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Seeing history

December 31, 2020

Jim Jordan, the US Congressman who gives Louie Gohmert competition for ignorance, harumphed in a tweet, what would the founding fathers think of the government imposing restrictions because of Covid-19? Soon he was given a history lesson. In response to smallpox breakouts, George Washington shut down Boston, instituted quarantines, and required his troops to be inoculated. In response to yellow fever in Philadelphia, the US Congress passed a law in 1796 giving the president the power to quarantine. The science of the day did not yet know about the biological vectors of disease. There was little of what we now would consider scientific basis for quarantine or inoculation, other than raw observation. Yet the politicians then acted, in the face of uncertainty, in the name of the common good.

Mind, that is not a defense of that political response. The point here isn’t that those actions worked enough to justify the pain imposed on those burdened. (Though in the case of inoculation, they almost certainly did.) Rather, the point is that the actual politicians of the time differ quite a bit from the cartoon pantheon of “founding fathers” created and worshiped by the modern right, whose mouths regularly are given bogus quotes of 20th. century conservativism.

Argentina legalized abortion yesterday, following in the footsteps of other largely Catholic nations that recently have done so, Uruguay in 2012, and Ireland in 2018. While that seems a positive trend in secularization and civil liberty, I do not know enough about those cultures to say what the real commonalities are in that. I do wonder, in the years since 2012, if Argentinian women would travel to Uruguay for that purpose? Now, they are free at home.

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