The nation’s response to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and to President Biden’s decision to mandate vaccines was a study in opposites. With more people dying from Covid on a daily basis than on 9/11 alone, one would think that our country would come together to fight this deadly disease in the same way we joined together in response to the terrorist attack. The US now has the lowest rate of vaccinations of any G7 country and unfortunately, attacks from within, including domestic terrorism, have broadened the divide.
It feels like we’re living in alternative universes, where there are life and death consequences. Mandating vaccines is not a new concept. As we have learned, George Washington required his troops to be vaccinated against Smallpox during the Revolutionary War, and every school child needs to be vaccinated for a number of diseases in order to attend public school. This is true in all 50 states, but you wouldn’t know it from the Governors of Red states who are climbing onto their soap boxes to decry a vaccination that will actually save lives. In our state of California, it was early mandates to fight the spread of Covid that fueled the recall election and it was the fear that those mandates would be lifted that, in part, resulted in Governor Newsom remaining in office.
Both sides are angry. The vaccinated resent those who are not because they put in jeopardy those who can’t be vaccinated — anyone under twelve or has a health issue — not to mention a return to normality disrupted by the Delta variant. The unvaccinated object for a variety of reasons, ranging from the desire to control their own bodies to a distrust of authority. As a result, they are 11 times more likely to die and 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated. Because many are also against masking, they are a danger to the greater community. Employers are conflicted. They don’t want to lose staff who refuse vaccination and they don’t want to lose staff who are fearful about being around people who aren’t. It’s a real problem.
Everyone is pointing fingers. On the leaderboard of blame are social media, traditional media, politicians, public health officials and anyone you might not agree with. We need to start taking responsibility, and not right before dying as a few conservative radio hosts have done, expressing sorrow for not advocating vaccination to their listeners on their deathbed.
It will be interesting to see what motivates people more, vaccine mandates to attend concerts, dine indoors or go to sporting events or keeping your job.
But it’s not just distrust in vaccines. It’s claiming an election is rigged if you don’t like the outcome. It’s reinventing what millions witnessed as an assault on the Capitol to overturn a Presidential election as a civil protest by patriots.
Sadly, shared reality seems more distant than ever. But it is time to start being selfless, not selfish. So if you’re not going to get vaccinated, get serious about wearing a mask. You can’t have it both ways.