The other day I spied something from the kitchen window that seemed perfectly ordinary ... and also eerily unusual. One blue jay and then another were trying to get at our neighbor’s bird feeder, but tell that to the pair of squirrels monopolizing the thing. Business as usual in the lives of the local critters? But wait. We’ve not seen birds (or squirrels) at that feeder in months. Remember back in July? All those news reports about birds mysteriously dying of some unknown cause, reports that prompted the Audubon Society to urge everyone to take down their bird feeders? Our neighbors, whom we don’t actually know, had complied, and noticing that they had made me think well of them. Good-citizen types.

But with the feeder now up and full of seeds again, what was I to make of it all? Perhaps the bird-dying emergency has been called off? Or perhaps our good-hearted neighbors couldn’t bear the thought of sparrows and juncos struggling through the chills and snows of winter without a handout? The Christmas season wasn’t that long ago.

Or maybe it was something darker. What if these unknown neighbors realized that, like attempts to mandate vaccines, that ban on birdfeeders was just another instance of what some consider our nation’s growing problem with overreach? True, the Aubudon Society isn’t headquartered in the White House, but it’s still a bunch of know-it-all liberal types, the same folks behind Greenpeace and the Paris Accords and against fracking. Those bird lovers are probably all vaccinated to the hilt as well as boostered — and likely insisting that everyone else should be too.

What if these neighbors were thinking this way? What if they had suddenly had enough with society’s self-styled do-gooders trying to interfere with their God-given freedom to put out birdseed?

Okay, okay, remember the situation: I was standing in my kitchen, looking out the window at the newly restocked bird feeder and dreaming up scenarios conflating sunflower seeds and millet with the antivaccine-mandate mindset. We all daydream, right?

But my daydream kept on delivering.

Imagine how things might turn out in this new year if those with the antivaccine-mandate mindset followed their liberty-or-death philosophy to its logical conclusion. Aren’t some issues even more concerning than feeding the birds?

If it’s an outrageous governmental overreach to insist on COVID vaccination if I want to keep my job or to catch the Celtics at the TD Garden or to enjoy some fancy restaurant dining, why would the outreach be any less outrageous for any other mandated vaccine? If I want to succumb to the flu or to tetanus or to shingles, that’s my business, right? and the kids? What gives government the right to override my say in whether to protect them from mumps or measles or even polio? Until they’re 18, shouldn’t I be making such decisions?

And what about those mandatory seatbelt laws? It’s the same deal: I should have the freedom to decide whether the risk of smashing my head through the windshield outweighs the pleasure of being unencumbered at the wheel. It should be my decision — and the same goes for those cumbersome and inconvenient child-safety seats. Such encumbrances are fine for anyone who wants to use them, but Uncle Sam has no business telling me or my vehicle how we get around.

When you stop and start to think about it, governmental overreach is everywhere. Take stopping and starting themselves: there’s the nonsense of complying with the red and green lights of the open road. Sure, these occasionally help in traffic, but why should any freedom-loving soul wait for a light when the coast is clear and it’s perfectly safe to proceed (and at any speed the car can handle what are limits if not limitations?).

And can anyone explain the government’s right to reach into my wallet to pay taxes? and what about requiring building permits? Zoning laws? Licensing requirements? The list goes on and on.


I’m back in my kitchen almost tiring of this daydream. It’s not much fun inhabiting the mindset of the liberty-or-death crowd, especially as they start to seem more like a “liberty-and-death” crowd. But there’s at least one other contentious social issue worth adding to the mix.

If you’re against vaccine (and mask) mandates — if you’re against those liberals who want to save the birds, support gun control, and hate air pollution — take note of how they are also trying to get everyone to vote. They want us to think that, just like not being vaccinated, it’s hurtful and antisocial and selfish to blow off the ballot. They’re even beginning to talk of requiring universal voting. Talk about overreach! Talk about interfering with our rights to do as we choose! Why should we vote if we don’t want to? My friends: if you’re with me on this, if you take issue with all the mandates and the overreach, let’s own the liberals yet again — and don’t vote.

Rod Kessler is a retired professor of English and writing living in Salem.

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