Matt Willhite: Patriotism over politics

United States of America Flag with Covid-19 Multiple Vaccines an
Getting vaccinated is patriotic, not political.

Vaccinations work. Need proof?

Take a moment and look at your arm. Do you bear a tiny scar? If you do, the odds are that you received a routine smallpox vaccination as a child. Vaccines eradicated the smallpox disease from the United States in 1972.

Are any readers old enough to remember a time when polio caused widespread panic? During the 1940s, polio disabled an average of more than 35,000 people each year. However, thanks to the polio vaccine and dedicated health care professionals, polio has been eliminated from the United States for more than 30 years.

Since 1979, no cases of polio have originated in the United States.

The bottom line is this — vaccinations work. Plain and simple. Yet, many Americans across the country and here in Florida have chosen not to vaccinate against the coronavirus.

History has its eyes on us. Will we be viewed with admiration, like the generations that eradicated smallpox and polio, or will we allow the coronavirus to stay with us indefinitely.

My message is this: Getting vaccinated is patriotic, not political.

From day one, this entire pandemic became political.

First, it was refusing to wear masks. Now, it is the refusal to get a vaccination. This is not a time to play politics; this is a time for leaders to roll up their sleeves and get to work. We were moving in the right direction for a while, and now we are watching as victory slips from our fingertips. Case-in-point, simply look at how Florida is now seeing an increase in cases compared to what we saw at the beginning of the year before a vaccine was widely available.

But first, there is something that must be made crystal clear. We know how this issue became political, and we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t. Prominent figures such as former presidents to currently elected governors, legislators, and provocateurs on cable TV have used this time to appeal to their base’s worst instincts.

It didn’t have to be that way, and it still doesn’t have to be that way. Doing our part in ending this pandemic is unequivocally the most patriotic act we can make as Americans.

One of the most common arguments I have heard for not getting vaccinated is individual freedom. And honestly, this argument is pure foolishness. To suggest that resisting science somehow strengthens your personal freedoms is just ridiculous.

Think of the great generation who fought a world war in defense of individual freedom. They traveled across the globe for a cause. All we are asking now is to get a shot in your arm.

Patriotism is defined as devotion to one’s country. Our country includes all of us. Our families, friends and neighbors. The ones we agree and disagree with. Patriotism is not self-righteous indignation; it’s putting our communities ahead of selfish intentions.

As a firefighter, I was offered the vaccine early on. I was not required to get the coronavirus vaccine, but I did it in service to the community I serve while on call. In the military, I received a vaccination for diseases such as polio, smallpox, rubella, and almost every vaccine you can think of before I went overseas.

There is strength in placing your neighbors, community and country first.

However, it must be said: while many choose to not mask up and deny the vaccine all in the name of personal freedom, you are the ones taking away the freedoms of those who have been taking all the precautions and vaccinated when it became available. In fact, those who are making the individual freedom argument will eventually push elected leaders to mandate mandatory vaccination.

As I said earlier, history has its eyes on us. So, the question is, how do we want to be remembered?

It’s on us; let’s end this thing.


Matt Willhite is a fire captain with PBC Fire Rescue for the last 25 years. He served eight years with the U.S. Navy as a Corpsman with the Marines, eight years on the Village of Wellington Council and has represented District 86 in the Florida House since 2016. In 2022 he is running to be the Palm Beach County Commissioner for District 6.

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