jewish girlfriend I once had.

You can't tell me I don't make the effort.

src said...

i actually thought about that, but then decided it would be hypocritical.

ester said...

aw, come on. there's no prohibition in the HEBREW BIBLE against spelling the word "god" correctly -- which is a title, anyway, and not god's actual name.

benjamin said...

and that's why you'd be a good rabbi. also, i thought this was a lovely post.