As a Missouri resident, a registered voter and as a U.S. citizen, I had to ask myself this question when I read the following quote in last weekend’s Missourian: “The Missouri Legislature will always defend Missourians’ unalienable rights and stand strong against federal government overreach and abuse of power.” (Sept. 11, Missouri GOP hopes to tank Biden vaccination order)

The Declaration of Independence suggests that as a citizen, my unalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, given to all humans by their creator, and which governments are created to protect.

For several reasons, the Missouri legislators’ statement causes me to pause. How can I live my life, enjoy my freedom and pursue my happiness in the midst of a deadly pandemic? For 19 months, I have followed all of the CDC guidelines. I have been vaccinated. I continue to wear a mask inside in public places. But despite my efforts, I experienced “breakthrough” COVID when I dared to travel by car to visit family. (Granted, I failed to check the case/vaccinate rates in each of the counties through which I traveled.)

I am angry that I contracted the virus and had to isolate for 10 days, with mild symptoms, because others want to exercise their unalienable rights by not wearing a mask or getting vaccinated. Do my rights end where my neighbor’s begin?

And what about overreach and abuse of power? This is a state in which the legislature enacted laws that take away the ability of local public health officials to use scientific data to decide on how to best protect me and this community; instead, local officials with no background in public health get to make those decisions. I won’t even mention the overreach and abuse of power as it relates to Amendment 1 and expanded Medicaid. Do only certain people or groups get to engage in overreach and abuse of power in the name of protecting citizens’ unalienable rights?

And can someone explain to me how regaining the health of a nation can “hurt the economy” or “significantly damage our already bruised economy”? Or, how can a healthy labor force “lead to skyrocketing unemployment”?

If that’s the case, what happens to our economy when sickness, hospitalizations and deaths continue with no end in sight? Rights? Power? Protect life; otherwise, liberty and happiness are just elusive.

Linda Smith is a Columbia resident.

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