I saw this meme near the start of the pandemic: A cemetery, stately, over crowded with graves on a bright, sunny day. Dialog bubbles pop up from two headstones, the words of the dead.
“We owned the Libs!!!”
“Hell yeah we did!!!”
Kind of funny, really not.
I read an article this morning. Conservative talk show host Phil Valentine died of Covid. Like most (all?) conservative talk show hosts, Valentine trash-talked the vaccine. He never got one, and he encouraged his listeners not to either. From his blog:
I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m just using common sense. What are my odds of dying from COVID if I do get it? Probably way less than one percent. If you have underlying health issues you probably need to get the vaccine. If you’re not at high risk of dying from COVID then you’re probably safer not getting it.
Phil was confused. So far in the United States, three people have died from receiving the Covid vaccine. They developed blood clots after receiving the Johnson & Johnson shot. Compared to the 627,175 who died from the disease itself, the number might as well be zero. Phil’s position isn’t about common sense, it’s about winning.
Early in his presidency, Donald Trump seemed to pick his stance on issues primarily to tick off the left, the Libs. In truth, I believe his entire presidential platform was simply anti-Obama. If an issue was something Obama supported, Trump opposed it. His party followed his lead. By the time Covid came around, this knee-jerk ideological polarization was solidified in place. It wasn’t possible for the right to accept mask mandates or belief in science. Covid was an issue of consequence. A dissenting opinion was the only option. The vaccine as a flash-point was preordained.
I talk with my father a couple of times each week. He’s ninety years old. For him, staying out of public places is an act of survival. The chances of dying from Covid increase with age. At ninety, catching the virus is like playing Russian Roulette with a mostly loaded gun. In every conversation we have, there’s always a point where we both voice our confusion over why so many Americans refuse the vaccine.
The big news story coming out of Mississippi yesterday was that many people who rejected the vaccine over ‘safety concerns’ have used the livestock deworming drug ivermectin as a Covid prevention measure. Seventy percent of calls to Mississippi poison control centers recently have been people concerned about ivermectin toxicity. When this came up in my conversation with my father yesterday, the phone line went silent. There’s simply nothing to say about that.
When Valentine became gravely ill in July, his brother released a statement:
“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air.”
I’ve read this same sentiment a dozen times in the news. Of course, the news I read is the Washington Post and CNN—liberal news outlets that I’m told work hard to make conservatives look foolish. But seriously, I doubt there are many people plugged into ventilators thinking “boy I’m glad I didn’t get that vaccine!”
So I ask, is winning worth it? And have you really won if you’re about a hundred times more likely to catch Covid 19? Some things have nothing to do with politics, and Covid is one of them. From this perspective, the population isn’t separated into Republicans and Democrats, but vaccinated and unvaccinated.