Matt Grocott

When I scan the political landscape of the Peninsula, I am unnerved by what I see. Not long ago, a columnist with this paper wrote about a policy she felt should be implemented regarding COVID and whether or not one chose to take the vaccine. I could hardly believe what I read. To me, it was strident, as though it came straight out of Germany in the 1930s or ’40s. Yet there it was, a sentiment of control, labeling and shaming, emanating from someone who once served as an elected official in one of our local cities.

In the spirit of offering an antidote, I thought a lesson on liberty and freedom might be in order. If we are to forfeit these two great principles upon which our country was founded, at least we ought to know what it is we are sacrificing.

Often, the words “liberty” and “freedom” can be found in the same sentence when politicians are quoted. Sometimes it seems like there isn’t the understanding the two are not synonymous. For example, in a speech given by former president George W. Bush, he said this: “Not far from here where we gather today is a symbol of freedom familiar to all Americans — the Liberty Bell.”

President Bush said this in a speech he gave in Philadelphia in December 2005. I had just been reelected to a second term on the San Carlos City Council but admittedly, it was the first time I had given any thought to what the two words might mean respectively. Shortly thereafter, suspecting there might be an important nuance between the two, I gave study to the subject.

The first place I decided to look was in my library. I have many books on our country’s founding and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. It proved to be a worthwhile place to dig. Almost immediately it became apparent the two words do have different meanings. 

Our founders wrote of liberty often, both in the political and individual context. The former made its meaning particularly clear because they wrote about reestablishing the liberty they had gained during the past 100 years or more of their existence. In essence, they had gone from being corporate entities under contract to being colonies with their own general assemblies, able to create their own laws and for the most part, mind their own affairs. One of the alarm bells that alerted them to an impending conflict was the “Suspending Act.” It put the New York Assembly in abeyance. By the time a similar action was taken against Virginia’s House of Burgesses, war was not too distant.

What I gleaned from reading about liberty in the context of our country’s founding is this: Liberty is about establishing and controlling one’s own destiny, whether in the political sense as a state, or in the personal sense as an individual or family. Politically, it is about living according to laws agreed to by duly elected representatives. On a personal level, it means living by one’s own convictions. Looking to Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence, one sees the word aptly placed between the word “life,” and the phrase, “pursuit of happiness.” The three are inextricably linked.

What then is freedom? The simplest place to look for its meaning is the Bill of Rights. In the First Amendment, there are five freedoms listed, although not always using the word directly. There is freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly and the freedom or “right ... to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The word is typically coupled with a preposition, either “from” or “to.” What follows is an action or condition. 

Therefore, when President George W. Bush gave his speech, he would have been more correct to refer to the Liberty Bell as a symbol of what it is: a symbol of liberty. If he wanted a symbol for freedom, perhaps he should have cited the original copy of the Bill of Rights.

So why I am so unnerved by what I see when scanning the political landscape on the Peninsula? Because I see what appears to be a majority of people willing to follow the “rulings” of an unelected county official, a governor issuing various “executive orders,” or the Biden administration declaring “mandates.” 

Where are those questioning how long an “emergency” lasts? Is there no concern for how laws are normally enacted? What about questioning a so-called “vaccine” that is not a vaccine and has shown to lose efficacy in a matter of six to seven months? Where are those declaring their liberty as in, “my body, my choice?” What about the freedom to choose natural immunity?

Finally, know this fact about liberty and freedom: Once lost, they are rarely regained.

A former member of the San Carlos City Council and mayor, Matt Grocott has been involved in political policy on the Peninsula for 17 years. He can be reached by email at

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(15) comments

John Baker

Yeah, bringing up the Third Reich in response to a column from a Jewish writer is going to go over well for Matt. Also, lots of vaccines need boosters. Which reminds me I'm overdue for my TDAP.

Ray Fowler

Tafhdyd, et al.

Help me out here, guys... Matt's column is a not too veiled rebuke of Sue Lempert's Aug. 16, 2021, op-ed piece entitled, "Why are we coddling those unvaccinated?" The lines are pretty clear in the comments section re: whether we should all get vaccinated... however, that conversation kinda skips over Matt's introduction referencing Sue's column.

In her column, Sue wrote, "We can’t mandate vaccination but we can mandate that the unvaccinated cannot fly or use public transit; cannot work in health care facilities; cannot work at schools or in any government agency; cannot attend restaurants, bars, sports events, concerts, movies. Meanwhile, private employers need to mandate that all their employees be vaccinated." Those are stern words.

It appears the present administration's efforts to mandate vaccinations for the workplace may fall short of its goal possibly due to court challenges. Private companies can require that employees get vaccinated as a personnel policy, but does the federal government have the authority to require that private company employees get mandatory vaccinations?

In Sue's world, the unvaccinated could not fly on commercial aircraft, would be denied services, would face restrictions re: employment opportunities, and would be denied access to businesses open to the public. Finally, she suggests that the federal government should make vaccinations mandatory for private company employees. Is the anti-anti-vax contingent OK with the measures described in Sue's column?



I have been gone most of the day but I will shoot from hip with a couple items. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Where have you seen that before? Seems like it would apply to the vaccine also.

How about stretching the Defense Production Act? The President has the power to redirect companies to supply and manufacture goods needed for the good of the country. It was used by Trump and Biden for the pandemic supplies and the manufacture of the vaccine. Why not the use of the vaccine for the good of the country. I am not sold on the government telling private firms what they have to do with their employees but on the other hand I don't know why companies wouldn't want to have their employees protected for their own benefit and the continued operation of the company.

If someone doesn't want to be vaccinated because they want their "freedom and liberty", fine, let them walk to Hawaii. Maybe et al will chime in also.

Ray Fowler

I think the vaccine can be used "for the good of the country," but should that use be mandatory? If it is, would enforcement be through denial of services, e.g. letting the unvaccinated "walk to Hawaii"? Where would we find court precedent or legislation creating two classes of citizens based on vaccination status? I am unaware of a court ruling requiring private entities to vaccinate or any bill passed that would do the same. However, by Executive Order or directing a federal agency to enact such a policy, the WH may just try to compel vaccinations. Maybe.


Never thought twice about getting polio shots and other vax. That was, however, before "choice," "medical decisions are between me and my doctor," etc. etc. became media buzz words.


Mr. Grocott,

Once again you offer a relatively sensible read for the majority of your column and then ruin it in the last couple of paragraphs by showing your political bias and right wing hypocrisy.

Where did you get your information that the “vaccine” is not a vaccine? Possibly from the surgeon general of Florida recently appointed by the anti-health Gov. DeSantis. Or maybe it was from Dr. Stella Immanuel, you remember her, the one DJT praised that said that the health problems of women were caused by being inseminated by “demons” during “sex dreams” and that the government was controlled by reptilian lizard people. (Kind of sounds a bit like the right wing story about the pedophiles in the basement of the pizza parlor doesn’t it?)

Since when has the Republican party cared about “my body, my choice”? They constantly strive to restrict a woman from making a choice that should be a decision between herself, her Dr. and her God. Been to Texas lately? BTW, I don't want to discourage you from writing that way, it gives those of us that have common sense something to shake our head at.

Ray Fowler


So, are you suggesting we should be following the advice of Dr. Fauci?



Better than following the advice of Dr. Immanuel.

Terence Y

Taffy, once again you offer a relatively sensible read… oh, who am I kidding? Once you start bellyaching about our great President Trump, we know you’re running on hatred, not common sense (we know you have some, since you’ve agreed with me). BTW, when you say shaking your head at Mr. Grocott’s columns, we know it’s because you’re realizing, yet again, you have no method of refuting his assertions.


Mr. Grocott,

Have conservatives lost their common sense? When your children were mandated when young to have vaccinations against polio, chicken pox, rubella, and the like, did they lose their liberty and freedom? Not likely. In fact, they gained their freedom and liberty to serve in the Armed Forces as recently chronicled. Why then, today, do you fear the preventive measures to a virus more than the disease itself which is lethal? Why make the virus a political issue when it clearly is a health issue? To paraphrase you, know this fact about common sense: Once lost, it is rarely regained.

Tommy Tee

Well said, Rel.

Terence Y

Well, Rel, maybe you can tell us how many breakthrough infections or deaths occurred due to polio, chicken pox, rubella, and the like after the vaccine was administered. And then review the news since COVID jabs were administered. How many breakthrough infections or deaths have occurred from the jab? Are there now more breakthrough infections occurring than regular infections of non-jabbed folks? The COVID jab appears to not be a vaccine, just a shot.

Why would parents want to infect their kids with a non-FDA approved jab when kids are virtually 100% able to survive any infections, should they occur? Some countries are banning their kids and teens from getting jabbed. What do they know that the US doesn’t? Or maybe they care about their young’uns more than the US. Your body, your choice. Your kid’s bodies, still your choice. Make an informed choice and don’t be bullied by folks that have lost their common sense. After all, to paraphrase Rel, once common sense is lost, it is rarely regained.


The coronavirus doesn't give a fig about your liberty or freedom. You don't have the right to infect others with a virus. Mandates are needed to win the fight against the pandemic. So you are limiting your own freedom and liberty by not being vaccinated. This has been true throughout American history when it comes to threats against the general populace. Your freedom and liberty give you the right to wave your arms around, but stops before they hit my body.

Terence Y

Well, HFAB, since jabbed folks have the same ability to infect anyone else, jabbed or not, it defeats your narrative. Your body, your choice. Perhaps you can direct your outrage at folks who drink and drive or folks resorting to criminal activities to support their drug habit. Don’t their threats to the general populace count?


Mr.. Grocott -

Thank you for addressing this critical issue. Well said!

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