Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: A quick quiz. Who said, “I would rather move for a Law … to inoculate every child born …”  in response to Virginia blocking a vaccine mandate, and added that severe penalties should be imposed on parents who did not comply?

Phil: If I know the answer, am I allowed to give it away?

Ethan: If you know the answer, you should recognize that one of our greatest leaders supported vaccine mandates on Americans.

Phil: Yes, he did. For our military and to protect children. I agree with him on both fronts, as the death rate among kids from smallpox was anywhere from 1 percent to 30 percent  at the time and if you serve in the military, personal health is a must in the defense of our country. But, if you were an adult, not under the auspices of liberating our country, the author of your quote did not push a vaccine mandate.

Ethan: For our readers, the writer of the above statement was Gen. George Washington. The quote is from a letter he sent to his brother John in 1777 in which he discussed the success of mandating vaccines for his troops, and the importance it played in protecting his family.

Phil: Be sure to note the date. This was well before he became president, and he was commenting on what a single legislature might do for the most vulnerable in their state, not what the federal government should mandate for an entire country. Nor, I should add, did he ever express such a desire after he became our first president.

Ethan: Well, for all intents and purposes, we had no federal government in 1777, and once he became president, that smallpox epidemic was over. So, while I appreciate your attempt to read into his later silence, all evidence shows he was on the side of vaccine mandates.

Phil: Look, I personally think everyone should get vaccinated, but that is their choice. And whether President Washington would have supported a federal mandate or not, I am quite sure there are policies he supported that neither of us would embrace today (read, slavery). Our founders were remarkable in gaining independence for our country, and writing a constitution, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they said and did.

Ethan: Well, many on your side of the aisle are claiming Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is somehow “un-American.” Yet we have had multiple vaccine mandates from literally the first year of our independence. Let’s not lose sight of that.

Phil: Putting mandates aside, the inconsistency from your man is what bothers me most. Why is Biden not requiring Congress or people detained for entering our country illegally across the border to get vaccinated, but he is forcing people coming to the U.S. legally on trains, planes or automobiles, to prove they are COVID free?

Ethan: Inconsistency? It sounds like you are suggesting that Biden’s vaccine mandate doesn’t go far enough.

Phil: No. I am pointing out that his plan is not truly about public health. It targets certain groups and leaves out constituencies he doesn’t want to offend.

Ethan: That’s silly. Why would he “target” the workers of large businesses and federal employees? Clearly those are not groups he wants to alienate. And as for immigrants, have no fear. He is, sadly, deporting them faster than even Donald Trump was able to achieve.

Phil: My point in all this is simple. That constitution I spoke of earlier was created to grant freedom and rights to we the people. Biden should let us use these rights to make our own decisions.