“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
They are perhaps the nine words strung together that speak the most truth in the English language.
Cartoonist Walt Kelly had his character Pogo utter those words in a comic strip in 1971. It was in reference to litter and pollution. It was delivered as a potent satire on Earth Day.
Those words easily reference other human failings too numerous to list.
Unfortunately, it also speaks to how we have treated each other since March of 2020 when two words — one never uttered for more than a few months at the time and “pandemic” — a word rarely used — were joined together that generations from now will look back and ask themselves, “what were they thinking?”
COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere.
It’s too bad since it would be nice if it joined decorum, empathy, respect, and reasoning that went out the door almost overnight when we started using the words “COVID-19 pandemic” more often than uttering thanks.
It’s not that we were overwhelmed with such concepts of civilized behavior before COVID-19 came along. But at least there were still shreds of decency out there in the public square.
They say the self-righteous will inherit the earth. Judging by the militant COVID vaccine folks and those who are adamantly against COVID vaccines when the time comes there will be 330 million of us trying to avoid inheritance taxes.
If everyone can take a breath for a few minutes perhaps we’d all agree to a few things.
*This is not the end of the world.
Dealing with — and debating — the pandemic is almost always framed in apocalyptic terms. The vaccine crazies are going to get us all killed. The lockdown and vaccine control freaks are going to take away all our freedoms.
There is no doubt 760,000 deaths in the 21 months we have officially been in a pandemic is a lot of Americans to lose. It is tragic. It is painful. And, yes, some of the deaths could have been avoided.
To be honest you can say that about deaths involved with drug overdoses, gun violence, driving under the influence, reckless and distracted driving, smoking, diabetes, and whatever death has occurred that behavior modification may have made a difference.
This, however, is not the end times. To match the 24-month death rate in this country from the 1918-1919 flu epidemic when 550,000 Americans died based on the increase since then of this country’s population, the current death toll from COVID would have to be at least three times higher. That means 2,280,000 deaths instead of 760,000.
*We should be willing to sacrifice a bit and wear masks if it reduces the chance of someone we know — or don’t know — from getting severely sick or dying.
The government shouldn’t tell you that. Your conscience should. COVID-19 is transmitted the same way as the flu. The fact the 2020-2021 flu season was incredibly mild due to face mask rules should tell you a lot about whether face masks are effective to any degree that it makes the perceived inconvenience of wearing them tolerable once you weigh everything.
*Those reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine are far from all being anti-vaxxers.
The true anti-vaxxers are those who refuse to get shots for anything from tetanus and measles to whooping cough. There are legitimate personal concerns that don’t have their root in misinformation as it does about reservations that come when one weighs all your options against the hand you’ve either been dealt or how you want to play your cards when it comes to your health and your body.
*Mocking someone’s death because they refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine that likely could have saved them is subhuman behavior.
Dancing on people’s graves has never been great optics. But in the COVID era it shows how spiteful, heartless, mean-spirited, arrogant, and downright inhuman you are capable of being especially when one gleefully posts cutting and insensitive remarks on social media about someone deserving to die to spread the venom.
*We have a moral obligation to act in a manner that doesn’t imperil the safety of those who are when it comes to their bodies fighting illnesses.
Of course, those who want everyone who isn’t vaccinated to be branded with a scarlet “V” very nicely conclude anything short of a shot isn’t acceptable. Face masks and respecting personal spaces around strangers might not be as effective as a vaccine but it is better than nothing.
*Science is evolving.
It is a concession everyone on both sides of the fence need to embrace. Those who believe science is the absolute gospel conveniently forget how science positions on COVID has evolved as more research and data has become available. We laugh at those that once thought the earth was flat but we forget there was a time when there were “educated” men and women who made that conclusion based on the available data at the time. You may scoff at such a notion given how enlightened we supposedly are now but it was once treated as common knowledge the earth was flat until it was proven otherwise.
For those on the other side of the fence that act as if they are 100 percent leery of any scientific principle, it was science that not only reached the conclusion the earth isn’t flat but also helped people understand it is true.
We all make decisions daily that don’t align perfectly with the values and beliefs of others around us.
It is true decisions made regarding an infectious disease are different because our behavior can end up having detrimental consequences for others.
But unless you absolutely refrain from running red lights, driving while texting, smoking and a long list of other behaviors that under certain circumstances can lead to stranger becoming seriously incapacitated or dying, you need to refrain from acting too pious when it comes to those that aren’t vaccinated.
Those deaths among the 550,000 that might have been avoided or at least postponed by people not exercising common decency required in order to have a civilized society are a tragic loss.
But it is also a tragic loss to see how we are wantonly poisoning the well of public discourse by the slash and burn approach too many of us take toward COVID protocols regardless of where we stand.
While we don’t know the long-term effects of getting and surviving COVID or even from the vaccines given our knowledge on both is measured in a few years and not decades, we should be smart enough to know the constant venom aimed at others in the endless COVID debate will not make us stronger and will weaken the threads that hold the fabric of society together.
We all need to tone it down.