For the censors out there, this is not an anti-vaccine piece. Just the opposite. I believe vaccines are the best hope for billions of people around the world. This is simply about our rights as Americans, in the era of COVID-19, to ask certain questions. I say that because, while some might disagree, for many people life has seemingly become a dystopian science fiction movie with “Do as we say” edicts.
And unfortunately, an ugly and potentially harmful “us versus them” mentality has taken hold among some on both sides of the COVID-19 treatment gap. It is a divide created because of the consequences of forced or controlled ‘ignorance’.
During the first few months of the pandemic, you could use Google or another search engine to look up questions like “What is the survival rate for COVID-19?” or “What is the average age of those who get the virus?” or “Has the virus hit the obese or people with chronic conditions harder?” or “Where did the virus come from?” or “Has the virus weakened because it mutated?” But try doing that now. You’ll find that many of the answers are buried, dating back to early 2020, or simply impossible to find.
Why is that? Shouldn’t we Americans look up such information and then judge for ourselves?
In the United States, it may seem that “they” (usually the politicians or their proxies) have decided “for our own good” that certain questions should not be asked, certain answers should be buried, certain scientists and doctors should be criticized, certain people should be fired, and a certain class should do the thinking for the rest of us.
There is no sane person who does not hope or pray that medical science can at least mitigate the threat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus so that we can resume life as it usually was before COVID-19. That said, anyone — including doctors and infectious disease scientists — should be able to ask questions or express doubts about certain protocols without being berated or fired from their jobs.
In this unhealthy “us versus them” dynamic that has emerged as a toxic byproduct of the pandemic, many Americans — politicians, celebrities, and Twitter trolls — are calling for not only the firing of doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, teachers, pilots, air traffic controllers and American intelligence officers, but also be happy with that possible outcome.
“Fire them.” Can we step back for a moment and realize what that punishment would really mean? Punishing these Americans could potentially deny them the ability to buy food for their children, pay their rent or mortgage, buy gasoline, pay for medicine, or pay for care for loved ones. This is what “We vs. They” can produce.
So far, on a recent “Real Time with” Bill Maher
Others have argued that many Americans who have not yet received vaccines are not necessarily anti-vaxxers, but simply adults who wait as long as possible to see how the vaccines’ effects play out. And our understanding of the COVID-19 vaccines, compared to natural immunity and other questions, remains a moving target.
As a recent story in The Hill reported, “Vaccinated as likely to spread the delta variant within the household as unvaccinated: study.” Another story from last week reported, “Immunity of both vaccines, COVID-19 infection lasts at least six months: CDC.”
That is not a criticism or an indictment of the vaccines. Everyone should hope for their full success. The point is that, as with all viruses, there is a learning curve. Shouldn’t we want those responsible to know as much as possible, to give them the confidence they need to set policies for the rest of us?
Americans should support medical science to win the war against the virus. That said, we should still have the opportunity to question any policies – political, medical, or otherwise – passed down by those who have dominion over us and the lives of our children.
Last I checked, that’s our right as American citizens. As President Biden said in his inaugural address, “That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to peacefully disagree within the guardrails of our republic is arguably our nation’s greatest strength.”
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a White House writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, and a former Pentagon special assistant for policy and communications during the last three years of the Bush administration.