Port: Freedom is not a one-way street
We are not living in a video game in which you are the main character. The people around you are not computer-generated NPCs.
MINOT, N.D. — I had a small part in launching Chris Berg's broadcast career.
When I was working at a previous iteration of Fargo-based AM1100 WZFG, doing a talk show, I asked Berg, who was then working for the North Dakota Republican Party , to guest host for me.
He did well and got an invite to guest host conservative talker Scott Hennen's show. Eventually, he got his own radio show, and from there moved into television, where he's currently hosting an evening local talk show for Valley News Live .
I used to appear on Berg's show frequently until his bosses got upset about a piece I wrote critical of one of their stories. They suspended me from their broadcasts. I don't have a lot of patience for people who can't value the truth, so I chose not to go on their airwaves again .
I've fallen out, of late, with Hennen and Berg and a lot of my conservative media friends.
They've bought into Trumpism; I can't stand the man or his approach to politics.
I'm for vaccinations and reasonable precautions to protect against COVID-19, and they, like so many others, are treating this public health crisis like another front in the culture wars, to the detriment of us all.
I learned, from Mike McFeely's column , that Berg is apparently in some sort of a dispute with his employer over a vaccination mandate. Not one imposed by the government, but one imposed as policy by Gray Television , a private company, and Berg's employer.
Gray wants employees who enter its workspaces to be vaccinated. Berg doesn't want to comply.
What interests me is how Berg chose to defend his decision. "I LOVE FREEDOM!" he wrote on Twitter, tagging McFeely. "If you are making a decision about your own DNA, I am pro-choice, NOT anti-vaxx."
I suspect Berg's rally cry resonated with some, but here's the thing about freedom: It's not a one-way street.
We are not living in a video game in which you are the main character. The people around you are not computer-generated NPCs .
We are all capable of making choices that impact the freedom and safety of others. This is why we have noise ordinances and building codes and speed limits.
If drunk driving posed no risk to larger society I think we could be OK with letting the inebriated put themselves at risk. But it does, so we don't.
I'm not familiar with whatever dispute over vaccinations may exist between Berg and his employer, but if it is as McFeely describes, it's hard to understand Berg's cry of "freedom" in that context.
Berg is free to make a choice with his body when it comes to vaccinations. That's as it should be. But Gray is also free to require vaccinations from its employees.
Berg may be harboring some (irrational, from my perspective) fears about the vaccine, but it's not unreasonable for Gray to prioritize keeping its employees, and the members of the public they interact with, safe from the virus by requiring vaccines that at this point have a well-established track record of both safety and efficacy.
It may be that Berg and Gray need to go their separate ways. Because we live in a society, and that only works if freedom is a two-way street.
I would think that more of my fellow conservatives would understand this because it's an argument we've made in the past.
Remember the infamous legal battle over the Colorado bakery that wouldn't bake a cake for a gay couple that was getting married? Conservatives, rightly, objected to the government forcing that baker to bake the cake. We might disagree with the baker's reasoning to do so (I certainly did) but he has a right to make his decision, and his customers can react accordingly.
That same thinking should apply to private sector vaccination requirements. Employers are free to require it; employees and customers can decide how they want to respond.
Conservatives used to understand this a lot better than liberals did.
At least, they did before Trumpism, with its myriad intellectual contradictions and rabid commitment to opposing whatever liberals might be for.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .