Freedom: The #1 American Priority

Image, courtesy of CDC

I am sick of hearing about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Not because I’m afraid of it or because it’s getting old (though it certainly is), but because it makes me lose faith in humanity. Hearing about the dumb things that people are doing even in the midst of this pandemic makes me question how humans are considered the pinnacle of evolution.

Yesterday afternoon, CNN reported that one man in Nelson County, Kentucky tested positive for COVID-19 and had proceeded to check himself out of the hospital and refused to quarantine himself. Because of this idiocy, the Sheriff’s department was forced to intervene and enforce a quarantine by surrounding his house. On the Nashville Confessions Facebook page, one submission read “I’m a senior at Vanderbilt… I went to Italy… I’m not self-reporting.” Beyond people like this who refused to self-report, there were also others who tested positive and then proceeded to remain anonymous. Now, call me crazy, but anonymous people with a potentially deadly or at least very serious illness could come into contact with countless people without their knowledge and this seems to be a problem.

Anonymous senior at at Vanderbilt refuses to self-report

While the government and the CDC haven’t exactly handled this situation well, they are not entirely to blame. It is people like the ones mentioned above who are the problem. They cling to the idea of freedom: freedom to move about and remain anonymous, regardless of the consequences on others. I do not have much knowledge of East Asian governments, but I can say that they certainly did a better job of confining people and part of that is due to the fact that their people are not so hung up on freedom. This is not to say that the people in these countries are not free, but that much more focus is placed on the whole people rather than the individual by both the culture and the government in these countries.

This is where we must ask ourselves as a people, “how far is too far?” We value freedom; it is one of the founding principles of our country, but where do we draw the line between individual freedom and respecting the well-being of the society as a whole? Sure, celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus are speaking up about the importance of quarantining for the safety of the public, but when we, as a society, reach a point where we need pop culture to lay out our morals for us, something is wrong. It should be common sense to be considerate of the health of the elderly and the immunocompromised. While freedom is a basic right, staying home and not spreading illness is just common courtesy and should honestly be an obligation for the greater good.

Lady Gaga speaks out on Instagram about the importance of quarantining, photo courtesy of Lady Gaga’s Instagram

I know it is not this simple. I know that it is hard for people to stay home when they need to work jobs. Most people are not fortunate enough to be able to go without work for the amount of time it might take for this pandemic to subside. It is next to impossible to ask the healthy people to stay home without causing an economic crisis. And that is a big issue to be discussed at a later date. All that needs to be done now is for people to step up. For those who test positive to isolate themselves. For those who have been exposed to the virus to come forward and say so instead of remaining anonymous. It is a moral responsibility to keep others safe. And it is time that the citizens of the United States remembered that and began prioritizing other’s well-being over their own freedom.

-Hope Graham

4 thoughts on “Freedom: The #1 American Priority

  1. Hi Hope,
    I completely understand and feel your frustration in this situation. While I can still find some of the quarantine memes funny, the lack of consideration for others that I have witnessed among acquaintances and strangers is absurd. For example, one of my Facebook friends made a post about how she was angry that her child’s middle school band concert was cancelled just because of people overreacting to this minor illness and being dumb enough to go out while sick (paraphased). In a response to a comment on the same post, this person continued that she thinks it’s about time for a plague to thin out the population. While it is true that some people who have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 continue to go out in defiance of losing their freedom, others may be asymptomatic carriers who have no idea that they are sick. The overpopulation argument that my Facebook friend made is completely insensitive as well; would she want people saying that to her if she or her loved ones contracted this life-threatening illness? It is indeed common courtesy to self-quarantine to protect others, and even if it might be irritating not to be able to go out for a short while, it is certainly preferable to accidentally causing someone else’s death. Great post!


  2. Hope,

    Thank you for writing on this topic! It is something I have been pondering much in the past few days, due to an extremely relevant and personal example of this “personal freedom amidst national recommendations” being put to the test. This week, many of my friends from Vanderbilt decided to go to Florida since classes were canceled to have their own second spring break. Initially, I thought this was a great plan! I was excited to go and be with them. The more I thought about it though, the more irresponsible the plan begun to seem. Why would we travel to another state (one with many elderly folks I might add…) when we ourselves could be carrying an infectious disease unknowingly across state lines. Ultimately, I decided to not join my friends and instead go home to quarantine. Many of my friends did not understand this decision, as they were unable to distance themselves from the concept of their personal freedom to help protect the health of our country. Such a relevant and interesting topic! Eager to see how this unfolds in the coming weeks that may turn to months.



  3. Hi Hope,

    I think you make a really important point about how America’s obsession with “freedom” may have disastrous ramifications for coronavirus impacts us. I was actually talking about this with my parents the other day. Americans’ belief, and in some cases obsession, with individual liberty and personal freedom has created a very individualistic society. Because of this, a lot of people are not necessarily thinking about what is best for the collective good, but are instead focusing on how they don’t personally want their lives to be affected by the current pandemic. While some people would, of course, be selfish no matter what society we lived in, I think that Americans in particular are conditioned to value their own internal selves over doctors, politicians, and media personalities.

    The question becomes, how do we convince people to stop prioritizing individual liberty when their actions are harming the greater good.

    As of now, I don’t really have a good answer.


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