Over the past 18 months since March 2020, my family and I have been neither anti-mask nor anti-vaccine. We have followed the general recommendations for keeping us safe from the coronavirus COVID-19: wearing masks in public before a vaccination, hand sanitizer, limiting trips out, and so on. In April of this year, Melanie and I got our vaccinations as soon as we could. When restrictions were lifted in May of this year, we began venturing out more. As soon as our older children could be vaccinated, we got their shots too.
In other words, we do not fit the profile of the conservatives who “refuse the science” and refuse to go along with what’s best for us. But as the media hype over the Delta variant increases and we hear renewed calls for restrictions to be put in place again and requiring even the vaccinated to wear masks, despite no scientific evidence of its necessity, I am ready to say enough is enough.
When nearly all of the current infections are among the unvaccinated, when Massachusetts itself has a vaccination rate approaching 70% of those eligible, when hospitalizations are nowhere near the rates they were in spring 2020, and when deaths from COVID are in the single digits statewide, at what point can we say that people who still refuse to vaccinate are going to have to take responsibility for their own actions or inaction?
Helen Andrews at The American Conservative has an apt comparison of the current moment to the pushback of American housewives in the early 1960s against nuclear civil defense drills.
That’s how many people saw Operation Alert — but not Sharmat and Smith. Where others saw civilian participants as resolute and proactive, they saw fear and conformity. Stated in bald terms, their position could sound morbid: In a nuclear attack, millions will die, and the responsible thing is to accept that rather than pretend we can avert it. But it was how they felt. Refusing to be afraid was for them a matter of dignity. “I will not raise my children to go underground.”
We can’t keep living in fear. Life itself is risky. Where some may say why take any chance, I respond because you can never be completely safe. As a society, our risk matrix is completely out of whack. We have paralyzing fear of things which will not hurt us (if you’re vaccinated and are average health, even if you get COVID, it will be like having the flu, not life-threatening), but not of that which can really hurt us.
Unless we learn to live with COVID in the same way we learned to live with the flu, measles, polio, and other infectious and potentially deadly diseases for which we have vaccines, we are going to live forever in fear and under government-directed measures that don’t protect, but strip us of our freedom and our dignity.