I attended an outdoor get together this weekend. It was in a big yard and set up in typical bar-b-cue fashion with about forty people. Wandering the party, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every conversation was about Covid, masks, and vaccines. The subject matter moved from group to group throughout the afternoon like an invisible snake winding its way around everyone’s feet and coiling up the legs.
The first person to make conversation with me opened up with a question that seemed to be the standard starter of the day. “Have you been vaccinated?” I told him I got my first dose a few weeks back and was getting my second this week. His eyes narrowed and he literally took a step back. “Oh, so I should stay some distance from you.” I frowned and asked him if he had been vaccinated already. He replied he had, a while ago. So what was he afraid of? I said. His answer was both revealing and depressing. “I don’t know.”
He didn’t know. Indeed, the virus has not just done damage to our physical health. It has wrecked the psyche of so many who claim to “follow the science” and blasted a gaping hole in our collective wisdom. This was a typical conversation with another neighbor who insists his entire family will continue to wear masks, including his toddler, even though all those in his household old enough to have been immunized:
Brad: “Why are you wearing a mask?”
Neighbor: “To be safe. It’s still nerve-wracking that my kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated. So even though everyone but Johnny’s vaccinated, we’ll still wear masks for who knows how long.”
Brad: “Look, you do what you want, but do you know that according to the CDC from May 2020 to May 2021 out of some 560,000 dead from Covid, only 35 were in your kid’s 1-4 age group? And who knows how many were already sick or had special conditions. I mean, that number doesn’t even register. That’s ten times less than the number of toddlers who drown every year. And not just in pools, but bathtubs, buckets, even toilets. And don’t get me started on how many die in car accidents. But I bet you’ll have no problem piling everyone into your car this weekend to head to the ocean. Does this make any logical sense to you?”
Neighbor: “Regardless of statistics, there’s also peace of mind. And different people have risk tolerance factors to varying degrees.” He went on to switch to the fallacy of the appeal to emotion, as often happens when numbers lay bare one’s illogical behavior. “What if your kid was one of the 35? I bet you’d think differently,” he asked.
I could have mentioned that every year 50 Americans on average are struck dead by lightning and ask him if he therefore races his kid indoors every time it gets cloudy because one of those 50 could be him? But I let it go. At that point I was dealing with something beyond “the science.” This is a phobia which cannot be reasoned with. (Oh yeah, I was making friends right and left this day).
This masked man is no fool. Rather he is a very bright, successful professional. And yet he has, as Rachael Maddow admitted, been “rewired” by the steady 400 plus-day drumbeat of fear-mongering and mendacity pounded into the collective subconscious by a complicit media, overbearing tech lords, and bungling governments. Not to mention the noxious branding of anyone who dares question the true threat (or lack thereof) this disease poses to the vast majority of Americans as a “science denier” worthy of ridicule and censorship. And now this otherwise smart man is unable to process any rational arguments that counter his Covid terrors. The same man who doesn’t think twice about leading his child by the hand waste deep into the churning, angry, unpredictable surf — after having hurled him at 70 mph in a two-ton metal box for 50 miles down the Parkway to the shore — is paradoxically stupefied with fear over a virus that has less chance of killing his child at this age than the flu. (I don’t recall little Johnny wearing any mask in preschool before March 2020).
Just as ignorance of, or willfully dismissing, the data — whether it be the actual numbers behind police shootings, gun violence, the link between fatherlessness and societal dysfunction, the true culprits in anti-Asian hate crimes, etc. — has bifurcated us into de facto political camps, so now has Covid done its part. More than a few in my area are already not just acquiescing to but actually calling for a “vaxx card,” without which one would be denied access to venues, public transportation hubs and vehicles, restaurants and bars, and basically any area where we congregate as part of our cultural experience. A two-tiered society of the privileged vaccinated and subjugated “deniers” (as those who seem to deny statistics nevertheless brand the rest in classic doublespeak).
Another attendee made the mistake of revealing that he had no intention of getting vaccinated. Gasps of horror ensued. Some called him “crazy” behind his back. Others offered that he was being “selfish.” Welcome to the latest American psychosis. There is a rapidly metastasizing social stigma attached to those who opt to forego the vaccine. Because, as with so much else now, for many the message is not just that one gets immunized because they feel a medical need to do so. Rather, many will wear their vaccinations on their sleeves as a sign of, wait for it, how virtuous they are. How “selfless.” This motivation, combined with irrational fear even among those fully inoculated (“I don’t know”) is a tonic as powerful as anything Moderna could whip up over the weekend.
There is much talk now about our returning to “normal.” But for some, and I fear a lot, their psyches are like broken bones that have been mended but fused back together in a misshapen form. They will never be truly normal again. Their children will have imprinted on them the subconscious fear of their fellow maskless humans as first and foremost disease-carriers and threats; and the adults will cling to their masks long after the science tells them otherwise, while finding solace in government edicts from the likes of slippery self-serving bureaucrats like Dr. Fauci (PBUH) who, having tasted power and fame, are loathe to let it go and sink back into obscurity.
When someone at the party mentioned that one should be required to show a vaxx card to gain access to any indoor facility, I took a swig of beer and said: “I believe the phrase you’re looking for is ‘Ihre Papiere, bitte’.” She gave me a mock salute and said “Jawohl!” Is there a better illustration of what Covid has done to us in our minds more than our bodies? In a society already more divided than perhaps any time since the Southern Confederacy was formed, is it not surprising that Covid, like a virus that crashes a vaccine, has broken through the barrier of being just about “the science” to become yet another political wedge between us?
I have opted to get vaccinated given my propensity for asthma and age. And I am happy with that choice. But I would never force it on others. It’s their lives, their risk. And as for that party pariah who has opted to pass? Well, his reasons for abstaining rang to me as anything but “crazy” or “selfish.” They went thus: he is not in any statistically at-risk age or health cohort. These vaccines were hastily produced and put out en masse in a year. We have no idea what the long-term side-effects are. And he is perfectly willing to accept the risks of remaining vulnerable to infection as the debit side of the ledger.
After a while the attacks on him started getting to me. One person questioned, again out of his earshot, “What if he infects someone else?” Maybe at that point it was the beer talking, but I pressed him by asking who was the guy going to infect? People like us who choose to get vaccinated? “Well,” he said. “There may be others out there who haven’t got the vaccine yet. He could endanger them.” Then the risk is on them at this point, I retorted. Anyone who wants a vaccine now can get one. Caveat inprotectus. “Yes, but you know the vaccines don’t always work,” he insisted. So then what the hell is the point of getting a vaccine? I shot back, motioning with my can that splashed beer on my shoes. My voice started to go up a few decibels and some turned to watch as I continued. Are we supposed to avoid each other and mask up until the CDC declares that death itself has been eradicated? And how did you get here anyway? Did you drive? And statistically speaking, when compared to the risk you incur by him breathing on you for five seconds in the open air (assuming he even has the virus) and then having that brief exposure break through your vaccine to infect you with a disease you may never even know you contracted, your stepping into a car and peeling out at 70 miles per hour onto the Garden State Parkway to drive home tonight is an absolute death wish! And another thing, do you—
At that point my wife pulled me away and muttered a few apologies to the stunned partygoer while recommending I maybe should walk home now. (That was fine with me. All they had left was Rose anyway).
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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