Let’s begin with the requisite acknowledgments…
The pandemic is real. This is a serious illness with which huge numbers of people have suffered, and substantial numbers have died.
The virus is highly contagious. Members of my own family have caught it. I could catch it myself.
I could die with it.
Granted, these things might be said of other large-scale disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, the pandemic is not an illusion or a product of mass hysteria. It’s a genuine global emergency.
Okay. All true.
Still, the question must be asked: Why has this illness been treated differently from other public health crises? And why the continuing panic?
Why the talk of restrictive measures that exceed the lockdowns we’ve already experienced — extended measures that weren’t undertaken in past pandemics?
We know that fatality rates for this plague are much less than for other serious diseases. And while the so-called Delta Variant appears to be somewhat more virulently infectious, indications are that it usually causes less extreme symptoms.
Why are we still approaching this health challenge with such desperation? Why do we still seem to be floundering?
The one ongoing problem we’ve faced since the pandemic appeared on our shores has been a lack of clear and accurate information…
Facemasks: Work or don’t work?
Social-distancing and business / church / school closings: Effective or meaningless?
Surface cleansing: Helpful or a waste of effort?
Opinions abound on such questions. None has ever been fully answered. We’ve done all of these things. Has it made any difference? People are still getting sick.
Understandably, it took awhile for medical professionals to get a handle on the nature and scope of the threat. You would have expected a certain thrashing about when the disease was new.
But we’ve been dealing with this for more than a year now. Vast resources have been thrown at the problem. Yet we’re awash in conflicting theories, and we seem no closer to a definite path out of our ongoing predicament.
We have inoculations for which elaborate claims of success are made. However, now we’re told that booster shots will be required — perhaps an indefinite number of booster shots, administered on a continuing basis.
Does this offer us confidence that all the pharmaceutical innovation has delivered anything that actually works?
It may be naïve to assume we can make the illness go away completely. But isn’t it fair to expect that the famous “curve” will finally be flattened to an extent that we can say the principal danger is behind us?
Worse, why is it that those who have reasonable misgivings about being inoculated are viewed as enemies of society?
Cases of seriously adverse reactions to all the serum types — including deaths — have been reported around the world. To be sure, this information is being downplayed by both the mainstream media and the social networks, but word has gotten out. New incidents occur virtually every day. People are aware.
(For that matter, why all these attempts to suppress this news?)
Everyone knows the vaccinations have not undergone the standard run of laboratory tests and clinical trials. In fact, it’s been a point of pride that they were fast-tracked in order to counter the spread of infection.
In light of such hurriedness, why is caution about their efficacy and side effects seen as something anti-social? And make no mistake, reproach for such skepticism is not only harsh, it can be extreme.
A perfect example is this Facebook post by Mark Shea, a Catholic writer of strong opinions…
“I have no problem at all punishing the refuseniks and rewarding the Normals. These guys want to sicken and kill others and break the back of our health care system while making Pandemic a permanent reality? Then lay a butt ton of taxes on them. Force these people who are so fanatical about IDs for the brown and poor to show proof of vaccination before entering restaurants, sports events, theatres or airports. Make them get tested every week till the end of time. Make *them* bear the burden of their selfish stupidity, not the rest of us. And if they dare to make fake proof of vaccination certificates, lock them up and charge them draconian fines. Their right to be selfish jerks ends where my little grandchild’s right to life begins.”
When news broke about illegal immigrants showing high rates of infection, Shea followed up with this observation…
“The GQP [sic] murder / suicide cult naturally tells racist lies to blame the least of these for the criminal neglect that is 100% their own fault as they willfully and malignantly spread Pandemic. Get the shot, for the sake of those who *cannot* get the shot yet. Delta is killing children. Protect them.”
Severe as it may be, one could understand the passion behind Shea’s call if there was certainty behind the effectiveness of vaccination. But “follow the science” as we might, the truth is that these potions simply have not been proven.
(Tangential, but worth noting, is this fascinating bit of denial from a Facebooker named Cindy, who commented on Shea’s border reference, “Next lie in the pipeline: Biden is flying the immigrants all over the country and releasing them into our communities!!!” This is a lie?)
Such heated rhetoric is not isolated. Nor is it exclusive to online chatter. Western Journal reported this complaint by a Norman, Oklahoma, school board member against children being in school without masks…
“‘It’s just not OK for kids to commit murder by coming to school without a mask,’ she claimed.
“‘And when it comes down to it, it’s possible. They will cause a death of another child because they come to school without a mask. That’s not OK.’”
Indeed, it’s not “OK,” but what do we do about those kids who are experiencing asthma attacks, oral infections, and other maladies because of the masks? Are their motives for going barefaced irrelevant?
The Los Angeles Times has editorialized in support of California requirements for vaccination and regular testing of public employees and health workers…
“responsible health officials seeking to slow infection rates have few options, none of which would be popular among pandemic conspiracists on social media and in elected office.”
The essay added insultingly…
“We have little patience with the knee-jerk naysayers who label every new pandemic policy a governmental overreach. What exactly would the government gain by asking people to put cloth over their faces to save their own lives? In what bizarro world is it an abuse of power to give people the choice of taking a free, life-saving medication or doing preventive testing to prove they aren’t infectious?”
Going even farther, a self-identified “anti-racism educator” named Tim Wise, expressed his impatience with those who dismiss vaccination skeptics merely as members of a “suicidal death cult.” In a blog post Wise charged that…
“This is different, something more dangerous, sociopathic, and sadistic — not suicidal but homicidal.”
He insisted that such people really constitute a religiously deluded “mass murder movement,” convinced of its own superiority and invulnerability. He described their attitude accordingly…
“High on a delusional mix of rugged individualism, toxic masculine bravado, pseudoscientific faith in vitamin supplements, and a belief that God would pull them through, they were convinced they were safe.
“Only others were at risk — the less good people.”
And when members of this cohort happen to contract the virus…
“I cannot weep for someone who thought the ‘blood of Jesus’ was all the vaccine they needed.”
What to do about such hard-hearted characters? Wise recommended…
“Refuse to speak to them, break bread with them or communicate with them in any way until they get their shit together and learn to play by the rules of public health by which rational, decent people agree to play.”
Such sentiments aren’t entirely new. I wasn’t around during the great Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, but surviving images such as this one attest to strong feelings present at the time.
What accounts for such opinions? Fear? Surely that plays a role.
Anger at the death of a loved one? This would certainly be understandable. But to whom is it proper to direct such anger? Does pain give one a license to be cruel?
Even partisanship doesn’t explain it. The Democrats have already succeeded in ousting Trump (by means that demand closer examination). And after all, it was The Donald who started fast-tracking the vaccines, and made Dr. Fauci a household name.
Such institutional myopia.
Dare one say it?: Such fanaticism.
The push for a so-called “Great Reset” may account for the public policy side of things. You don’t have to wallow in conspiracy theories to discern political motives in play. There are those who wish to stoke public distrust and division, who wish to keep us angry and suspicious of each other.
But why are so many individuals willing to “needle” their neighbors (so to speak)? What accounts for all the personal nastiness? In particular, what of those who have always recited the mantra: My body, my choice. Quite a change for them.
Here’s the reality we face…
The scientific consensus about these vaccines is less than we’re led to believe, despite a massive effort to convince us otherwise.
(That effort is bipartisan, incidentally. I’ve received a pro-vaccine mailing with endorsements from Ron DeSantis, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Hannity.)
In point of fact, only about half of healthcare workers in the country have taken the jab themselves. This even includes staff of the CDC, as Dr. Fauci has admitted. Is this just a matter of not getting around to it, or does it suggest distrust within the research and healthcare communites? What information do these people have that we don’t?
None of this is to say that the vaccines are bad.
I don’t know that for sure. Nobody does. We don’t have enough history with them to speak definitively.
It is true, however, that most of the infections now are happening among the vaccinated or those in close contact with them. In addition, other vaccines, developed to combat earlier plagues, have been pulled from the market and reworked after fewer adverse reactions than we’ve seen with the current varieties.
Despite such ambiguity, some people feel themselves at liberty to say the most intemperate and derogatory things about those who are vaccine-hesitant. They are demeaning their fellow Americans in vindictive and hurtful ways.
Something ugly is loose in our society, a spirit of evil that transcends health fears and political agendas.
It’s something that isn’t explained by mere human emotion. And it has a point all its own.
Here’s an interesting attempt to dismiss vaccine hesitancy as frivolous self-indulgence. It’s obvious that this meme was professionally designed. Who’s putting out such messages?…
And here’s an angrier one that tries to obscure legitimate reservations under a whole shopping list of perceived prejudices…
Attorney and conservative commentator Kurt Schlichter draws attention to a logical inconsistency in the argument of one vaccine advocate…
…while someone relates the sad death of a relative after receiving the “jab” (note the assurance of vaccine safety tacked underneath by Facebook)…
Dr. Fauci — whose advise throughout that past year and a half has been all over the map — is on record as advocating employer-compelled vaccination. As noted by Western Journal…
“The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases signaled on Sunday he can’t wait to see Americans cornered into taking the shot….
“The implication is obviously that those who have thus far refused the vaccine could be forced to change their minds, or be threatened with losing their jobs….
“‘I hope — I don’t predict — I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,’ Fauci said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ according to The Associated Press.”
Princeton University Philosophy Professor Peter Singer (known for his favorable attitude toward infanticide) goes even farther, advocating a legal vaccination mandate, and comparing it to requiring seatbelt usage in cars. Writing in National Review, Wesley J. Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, debunks the comparison…
“There is a huge difference between a law that requires wrapping a cloth belt around one’s body while in a moving car and injecting chemicals into one’s system. Yes, both acts involve attempts to promote public safety. But the former’s interference with liberty is de minimus, while the latter is one of the most potentially portentous that can be asked of people.”