It's Time For Our Freedom Passports!

What red blooded, Nazi-arm-band-wearing, Confederate-flag-waving, Capitol-invading, gun-toting, Trump-humping American patriot could possibly object?

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Now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval and is widely available across the US, it’s time to back it up with a vaccine passport.

Those of us who did the right thing and got vaccinated are sick and tired of living a half-life because of all the covidiots out there who refuse to get vaccinated. Let them “stand on the outside” of American business and society “looking in” for a change.

No shoes, no shirt, no vaccine passport, no service.

Several states, including California and New York, have put into place their own “certificates of vaccination” that work on a smartphone, and Clear — that company that speeds you through the airport by checking biometrics like your fingerprints — has been offering a vaccine passport for months that is recognized by major sporting and entertainment venues, cruise lines and the State of Hawaii.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is already more than halfway down this road with their V-Safe program, which, with the smallest of tweaks and the addition of an inexpensive IOS and Android app, could almost instantly become a single national vaccine passport.

I got my first vaccine passport in 1979 when I traveled to Kenya, Uganda and had an onward ticket to Somalia on behalf of the Salem international relief organization.

To get on a plane to those countries, and then to get through their own passport control, I had to prove that I was immunized against cholera, yellow fever and typhoid, as I recall, and there might have been a few others (tetanus?); I remember the shots hurt like hell and made me sick as a dog for a day or two.

But that yellow card, with the proof of vaccination stamps in it, periodically updated, sat inside my passport for the next 20+ years and not only got me into multiple Third World countries on three continents, but also got me through US border stations and back into the United States from them.

The idea of vaccine passports is nothing new.

Although my kids didn’t need them to get into school 40+ years ago (the schools just took your word for it), my grandchildren do today. There’s pretty much not a school or summer camp in America that’ll let a kid in without proof of vaccination against, at least, measles and a few other childhood diseases.

Right now the Biden administration is reportedly working with 17 different organizations and private companies to come up with some sort of vaccine passport that’ll work for America, which is apparently why Newsmax’s White House Correspondent calls the idea “totalitarian communism.”

(Want to “own the cons”? Put photos on the passports and require states to allow them as voter ID. But, seriously…)

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, which licensed the travel agency Louise and I owned in the 1980s and oversees international travel, is working on one, as is the office of World Tourism with the United Nations. IBM is developing a digital vaccine passport, and Clear’s probably defines the state of the art (and they have a free version as well).

Israel rolled them out several months ago, and Denmark has announced they’ll soon be doing the same.

The way to sell these freedom passports to right wingers is pretty straightforward: tell them it’s the free market, and that it has to do with religious liberty. They love those words even when they don’t know what they mean.

These are the same people, of course, who want a business to be able to refuse an LGBTQ person the freedom to patronize that company based on who they are or love. If conservatives believe an American business must legally be able make a decision like that, why shouldn’t companies have the freedom to refuse service to someone who may be spreading a deadly disease?

Doesn’t “freedom” include the freedom to stay alive in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century? The freedom to eat and drink in a bar or restaurant without worrying that people at the table next to you are blowing deadly viruses your way by the billions?

Freedom is a much misused word. How is it that anybody can say with a straight face that person “A” should have the “freedom” to refuse a vaccine or a mask and spread a deadly disease in the direction of person “B,” but that person “B” shouldn’t have the freedom to remain free of illness? 

It’s a good argument for calling them “Freedom Passports.”

For that matter, vaccine passports are the ultimate statement of belief in the sanctity of human life.

It’s truly bizarre that legislators in Arkansas and Texas think a woman who wants to get an abortion should go to prison or even get the death penalty, but if a red-state Republican wants to blow a deadly disease in your face because they’ve joined an anti-mask, anti-vaccine cult, that’s just fine. 

Maybe we should call them “Right To Life Passports.”

Crazed Republican conspiracy-mongers aside, the main international objection to vaccine passports comes from groups and organizations concerned about increasing the gap around the world between the haves and the have-nots. One billion people in the world don’t even have proof of identity, much less a passport or birth certificate, and this would leave them even farther out of the loop. 

On the other hand, those are not generally the folks trying to get into the Super Bowl, your local supermarket or wanting to sit next to you on a flight from Omaha to Cincinnati. And, if done right by an international agency, these could be the very first piece of ID for hundreds of millions of people around the world…getting them started down the road to international “identity legitimacy.”

Back in the 1980s, restaurants around the country experimented with being all non-smoking, or having well-spaced smoking sections with separate ventilation. Restaurants around the country are just now starting to do something similar with regard to the pandemic, and the federal government should make it easier and more consistent for us all.

After all, if every state has been “required” to put a “Real ID” star and hologram on your drivers’ license to prove citizenship to vote and fly, why can’t that same government certify your vaccination status?  

This doesn’t remove the right of business owners to exercise their own “free choice.” The taco place down the street might only let you in with a vaccine passport, but farther down the block the burger joint may opt to ignore the passports and pack the place in. 

Nobody, at least so far, is arguing passports should be required by the gummint (beyond their own employees) the way those communist driver’s licenses are issued and required for everyone to speed down the highway. It looks like, at least for the moment, it’s going to be entirely up to the so-called “free market.”

The NFL has already weighed in, promoting vaccination among their fans so people can show up knowing that Covid isn’t floating around inside the stadium.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, arguably responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths (that he appears to be hiding), is swearing that he’ll never allow a private business in his state to require a vaccine passport for service.

He’s fine with Florida businesses refusing to do business with LGBTQ folks, but Republican cult members who refuse to get vaccinated because they’re convinced Bill Gates is gonna chip them so they can be tracked? No way! (Don’t tell them about that GPS thing in their cell phones, please; they may not be able to handle it.)

As Republican politicians, judges and lawyers constantly repeat, private business should be able to refuse service to people based on the business owner’s “deeply held beliefs.”

This one’s gone all the way up to the Supreme Court, and repeatedly gotten the Republican seal of approval, so what about business owners’ belief in staying alive? You’re not “free“ if you’re not alive, after all.

Which again argues for calling them Freedom Passports!

What red blooded, Nazi-arm-band-wearing, Confederate-flag-waving, Capitol-invading, gun-toting, Trump-humping American patriot could possibly object?