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Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask is about caring for your fellow humans - even if it means giving up a little bit of personal freedom.

Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine believes in "your rights first."

That was his statement during the Monday, Sept. 13, City Council meeting. His comments were made in relation to face masks and vaccine mandates imposed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in the state government's ongoing effort to slow or eliminate the spread of COVID-19 and its cousin, the delta variant.

"I will never strip you of the right to freedom to make the choices that you make. That is not what I'm about. That's never going to be what I'm about, no matter what happens," Drinkwine said.

When we talk about "rights," what we're really talking about is freedom of speech, religion, assembly, fair trials, equal treatment and the pursuit of happiness. It also includes the right to bear arms, which has become a bit more polarizing these days. These are awesome rights that distinguish the U.S. from its global counterparts. These rights are well worth defending.

Drinkwine's support of individual rights and freedoms is laudable, but if that's where the conversation ends, then he's only scratched the surface.

When the conversation is about nothing more than "rights," that's the moment where society devolves into anarchy. That's how you wind up with what's happening in downtown Portland as antifascists clash with Proud Boys — bot sides exercising their rights to assemble say what they want, but neither side concerned for the impact of the violence, or damage they inflict on surrounding businesses and community.

Drinkwine's commentary focuses solely on "rights," but ignores the second half of the American contract — "social responsibility."

It's been said before by other people that "rights" are owed to the people, where "responsibilities" are owed by the people to the society or country.

As citizens of this county, state and nation, we have many responsibilities, most of them pinned to obeying the law, paying taxes and participating in the judicial system. Through our taxes we provide a free education for children; we pave and maintain highways; and provide security through police and firefighters. For society to work, it demands that citizens do their part.

• The law requires that you wear a seatbelt while operating a vehicle in Oregon. The responsibility falls to the motorist to make sure passengers are buckled up.

• The law requires that you slow down while operating a vehicle in a school zone. The responsibility falls to the driver to take their foot off the gas.

• The law requires that you pay your state and federal taxes. The citizen is responsible for paying what's owed.

People follow these laws, in part, because of the consequences when they don't. But most people follow laws because they care about their country and their fellow citizens.

In other words, you can't have a conversation about rights, without a similar conversation about responsibilities.

In the conversation about face masks and vaccines, Mayor Drinkwine skipped the part about being a good neighbor, and a responsible member of the community.

Drinkwine is a smart and capable guy. Nobody is saying otherwise. But he must be aware that people are taking their lead from the things he says. He just as easily could have used this opportunity to begin by affirming individual rights and freedoms, and in the next breath encouraged people to do what's necessary of responsible citizens. He could have harnessed his position of influence to encourage vaccinations and mask-wearing so we could work together to put this virus behind us.

This is a cautionary tale for all people in positions of authority, whether you serve on the Gresham, Sandy, Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village or Estacada city councils. The things you say matter. You are the community leaders. So help lead us from this dark place.

Mayor Drinkwine had the opportunity to use his pulpit to encourage his constituents to make personal choices and sacrifices that restore public health. Instead, he squandered the moment with a one-sided narrative about rights.

Having rights is easy; everyone has them. Being a responsible citizen — doing the right thing — is the harder part. It's what turns people into heroes.

As an aside, Mayor Drinkwine's community as of mid-August was among the least vaccinated areas of Clackamas County. His voice and authority could have helped turn that tide.

Go ahead, oppose Gov. Brown's mandate.

Be a champion for the preservation of your American and human rights.

Shout your indignation about an infringement upon these rights. It's your right to do so.

Then, as a responsible member of society, go get your shots and wear your masks. If it makes you feel better, don't do it because the governor told you to, but because you're willing to accept temporary discomfort as the small price for ending this pandemic and because you care about other people. Be a responsible citizen.

That's what Mayor Drinkwine should have said.


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