So last week, TYG and I reached the full immunity (or as full as it gets) two-week point after our second vaccinations. I followed this up by getting a haircut, taking the car in for a tune-up and shopping in a grocery store instead of on Amazon. While I have friends who say they’ll stick with delivery, I find it way simpler to just go in and grab stuff than do all the searching, typing and clicking. Plus I got some veggie sausages that Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods are currently out of.
I knew developing a vaccine wouldn’t be easy. The possibility they’d achieve success before the end of 2020 never occurred to me. But now that we’re here, it’s obvious that just as the pandemic didn’t look like fictional pandemics, the recovery isn’t much like I’d expect from a pandemic novel.
In Y The Last Man there’s a story arc involving a far-right group whose men have all died. The surviving women believe the plague is a government bioweapon and that the leaders of the government are holed up safe and sound, waiting to set up a dictatorship. It’s so delusional, it’s laughable.
Now imagine a world where that kind of thinking isn’t confined to a handful of extremists but held by millions of people. Welcome to America, 2021.
An anti-vax group has gotten legislators around the country to propose bills banning employers, including schools or hospitals from requiring vaccination. One legislator describes this as a “freedom issue”; I bet he doesn’t think it’s an issue for the Miami school telling teachers if they got vaccinated they couldn’t teach.
Some conservative evangelicals worry the vaccine might be the Mark of the Beast. Or that requiring masks means imposing a secular religion. One Arizona Republican who lies that the thousands of people he imagines killed by the vaccine are luckier than the ones it turns into vegetables (“There are something like 40,000 plus recorded cases.”).
Tucker Carlson has told his viewers to call child protective services if they see kids wearing masks outside because that’s child abuse. Raving anti-semitic preacher Rick Wiles says refusing to get the shots will save him from the vaccine-induced genocide that’s coming. Sen. Rand Paul thinks Dr. Fauci backs the research that supposedly created the virus; Carlson (again) thinks we should investigate Fauci for this crime against humanity (yes, I realize “thinks” is a word that isn’t relevant to Tucker Carlson. To paraphrase John Oliver, Carlson reacts to reality like a thirteenth century peasant hearing a lecture on Bitcoin).
But Fauci’s a piker compared to Bill Gates, who’s going to use the bio-engineered vaccine to sterilize humanity! The threat of being infected by the sterility viruses “shedding” from the vaccinated has some anti-vaxxers, as detailed at the link, demanding segregation and vaccine passports so they know who to avoid.
And so we have an America where people need incentives to get vaccinated. Ohio’s offering a $1 million lottery to encourage people to get vaccinated. Budweiser and Krispy Kreme have offered, respectively free beer and a free donut (that feels like something Bill Murray would propose in a 1980s film comedy). Delta recently said all new employees will have to prove they’ve been vaccinated.
Anti-vaxxers have, of course, been around for decades, but it’s never been this bad. Part of the problem is the Internet. Crackpots who used to stand on street corners handing out mimeographed fliers can reach thousands of people with a single YouTube video (I’ve had FB friends posting links to the bullshit Plandemic film). Once skeptics or conspiracy theorists meet online, they can reinforce each other, blocking any chance of reality breaking through. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “folly is less common in the unsociable or the solitary than in individuals or groups who are inclined or condemned to sociability. From this it would appear that folly is a sociological problem rather than one of psychology”
Another factor is that anti-vaxxing meshes well with conventional right-wing paranoia. QAnon cultist DeAnna Lorraine claims that requiring vaccine passports is like Nazi Germany requiring Jews wear yellow stars. Christian conservatives have been complaining for more than a decade that they’re the most oppressed people in history (including comparisons to German Jews); Lorraine’s spouting the same paranoia, different details.
Some of it is the flourishing network of scam artists on the right (see this piece for an overview of the topic). Gay-hating lawyer Matt Stover claims the vaccine makes COVID worse — please send Stover money so he can fight for your right not to get shots! I’d class preacher John Hagee, who said Jesus was the vaccine, then got vaccinated himself, in the same category.
It’s also the fault of Donald Trump, our idiotic ex-president. Before 2020, I would have considered it possible Trump would handle a pandemic well. It doesn’t require scientific genius to lead in a plague: throw government money at capable researchers, tell people to take precautions, make some inspiring speeches. What could go wrong? Instead, his tiny, narcissistic brain saw a problem he couldn’t fix immediately, decided it as a threat to his re-election and told everyone the problem didn’t exist. It’ll be gone in 15 days. It’s no worse than the flu. And everyone better agree with him, or they’ll be sorry! Saying Widdle Baby Donny made a mistake hurts his fee-fees!
Any president would have seen COVID as a political problem. By treating it solely as a political problem, Trump made it fodder for the culture war. Refusing to believe in masks or social distancing became a way to own the libs, and Republicans live for that shit. The same party that insists businesses have the right to do whatever they want (e.g., refuse service to gays), suddenly discovers businesses requiring masks or social distancing is tyranny! Up with which they will not put!
While the number of people refusing to take the shots is shrinking, the paranoid anti-vax mentality will undoubtedly get more people infected or killed than necessary. If anyone had written a pandemic novel and showed me so many Americans acting so stupidly, I’d have rolled my eyes and said “Ridiculous!”
Not any more.
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