Image Credits: FBI.

I don’t know. It seems like sometimes people start off with something principled and they wind up in a really strange place. That certainly happened with David Gilbert, a college-aged hell-raiser who in the 1960’s fulminated against racism and the Vietnam War as a key member of the Students for a Democratic Society. When that organization proved too timid for his tastes, he co-founded The Weathermen, a group that utilized terrorism rather than rhetoric. In 1970, his girlfriend died while making bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse.

Things reached a truly absurd state when Gilbert joined up with six members of the Black Liberation Army to rob a Brink’s truck in 1981. The idea was to reappropriate money to the victims of slavery.

They stole $1.6 million in cash from a Brink’s armored car at the Nanuet Mall, in Nanuet, New York, killing a Brink’s guard, Peter Paige, seriously wounding Brink’s guard Joseph Trombino, slightly wounding Brink’s truck driver guard, James Kelly, subsequently killing two Nyack police officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown, and seriously wounding Police Detective Artie Keenan.

That “principled” escapade earned Gilbert a conviction on three felony murder counts and a 75-year sentence in the slammer. On the day he resigned from office, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted Gilbert’s sentence to time served. Gilbert could be a free man soon if he can convince the parole board he’s not a threat, but that doesn’t make him any less of an idiot. Somewhere, somehow, he lost his moral compass and went off the rails.

I thought about his example when I saw that Delta Air Lines is now going to jack up the health insurance premium for employees who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian notified employees Wednesday that they will face $200 monthly increases on their health insurance premiums starting Nov. 1 if they aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19, citing steep costs to cover employees who are hospitalized with the virus.

Unvaccinated employees will face other restrictions, including indoor masking effective immediately and weekly Covid-19 tests starting Sept. 12 the Atlanta-based airline said in announcing new Covid policies for employees.

The connection with Gilbert is probably not immediately obvious, but I imagined that those who feel strongly that the choice of whether or to get inoculated is a matter of personal liberty will react poorly to discovering that it comes with a hefty price tag. Some of them may become convinced that their freedoms are under threat and find “principled” reasons to fight back with violence.

It’s not a wholly ridiculous idea. I can easily imagine circumstances where the government insists that people make health decisions that should be left to their discretion. For example, reproductive rights could be completely curtailed or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there could be a program of coerced sterilization.

Infectious disease, whether we’re talking about polio, small pox, measles, or whooping cough, creates a challenge to personal liberty. I’d actually be a little concerned if there were no push back against compelled vaccination programs, no matter how clear it is that the benefits outweigh the risks and costs.

There are obviously nuances to this. Delta Air Lines is not the U.S. Government and no one has any “right” to be employed there. It’s a bit different than telling parents that their children have to be in school but they can’t go to the free public school unless they are vaccinated. Either way, though, the exercise of liberty isn’t free.

It’s important to note that Delta isn’t firing unvaccinated workers. Instead, they’re making it expensive and extremely inconvenient to eschew the shot. It’s similar to the strategy the NFL is using to coerce compliance among football players. We’re going to see more of this now that the Pfizer shot has been fully approved by the FDA.

We’re already seeing other inconveniences, like service industries demanding proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or attend a game or concert. Collectively, this creates a definite second citizenship class. No one should be surprised if they feel oppressed and some of them begin to act accordingly.

Yet, however much they may think that they’re in the right and acting to protect all of our freedoms, when they lash out violently, they’re going to look just as stupid as David Gilbert, and possibly they’re going to do just as much time in prison.

Maybe forty years later some disgraced governor will have mercy on them. Who knows?

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