We were almost there, moving quite smoothly toward wholesale vaccinations leading to herd immunity, and then, once again, partisan politics reared its ugly head over an issue that shouldn’t have been political at all. It should have been about saving lives and getting back to normal, having learned lessons that may avert hundreds of thousands more from dying if another pandemic sweeps over our land.
Now that the masks are coming off and the vaccinated feel more secure gathering in groups, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is striking with lethal efficiency and threatening to turn back the clock to July 2020 to sheltering, social distancing and those horrible masks that robbed us of our right to infect each other — the closest thing we had to unity in 2020.
We’re seeing too many people who made sure they got the jabs themselves, mostly GOP politicians and ultra-conservative commentators, smugly downplaying the positive impact of vaccines, while accenting unproven information and casually promoting conspiracy theories about governmental control and deception. Tucker Carlson, FOX News commentator and among the most vocal assailants of the efficacy of the jabs, mocks the science of vaccinations, as well as the lessons of history, to an estimated daily audience of 2.9 million. Massive egos prevail among the purveyors of misinformation, adherents of the dethroned reality TV star president, and their sycophants hang onto every contrived word while ignoring what they see in front of them.
This pandemic has been described as a war and, if treated as one, Carlson, along with Kevin McCarthy and his minions in Congress, should be tried as war criminals as they did the German Nazis after World War II. Seeing is believing is a concept that no longer has merit in these visual times when almost everything of importance is captured via video or photo. The most glaring example is playing down the violent attempted overthrow of the democratic process itself on January 6 and trying to minimize it as a walk in the park. When that doesn’t wash, they blame the bad stuff on Antifa or some weird Machiavellian plot to subvert the administration still in power at the time.
They have turned a blind eye to seeing is believing, and that has also been the case in an apparently stalled effort to get Americans vaccinated (fewer than 50 percent of adults have received both shots) and protecting us from each other.
The biggest barrier to convincing those vowing not to get vaccinated is misinformation that has stalled the process to snail speed. Too many people who refuse to believe what they see have come to dismiss anything the government asserts that requires any sacrifice or inconvenience on their part. Coincidentally, the easiest to convince that vaccinations are part of some government plot have been in the “largest generational group in U.S. history,” a.k.a. the Baby Boomers (1946-63) who are today’s grandparents and great-grandparents. We’re also the easiest prey for internet scammers. Anti-vax misinformation may be the biggest scam every perpetrated on the most vulnerable age group in the nation.
The effort to convince people that vaccinations save lives was something we encountered and presumably resolved as far back as 1905. That was when the Supreme Court backed a government mandate requiring citizens to be inoculated for smallpox, another deadly and contagious virus. That will make it tougher for a growing number of anti-vaxxers protesting the right of government agencies, health-care outlets and private businesses to require employees to get the shots to keep their jobs. It came down to protecting the health of the majority over the perceived constitutional violation of the rights of people who didn’t want to participate because, well, they don’t want to.
To me it is amazing that we were able to vanquish smallpox through mass vaccinations at a time when we knew so much less about the science and effectiveness of this seeming illogical process of injecting microscopic cells of something we couldn’t see or understand into the body to attack and ward off a killing virus. Now with almost 120 years of science behind us, supplemented by a history of success in conquering diseases like smallpox, polio and even rabies (a significant national threat through the 1950’s), we have decided to adopt a caveman mentality based on party politics? Crazy stuff.
Once misinformation escapes from the bottle, it is hard to shove it back in there and screw the cap back on. Like a virus itself, it is infectious on a national and global scale, almost always at the expense of any government education/propaganda effort to the contrary. In fact, discrediting the government with accusations of mind control, oppression and autocracy is often a selling point for this misinformation, convincing people with political leanings both left and right that we are on the brink of fascism or communism.
Among the misinformation about the COVID vaccines are they have been infused with chips (microscopic computers) aimed at mind control; the vaccine can transform people into human magnets, and, in the words of Joseph Mercola, one of the most oft-quoted anti-vaxxers, the shots “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”
Ignorance Is Bliss in Spreading Misinformation
You see weekly, even daily, examples of adults who apparently slept through their history and science classes. There’s the repetition of Trump’s anointed return to the presidency (in August the last I heard), and one of my favorites: he’s going to run for Speaker of the House, leading Republican majorities of the House and Senate, somehow ousting Biden from the White House and subsequently rewriting sections of the Constitution with which they don’t agree. Of course, most of us know you have to be a member of the House and in the majority party to be elected Speaker. These two visions — Trump’s return and a massive edit of the Constitution —are being promoted simultaneously. So does Trump, reassuming the presidency, then make himself a member of Congress before leading in the rewriting of the Constitution?
I talked recently with a Republican state legislator representing one of our rural counties, who had recently been taken to task by a constituent for failing to lead an effort to rewrite the Constitution to exclude certain minorities or making it tougher for them to vote. The angry partisan was apparently unaware that state legislators play no role in amending the U.S. Constitution. And so the ignorance grows among these aroused constitutional scholars.
One last thing. If you continue to exhibit Trump signs, banners and flags to show your allegiance, pride or hope in his prophesized return, that’s your privilege as an American. If you are among those who proudly display a “F&%k Biden” banner (actual letters cleverly disguised) with the subheading “And F&%k You for Voting for Him,” it certainly indicates a lack of class so typical of this man you adore. It also shows disdain for the majority of Americans who feel otherwise. The majority still rules in a Democracy.
After all that has happened in the past few months, they are justifying the behavior of the people who wrapped themselves in or carried the American and Trump flags in that treasonous and seditious display on January 6. Those obscene flags are selling on Amazon and Etsy, by the way, proving that freedom of expression often overrules common sense and decency.
Patriotism is the furthest thing from this kind of crude behavior that continues to fuel the fervor of anti-democracy bullies among us.
Norman Lear, legendary television producer and writer who flew more than 50 missions in a B-17 bomber in World War II, wrote an opinion piece on Tuesday of this week. The observation was written on the first morning of his 100th year and captures the essence of true patriotism:
“I am a patriot, and I will not surrender that word to those who play to our worst impulses rather than our highest ideals.”