Imagine if the pandemic was different. What if the source was not a highly communicable respiratory infection, but instead something that caused a physical deformity or visible disability? Would our attitudes about vaccines, freedom, government or corporate policy, and just about anything else stemming from this pandemic be different?
I’m struck by the belligerent attitude of people who’ve made the pandemic a political issue. There is nothing ambiguous about the scientific evidence that vaccines lower COVID-19 mortality rates and reduce the likelihood of developing long-term health problems if ever infected. There is no real debate about those statistics, however much we like to pretend there is. Those people aren’t changing their minds. It will take an act of god or maybe a populist about-face. I’m more concerned with the libertarian warriors who’ve chosen to take a stand on principle now, when in other parts of their lives they are more than happy to acquiesce to prevailing wisdom.
You would think appealing to a person’s sense of civic duty would be enough to respect the reality of a highly contagious disease. You would of course be wrong. Everyone knows wearing a mask, even when vaccinated, helps stop the spread. Everyone knows large indoor gatherings is fuel for transmission. Everyone knows these things, but some choose to ignore them. Their sense of freedom, whatever that means, is greater than their caring for their fellow human. They’ve been given a clear choice, and decided they are more important than others. That attitude is everywhere. It’s most shocking when seen in the most august of places, like the Supreme Court, for example. One justice has refused to wear a mask during oral arguments, even though everyone else must do it. It takes a special kind of self-importance and disdain for those perceived to be less than to have the gall to signal to the world that your comfort is more important than someone else’s health. This example is just the tip of the iceberg, of course.
Which leads me to the central question of how things would be different with an external versus internal pandemic. Surely notions of self-importance and liberty and freedom and any other platitude stops when staring down the barrel of something that can never be hidden. A badge that can never be taken off. We are an image obsessed society. A truth that transcends politics and science. It’s funny thing when supposedly deep held beliefs are fungible when it effects that which is most important.