July 27, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
The country is failing to face the rage of Donald Trump’s supporters. The result is mass death
We are afraid to hold the unvaccinated accountable for their choices.
The covid pandemic is surging among people who are not vaccinated thanks to the wildfire spread of the highly contagious delta variant.1 Some of the unvaccinated are reachable, as Editorial Board member Magdi Semrau argued in her latest piece of brilliance. Many are not. These are supporters of the disgraced former president.
They are not vaccinated by choice. Vaccinations are free, widely available, highly recommended and they work. Yes, some vaccinated people are getting sick, but they are vanishingly small in number. Refusing to get vaccinated is like refusing to wear a seat belt with the most obvious difference being that the latter is not contagious.
We should hold dangerously immoral people to account for their dangerously immoral choices. We should celebrate dutifully moral people for their dutifully moral choices.
It seems to me we are forgetting that this is a choice grown men and women are making not only for themselves but for their loved ones and their communities. We seem to be forgetting that, or even overlooking that, as if they are not responsible for their own death and dying as well as the death and dying of the people around them.
I have seen some liberals express genuine sympathy in the wake of story after story of people dying after swearing up and down they’d never get the covid vaccine. Yes, there is something ultimately tragic about arrogant sonsabitches getting killed off by their own arrogance. But let’s not permit our Shakespearean sensibilities to get the better of us. These people are choosing irresponsibly. Even the dead should be held to account.
Blaming the dead is distasteful but morality demands we get over that. If we don’t, we ourselves are acting irresponsibly. Yet the discomfort of looking a dangerously immoral person square in the face and saying they are making dangerously immoral choices is so painful even ER docs search for excuses, any excuse, that will get them out of the moral obligation of squaring off truthfully with a dangerously immoral person.
Last week, CNN interviewed Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician. Every single covid patient during the prior week was unvaccinated, he told Brianna Keilar. He didn’t blame them, though. He blamed Fox News. “We are in a highly Republican area, about 40 percent vaccinated, about 70 percent voted for the former president,” Davidson said. “When you see what’s being put out there on the air waves … it is undeniable that these messages are getting through to patients. They are avoiding something that can prevent them from getting extremely sick and potentially dying.”
Public information is critically important to the individual’s choices. But in blaming Fox for the dangerously immoral choices of dangerously immoral people, Davidson overvalued public information while undervaluing a plain fact. Normal people don’t need good public information to trust doctors and medical professionals. We know this is true. It happens all the time. As Davidson said, if a patient comes to his ER with chest pains, they don’t resist him when he orders an EKG. So they know better. Ditto when it comes to vaccines. They know what they should do. They are choosing not to.
The rest of us seem to fear saying so. We are behaving like some of the children of unvaccinated people. We are acting like we have to go behind their backs to get them to do the right thing on account of asking them to do the right thing risks arousing their rage. But in respecting that rage, we are making it the centerpiece of our politics such that our politics ends up venerating unvaccinated people instead of venerating the children who went behind their backs to get vaccinated. We should but don’t hold dangerously immoral people to account for their dangerously immoral choices. We should but don’t celebrate dutifully moral people for their dutifully moral choices.
The Republicans and some Fox talking heads have recently urged supporters of the disgraced former president to stop stalling and get vaccinated. I’m not the first to notice how diametric this was, after a long period during which the Republicans and some Fox talking heads did everything they could to demonize the vaccines to the point where getting vaccinated was tantamount to getting a beat-down. The reason for this about-face should be as plain as the coronavirus itself. The Republicans and some Fox talking heads are partly responsible for the fact that the pandemic isn’t over yet.
It could be over, but let’s not give unvaccinated people a pass. While some “vaccine hesitant” people really can be reached, as Magdi Semrau has explained, diehard supporters of the disgraced former president would rather die hard than admit defeat (i.e., get vaccinated). We need to explain what they are doing. We need to face their rage with courage. After that? Absent mandates, it’s their choice. While there’s something tragic about arrogant sonsabitches getting killed off by their own arrogance, I’m not sure I should feel sympathetic. How much sympathy do I have to the person who refused to wear a seat belt before dying in a car wreck? Not much.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.