Saturday, August 7, 2021

What should be the limits on our compassion?

 [UPDATED 8/22/21] One side effect of the last nearly eight years since Mr. Brilliant died is that I seem to have developed an empathy deficit. It's not that I only care about my own small problems, it's more that I no longer have patience with people for whom every small inconvenience is a trauma of equal proportion to, say, a personal tragedy.

At one time, this would have been, say, simple irritation with someone who sees a great cosmic conspiracy against them because the toilet valve needs changing. But of course for the last year and a half, it's been about the lunacy surrounding the simple task of wearing a piece of cloth on one's face to protect oneself AND others. 

Mother Nature, who has clearly had enough of our miserable species, has brought us first SARS-CoV-19, and when that didn't hit home that we need to clean  up our act, has now decided to throw Delta, a more aggressive variant, into the mix.

After having put up with the lunacy that is QAnon, the insult to our intelligence and just plain common decency that is Donald Trump, and being essentially alone for a year and a half (which those of you bitching about how your spouses are driving you crazy might want to think about now and then, because no matter how INFJ we might be, too much solitude is toxic), I have little sympathy for willful ignorance.

I needn't go into the litany of crazy reasons people have for refusing the vaccine, from the Bill Gates microchip delusion, to the infertility misinformation, to the "owning the libs" lunacy, and my personal favorite, believing that the vaccine is designed to create a zombie apocalpyse. There are people who eat Kraft mac 'n' cheese and McDonald's Chicken McNuggets every day of their lives who won't get vaccinated because they don't know what's in it -- this despite the fact that the CDC actually TELLS you what's in it, at least for the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines. Of course none of these people understand what they're reading, but when a society reaches the point where misinformation found on Breitbart and Twitter and OANN and "my friend's uncle" on Facebook is more trusted than the CDC, we have a problem more serious than a bunch of armchair biologists.

Two nights ago, Republican pollster Frank Luntz went all heartfelt and full-frontal snowflakey touchy-feely Leo Buscaglia about how we have to treat the "own the libs" crowd with sympathy and compassion, whereupon Don Lemon earned, as far as I'm concerned, the Purple Heart for Valor by sitting and listening to this horsepuckey. Remember, these are the same people who shouted "Fuck your feelings!" at people disappointed at the 2016 election result; you know, the ones who DIDN'T storm the Capitol to try to prevent the Electoral College from certifying. But now we're being told about how we have to coddle THEIR widdle fee-fees, to the point of suggesting that Joe Biden invite Donald Trump to do a PSA and give Trump full credit for the vaccine, conveniently forgetting the 600,000 corpses from COVID-19 that occurred while the orange-faced shitgibbon was insisting that either a) it would go away; b) people should consider ingesting disinfectants, or c) that they should just get sick and get over it.

This is just plain nuts at this point. It's as if Donald Trump got elected and suddenly we became a nation  of tantrum-throwing two-year-olds.

Here in Durham, NC, a new mask mandate goes into effect on Monday, August 9. Here I was, just starting to get my social mojo back after a year of living more like Ted Kuczynski than like Perle Mesta, and here we go again.  And IT DID NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.

So what do we owe these people, and how much compassion should we have for these people? Why should we be kind to and "understand" the misinformation charlatans and the willfully ignorant who will believe that a giant sky-man created the earth in six days and micromanages individual lives but won't believe, even 225 years after Edward Jenner first inoculated a 13-year-old boy with cowpox, thus creating the first smallpox vaccine; even 61 years after school children (including Your Humble Narrator) lined up AT SCHOOL to eat a sugar cube containing the Sabin oral polio vaccine, that vaccines work. These are the same people who talk about Second Amendment remedies and tote assault rifles to Walmart, but a one-second needle in the arm sends them screaming in the other direction. How much compassion should we have?

Last week I donated to the GoFundMe for the family of Michael Freedy, a Las Vegas man who succumbed to COVID after a family vacation to San Diego, leaving behind a fiancee and five children. I didn't feel sorry one bit for this guy, but I could not find it in my heart to close it to the woman who loved and relied on him. I know what losing your partner in life is like, and I had financial security and no children to worry about. This was not, to my knowledge, necessarily a Trump cultist family. They were simply people who wanted to wait to see how the vaccines shook out in the marketplace. That is not, or at least until recently was not, an unreasonable thing to want to do. I worked nine years on clinical studies so I know a bit about how the drug development sausage is made, and I wanted to wait -- until it seemed that  the only path to a normal life was vaccination. I have STILL not had the Shingrix vaccine for shingles, because, yes, I wanted to give it a few years in the marketplace. 

Yes, there are those like Travis Campbell, who's been all over the news advocating vaccination, who just kind of never got around to getting vaccinated despite CVS having vaccines and being open late most evenings, but what about some of the others?? 

What about Texas Republican Executive Committee member H. Scott Apley, who just days after posting an anti-vaccine meme on Facebook, succumbed to COVID and whose wife only NOW is telling people to be vaccinated?

What about right-wing radio host Phil Valentine, a vocal anti-vaccine troll with a fairly wide audience in Tennessee, who has been on a ventilator since July 28 and whose brother, in true Trumpian syntax, says that when/if Valentine gets back to the microphone, he'll be the "most pro-vaccine person you’ve ever seen"? [UPDATE 8/22/21: Phil Valentine has died.]

What about Florida radio host and former Newsmax anchor Dick Farrel, another anti-vaccine troll who changed his mind just before dying of -- wait for it -- COVID.

What about Olivia Guidry, a 24-year-old UNvaccinated ER nurse in Louisiana who had posted on social media that messenger RNA used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was "recombinant DNA" that somehow changes our genetic structure, which is simply not true. Anyone who ever took a high school biology class knows that RNA is ribonucleic acid, not recombinant DNA (which is really just synthetic DNA anyway). You'd think a nurse would know better, but apparently even those with some medical knowledge are susceptible to utter horseshit if delivered by their political idols. The hospital is disputing that she died from COVID, but she tested positive and a month later there has been no further coverage or autopsy results, so YOU do the math.

Or what about 31-year old Daryl Barker from Missouri, who now seems likely to recover and has vowed to get vaccinated, but avoided the vaccine because his is "a conservative family"? What does conservatism have to do with the COVID vaccine, other than loyalty to Trump and to people like H. Scott Apley, Phil Valentine and Dick Farrel? 

These are the same people who think that THEIR daughter's abortion is NECESSARY (not like those dirty sluts), and that THEY deserve their SNAP benefits, not like THOSE PEOPLE. These are the people who see COVID as a hoax until it affects THEM. It's all part of the nation of two-year-olds that has resulted from four years of the biggest two-year-old of them all. 

I'm tired of having compassion for these people. I'm tired of being told to care about the feelings of the "Fuck your feelings!" crowd. I'm tired of ignorance. I'm tired of this idea that somehow the magic sky-man doesn't want them to take a life-saving vaccine that in theory, their magic sky-man who micromanages individual lives gave to the people who developed it. I'm tired of Google being used to confirm the conclusions people have already come to being regarded as synonymous with research. I'm tired of charlatans and liars and the gullible, willfully ignorant people who believe them. 

No, science DOESN'T have all the answers. But at least it keeps looking. I felt better about the vaccines after I read more about mRNA research and how it's been under development for 30 years.  These are unusual times that call for unusual measures.

So I've ordered another box of N95 masks to take to medical appointments and other places where people gather (which I guess I have to start avoiding again now). But all this seems that this next round of forced solitude at the hand of idiots is some kind of cruel irony, just another way of being doomed to re-live my mother's life no matter how hard I try to do otherwise. So I find myself having difficulty empathizing with even these Johnny-come-latelies. And as for the rest of them, well, quite frankly, the hell with 'em.


  1. My guys would tell you that you've had your empathy chip removed. As have I. Don't worry about it; empathy is highly overrated these days.

    To survive the extreme levels of horse-hockey to which we are subjected on a daily basis, keep the pragmatism chip on full blast, but ratchet back the cynicism chip just a tad. That way, you won't give a flying fart what those people think while allowing you to respond totally and wonderfully inappropriately.

  2. Reality check: If you are more angry at the unvaccinated than at China, you are a useful idiot for communism

    1. We KNOW that the unvaccinated are the ones primarily getting sick and taxing the health care system WHEN THERE IS A WAY FOR THEM TO AVOID IT. We do NOT know that there is anything to be "mad" at China about. But I'll bite: What do you propose? Nuclear war?

    2. The ball's on our court, Ed. Maybe it was China who hit it in our direction, maybe not.

      Suppose China was the culprit. How are we answering its volley by sulking and pointing fingers at each other?

  3. Three things come to mind:

    We forget how bad it was. I'm just old enough to have seen a few of the last people crippled by polio back in my school days. There were a couple of kids who had leg braces and crutches. People forget that polio was the scourge of aummer, Kids would go out and play, come back, and wake up unable to use their legs. And nobody could tell you where it came from, who transmitted it, or who would get it next, Some families kept their kids indoor all summer trying to protect them.

    We forget how the polio vaccine was such a good thing. Once pretty much everyone was immunized kids could go out and mothers didn't need to worry.

    Contrariness became a virtue. If 99% of people saw the polio vaccine as a good thing then there must be a flip side. Skepticism isn't necessarily a bad thing. A few deeply committed contrarians can be good. Better still is if everyone has a little skepticism. But contrarianism became a style. A pose that made you cool and dangerous. Tucker Carlson rides the pose like a surfboard.

    Which brings up the final point. Unreasonable skepticism and conspiracy theories have been optimized for profits, financed for political advantage, and weaponized to beat opponents with.

    All of which was made possible by forgetting how bad things were without vaccines, and how much better things are with vaccines. Vaccines were never an unalloyed success. A few did, indeed, get sick or damaged and a very few died. As the technology improved vaccines got better. There were fewer bad reactions and still fewer people died. That normal parents would get their kids vaccines with early vaccines is testament to how bad things were before vaccines. A one in a million chance of a crippling reaction was better than a one in a thousand chance every summer.

  4. Treat the unvaccinated and unmasked as you would Drunk drivers. Arrest, adjudicate, fine, educate, and, as necessary, incarcerate repeat offenders. The radicalized freedumb whining mob of nut jobs put us at risk same as.

    Almost 5 billion jabs have been administered world wide. I'm getting in line for my booster!


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