“Freedom” Failed to Set Americans Free
A little over a month ago, those who were fully COVID-19 vaccinated in America were feeling pretty good about themselves and their prospects for a summer of wining, dining and a bit of travel. The kiddies, even though unvaccinated, could for some unexplained reason do camp, amusement parks and movies with a return to full in-person schooling to come. And just to show how far we had come in turning back the viral tide, those masks could be washed and stored away to await the next pandemic.
So, what happened? First, a lot of ignorant and selfish people decided not only to stay that way, but to avoid COVID vaccinations as well. They started getting sick and dying, but not enough of them did so to end the plague. Instead, they just spread the disease, now a highly contagious variant, to other unvaccinated people. Then, something really bad happened: It was soon discovered that those ignorant and selfish people were also spreading the disease to vaccinated people, who just haven’t started dying in large numbers, at least not yet.
Why the US Will Not Achieve Herd Immunity
Meanwhile, the commercial machine and its political allies were ramping up to open everything and let the good times roll. It quickly became hard to find a seat at the bar or a hotel room at the beach. Airports and airplanes were filled again with vacationing families, rental cars were so scarce that it is hard to imagine that turnaround time included a drop of disinfectant, and those ever-popular buffet tables were dusted off for the hungry hoards. Forgetting your mask at home or in the car was deemed to be of little consequence.
The US federal government response was to go all in on vaccines as the obvious path to public health and commercial revitalization. The vaccines are now everywhere to be had and free of charge. The only problem with this plan is that it is playing out in America, where freedom is defined by way too many as not having to do anything you don’t want to do that you can get away with. The well-being of others be damned.
This situation would be easy to ignore if it involved only a fringe group of pock-marked anti-vaccine individualists whose children regularly get the measles and who never go to school. But this time, for some reason, the vaccine-resistant crowd also includes a large percentage of Republicans who are not pock-marked and whose children get a whole raft of vaccines so they can go to school. Then throw in a bunch of members of religious covens whose leaders are chatting with their god about this issue and then let the flock in on the big secret that their god definitely isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 (even though there seems to be some disagreement about god’s smallpox vaccination status).
There are more ironies here than I can keep up with. Let’s start with “freedom” of choice. Many of those resistant to vaccines resist government “interference” in personal health choices, even though many of those same people are fully engaged in trying to get that same government to prevent women from making their own reproductive choices. Think about that for a moment.
More ironic yet, many of those in the “freedom” crowd seem untroubled by most government health mandates, yet all of a sudden, putting a vaccine in their bodies to help themselves and others avoid the ravages of a relentless virus has become some political and social litmus test for them. Seatbelt requirements, drinking and driving prohibitions, no smoking in restaurants, a host of required vaccines for employment, travel and schooling all make the good health mandate list. Meanwhile, mindless resistance to life-saving COVID vaccines and masking requirements has become a right-wing badge of honor, generally until the bodies of right-wing family and friends start piling up.
However, maybe the grandest irony of all is that the leader of the pack of virus resisters, Donald Trump, is himself fully vaccinated, as are at least his wife and the precious Ivanka. It is bad enough that the Trump clan lied its way to prominence and supposed wealth and that when empowered to do the right thing almost always did the wrong thing. Then, when a pandemic was inserted into the mix, the whole crew conspired to undermine any meaningful national response while over 500,000 people in America died on their watch. While others were gasping for their last breath, Trump got vaccinated just to make sure it wouldn’t be him on that ventilator.
You would think that as the actions of the Trump clan played out before adoring eyes, those ignorant and selfish acolytes would be pushing others out of the way to get vaccinated. But instead, they can’t wait to parade their “freedom” from vaccine tyranny at every super spreader event they can find, while the vaccinated and protected leader of the pack cheers them on. This seems to work really well until that stairway to heaven leads to a COVID ward in a local hospital surrounded by other ignorant and selfish people, many of whom now use their last breathes to beg for the vaccine.
In the face of this insanity, it seems that it is slowly dawning on some public officials that another wave of deadly COVID disease and disorder is closing in. Lots of parents are suddenly worried about their children, some private concerns are worried about something other than their short-term bottom line, and lots of people anticipating a return to crowded workplaces and those already there are staying home. There are even a few people with September travel plans suddenly concerned that playa wherever will be a petri dish when they get there. More importantly, it may be sinking in that there is only one way out of this: mandated vaccines wherever the authority exists to mandate them.
To do this, there can be no more coddling of the ignorant and selfish. Get vaccinated or get out. Everywhere that the federal government has the authority to do so should require proof of vaccine for employment and entry. Start with federal buildings, museums and entertainment venues, airplanes and trains, and the military and military bases. Examine every interstate commerce authority for ways to tighten the vise. No vaccine, no entry, period.
In those pathetic states and localities where resistance overwhelms public health, everything that can be done to isolate those populations from the rest of us needs to be done. No conventions in Atlanta, no cruise ships docking in Miami, interstate highway dead zones, hotel and restaurant chains shuttering their venues, testing and mask mandates for those who knowingly come in contact with the unvaccinated while engaging in interstate commerce, and no event licenses or advertising dollars to sports and entertainment venues that won’t mandate vaccines for entry.
If this gets done before the viability of today’s vaccines begins to wane or is crushed by new COVID-19 mutations, Americans, at least, have a chance to put the pandemic behind them. We are lucky that we have this opportunity at all, but we can only take advantage of it if we move swiftly and decisively to mandate vaccines and isolate those who won’t comply. If accomplished, America might then have the moral authority, the scientific and manufacturing strength, and the financial resources to lead the rest of the world to the same place.
*[This article was co-published on the author’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.