April 30, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Fighting vaccines is fighting reasonableness. The Republicans are pretending they don’t know that
Normal people will never embrace sadism.
I think normal people possess an instinct the Washington press corps does not, which is this: some things are debatable while others are not. Specifically, very few things are debatable at all. More specifically, very few are worth debating. Who’s got the time when there are jobs to do, kids to raise, classes to attend, elders to care for and so forth? Most people most of the time have other things to do than sit around debating minutia. Most people seek out, and accept, what’s reasonable—and move on.
What’s reasonable is getting vaccinated in the time of the covid, a disease that has killed, as of this writing, more than 589,000 Americans. It will probably kill a million before it’s over. Getting vaccinated in the time of the covid is as reasonable as washing your hands after using the bathroom; as wiping your feet before entering the house; as brushing your teeth before going to bed. The likelihood of death or serious harm from failing to wash your hands, wipe your feet and brush your teeth is too ridiculous to bother mentioning. But that doesn’t make doing those things any less reasonable.
Getting vaccinated is as reasonable as washing your hands after using the bathroom; as wiping your feet before entering the house; as brushing your teeth before going to bed.
Yes, you can debate whether washing your hands, wiping your feet and brushing your teeth are reasonable, but that would mean putting yourself on the other side of a galaxy of things that make up the prevailing view on healthy behavior. Most people most of the time are not going to put themselves on the outside looking in. When it comes to getting vaccinated, it would put you on the other side of what’s universally understood about the covid, which is it can kill you and the people you love if you don’t get vaccinated. The collective wisdom of human history often comes to us in the form of proverbs, and the most salient in the time of the covid is “better safe than sorry.”
Even if you think the covid is overblown, you must admit a) it can kill you and therefore, b) it’s reasonable to protect against it. Better safe than sorry. Hence, getting vaccinated is as reasonable as washing your hands, wiping your feet and brushing your teeth, even if failing to wash your hands, wipe your feet and brush your teeth does not result in death or serious harm. If you think getting vaccinated is unreasonable, you must, by logical necessity, believe washing your hands, wiping your feet and brushing your teeth are, too. And if you’re willing to go down that road, my friend, you’re prepared to abandon human relationships altogether. Indeed, you already have.
You don’t care about human relationships if you can’t dominate them. Somewhere along the way, you have confused cruelty for strength, obedience for morality and deprecation for love. That’s usually not where the anti-vaccine crowd wants to go.1 They understand how it looks to say, out loud, that you’re against getting vaccinated because you’re against whatever most people want you to do, because you don’t care about human relationships if you can’t dominate them. The anti-vaccine crowd understands it’s better to talk about freedom and tyranny. To find an unvarnished articulation of that crowd’s fetish for dominance, you have to go to the bottom of the right-wing barrel, where people are more interested in saying terrible things than they are in saying acceptable things, to a desiccated ghoul by the name of Peter D’Abrosca.2
My primary reason for refusing the vaccine is much simpler [than principle]: I dislike the people who want me to take it, and it makes them mad when they hear about my refusal. That, in turn, makes me happy. Maybe it’s petty, but the thought of the worst people on planet earth, those whom I like to call the Branch Covidians, literally shaking as I stroll into Target vaccine-free, makes me smile (italics mine).
It’s often said the Republicans have no recognizable ideology. They no longer stand for state’s rights, fiscal conservatism, limited government and the rest. That ignores the obvious, though. They stand for whatever the Democrats stand against; they stand against whatever the Democrats stand for. We have reached a point in political history in which the parties are yin and yang, such that the Democrats go out of their way to be reasonable while the Republicans go out of their way to be unreasonable. The Democrats take pleasure in helping people in this time of the covid. The Republicans, meanwhile, take pleasure in hurting people. In short, the GOP’s ideology is sadism.
Most people most of the time seek out, and accept, what’s reasonable—and move on. So most people are going to look at a ghoul like Peter D’Abrosca and think he’s full of shit. He got vaccinated like everyone else did. He’s just trying to get a rise out of people by saying things most people would never say, because most people get more pleasure out of human relationships than their sadistic ability to dominate them.
While sadism can yield short-term electoral results, as might be the case for the coming midterms, it can’t over time. Most people are going to be drawn to messages like Joe Biden’s. During his address to the Congress this week, he asked all Americans over 16 to get vaccinated. Not just for yourself, he said, but for everyone—for “we the people.” “In America, we do our part. We all do our part. That’s all I’m asking. That we do our part. If we do that, we’ll meet the central challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. Autocrats will not win the future. We will.”
See Lindsay Beyerstein’s latest piece for more on the anti-vaccine crowd.2
I’m not linking to this trash.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.