The cliche used to be, strictly speaking, a metaphor. The idiomatic “a hill to die on” is no longer entirely metaphorical when it comes to coronavirus in general and vaccine mandates in particular. One could literally die on that hill. The hill Ohio congressman Jim Jordan recently died on metaphorically was his tweet that vaccine mandates are “un-American.” It’s not known if Jordan is vaccinated or not, but mandating vaccines is emphatically not un-American. Just ask George Washington.
It turns out that the proverbial “Father of the Nation” and commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War required that his troops be immunized after a smallpox outbreak. It was a bold decision, unprecedented up to that time. But it may have made enough of a difference to determine the outcome of the Revolutionary War. Had Washington not mandated the smallpox vaccine it’s possible there wouldn’t be a United States of America today.
One American who would have whole-heartedly agreed with Washington”s vaccine mandate was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s greatest regret in life was not getting his four year old son vaccinated. His son died in 1736 of smallpox.
Back then Franklin wasn’t opposed to vaccination — quite the contrary, he was very much in favor of it — but the usually industrious scientist and statesman just didn’t get around to it in time. His child died as a result of Franklin’s rare indolence. Not getting his son vaccinated became the single greatest barrier to Franklin’s ultimate happiness. So much for vaccine mandates being “un-American.”
“Congressman Jordan is just wrong. There’s more than enough history to show we have a precedent for requiring vaccines that goes all the way to George Washington,” Julian E. Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, said. “This claim that it’s somehow un-American doesn’t match with the actual historical record. I don’t think there’s much of an argument here.” The good old boys in Ohio would disagree, if they even knew what a Princeton professor of political history was. They are unlikely to ever hear such things on Fox or Newsmax or OAN.
The reason why Jordan and his other mallet-headed Republican colleagues keep dying on that same coronavirus hill is because they know if they uncork the occasional anti-vaxxer boneheadism from time to time it will make the news. It’s a free re-election advertisement. The rest of the country may see Jordan and his knuckle-dragging ilk as dangerous clowns but enough of his voting constituents are stupid. Time after time they will vote him back in for saying things just like that.
Until, of course, they literally die on that hill. But that goes without saying.
It’s a deadly game that Jordan and his colleagues are playing. They know that people will die every time Jordan and his ilk open their stupid, greedy and evil mouths. They don’t care one way or another, of course. That’s why they’re evil. Getting re-elected and hanging on to their cushy jobs is all they care about.
Being a Congressman these days means you’re a celebrity everywhere you go, with limos and the best tables and fans asking you to pose for selfies. A member of the House of Representatives makes $174,000 a year, plus staff, plus subsidies, plus free medical, plus free gym membership, plus graft, plus the pin, plus the license plate, plus, plus, plus. Where but in Congress could an ex-wrestling coach, sexual predator’s codependent and loser like Jim Jordan get such a cushy job? Nowhere.
So Jordan will continue to make a yellow-tied, jacketless, irritatingly hectoring-voiced ass of himself as long as it keeps the monkeys in the zoo — his constituents — screeching and doing celebratory somersaults. He knows exactly what hill he can die on and get re-elected. Until he literally dies on that hill, of course. But again, that goes without saying. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.