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Shouting into the darkness

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Writing an opinion column is often the equivalent of shouting into the darkness, hoping there is someone there listening. Occasionally someone does respond, assuring you that you are an idiot. Mostly, though, there is only silence. If I had wanted to get a lot of feedback from my writing, though, I would have become an infectious disease expert. Or perhaps another expert in pandemics, a federal judge.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, there weren’t a lot of vaccines around. Kids were infected with pretty much every virus that came around. And because my sister and I picked up everything, my parents were exposed as well. Wanting to get all those childhood viruses out of the way as quickly as possible, parents would deliberately expose their kids. One kid in the neighborhood gets the measles? All the parents would get their kids together and expose them. They had no idea how dangerous measles could be, so why not.

Somehow, I avoided mumps. The rest of my family had a bad case, and my dad, who was in his early 20s at the time, almost died from the virus.

The flu was another matter. Even though a flu vaccine has been around since the early 1940s, it was most often administered to folks in the military, becoming more commonly available to the civilian population in the late 1950s. 

And I did get the flu. Every year. And it wasn’t until 1985, when I decided I didn’t want to spend a week or so of absolute misery every year that I finally gave in and started getting the flu vaccine annually. And it has worked. I haven’t had the flu since.

When a vaccine was finally available for Covid 19, I was all in. I’ve had numerous vaccines in my lifetime, and I couldn’t see a downside. If it wasn’t effective, I lost nothing (it was free). Nothing to lose, everything to gain. First dose 1/13/21, second 2/10/21, first booster 10/24/21, second booster 3/30/22. No significant side effects. Combined with wearing a mask in indoor crowded places, I’ve so far not been infected. I’m 71. My wife is 76, and she too has not been infected.

Why have I been so docile about following CDC recommendations since I’m politically Libertarian? Because I’ve never considered health issues to be political. Following CDC guidelines seems the least I can do to protect others. Over a million people have died in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. How many more would have died had the lockdowns not occurred? If many more people had not worn masks? How many lives were saved will remain unknowable.

What I fear, though, because the response to this pandemic became so politized by folks determined to let a million people die if necessary to gain political power, is that there will be no country wide effort made to stop future pandemics. That another politician will corruptly resort to demagoguery at the cost of the lives of millions of Americans.

For years I have had taped to the bottom of my computer monitor a meme that informs my entire ethical philosophy. It reads, “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.” Despite our differences, we depend on the choices others make for our survival. If you don’t care about your own health, don’t hurt other people by your choices. 

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