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Patience

by on August 22, 2021

Patience

by Marco M. Pardi

There….is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.”

Edmund Burke. 1769.

Beware the fury of a patient man.”

John Dryden. 1681.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Some who have known me would not couple my name and Patience in the same sentence. I will not disappoint. In fact, my patience has run out. About what, you ask. Actually, a lot of things. This upbringing to be polite, genteel, and understanding is beginning to feel like the straitjacket it is. But I’m not going to rush out and join some loudmouthed group of protesters; largely because I don’t like groups, especially when they are made up of people.

So what’s got me cranked up today? Yet another example of the staggering ignorance, stupidity (I have often previously distinguished between ignorance and stupidity), and group delusions so loved by so many and so damaging to all: the resistance to getting the Covid vaccine and the refusal to wear masks.

As any semi-conscious reader knows, the world is gripped in a pandemic which, by its viral nature, has the potential to turn even more deadly than it already is. Coverage of this virus and its variants is exhaustive throughout all forms of media including that which is factual and that which, especially as funneled by Chinese and Russian provocateurs through American right wing outlets, is counter-factual. I won’t belabor that here. What I will take issue with is the response of the American public.

It has recently been said that the divide currently evident in the United States is not purely a politically, economically, educationally or any other such partisan divide as we so often see with other issues; “Anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers” come in all stripes. There is much truth in that. The National Immunization Program, within the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, developed the term “Hard to reach populations” to refer to these people. In fact, resistance to vaccines or preventive measures may be the only thing many in these groups have in common and they have continuously demonstrated that limited solidarity in response to a number of various vaccine efforts.

What is maddening, however, is the tepid response of the federal authorities who, it seems, imagine themselves caught in a jurisdictional quandary centering on federal versus States Rights, States Rights versus local control, and local control versus individual “liberties”.

Many people resent Top Down, so let’s start with Bottom Up. Specifically, let’s look at the concept Liberty (or Freedom, if you like). Liberty, or Freedom, is not just a core value among Americans, it has become an unquestioned mantra particularly among the American Right. Yet, these same people bloviate proudly about Law and Order. What do laws do? They circumscribe and spell out under what conditions certain acts can or cannot be taken. Visit an attorney’s office and what do you see? Bookcases filled with large law books, many of them. It seems liberty is pretty narrow. And what about order? Order is the state in which everyone and everything is acting in accordance with prescribed limits on behavior. No law, no order.

People here complain about driving in traffic. Try driving in some third world countries where people seem to feel free to drive wherever and however they want at the moment.

Ah, but we aren’t supposed to think so deeply. The most respected philosopher of the 20th Century, Bertrand Russell, said: Many people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do.

At the time of this writing at least two States, Texas and Florida, are banning local school boards from implementing mask mandates for children, faculty and staff attending school. In fact, they have outlined plans to financially punish them if they do. Georgia is not far behind. Science informs us that the wearing of masks is greatly supportive of efforts to contain the spread of the Covid virus. Dare we say that Science is a fundamental part of education and that denying science is a denial of education, not politics? What, exactly, do the State legislatures intend to teach to the children if not science and associated rational thought?

The issue of States’ Rights, enshrined in cherry picked readings of The Federalist Papers, calls a simple question: Is the United States a country, or is it a nation? A country is a geographic entity delineated by a border (usually) agreed upon by its neighbors, if there are any. Thus, it is at least as much an external statement as an internal one. A nation, however, is an expression of internally felt solidarity, such as The Cherokee Nation, which holds no matter where the members may be situated. Afghanistan is a prime example of a country; a border drawn mostly by people in other countries who had never been there. And, in this case, as in so many others, the border circumscribes a mosaic of separate and distinct tribes (analogous to States) which only remotely share a vague notion of nation. Is this what it means to have State sovereignty instead of federal unity? Nation or not, it would seem logical that, when the country at large is faced with an existential threat such as a deadly virus which does not recognize States lines, the country must act as a unified entity and empower resources and tactics universally, not adjusted and shaped to the passing political whims of ignorant or stupid State Governors.

Threatening school districts with financial penalties if they impose mask mandates for schools seems eerily similar to threatening police departments with such penalties if they dare to execute measures designed to identify and mitigate drunk driving. Drunk drivers too often walk away from the carnage they have wreaked; unmasked cases of covid do the same.

The political sphere is an obvious and well worn venue for people trying any tactic to ascend to positions of power. Less obvious but plumbing the same non-rational depths, or voids, of the human psyche is the religious sphere, or aura if you prefer. In August of this year two more examples of such common and prolific hucksterism surfaced: A woman who is a nun and an M.D., and an evangelical pastor. The woman, a rabid Trump supporter, claims the “diabolical” vaccines are part of a government plan for “total control of a populace” and induce abortions. The pastor, a convert to Qanon and its conspiracy theories, told his large congregation he would expel from his church anyone who wore a mask. He labeled vaccines a “dangerous scam”.

It has long been held that you are free to be as crazy as you want to be as long as you keep it in your own home and do not harm others. These cases, and many others like them violate that standard. Many of our hospital I.C.U. beds are now filled beyond capacity with Covid patients, over 99% of which had refused the well publicized free and easily available vaccination. This means that other people, with a variety of circumstances ranging from heart issues to traffic accidents are being shunted around in search of other hospitals, even dying in the ambulances as they wait. Many of the Covid patients are running up hospital bills exceeding 1 million dollars while taxpayers pick up the tab, hospitals inflate routine costs to other, insured patients, and insurance companies begin to raise their rates for everyone.

During 22 years of college teaching and 23 years in medical research and applied clinical care I have seen ignorance and I have seen willful stupidity. Ignorance is understandable; I’m ignorant of most things in this world. Ignorance is readily remedied through education. Willful stupidity, which denies undeniable facts and instead spouts “alternative facts” (read: lies) as the previous presidential administration was so famous for, is not so easily remedied.

My suggestions? Present unvaccinated Covid patients with the bill for their hospitalization while denying them bankruptcy protection and garnishing their wages and other income. Where a person testing positive for Covid refuses to abide by mask policies, such as in privately owned businesses, public buildings, and transportation explore filing criminal charges for Reckless Endangerment. In sum, my patience has run out.

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10 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, this is a terrific and much-needed post.  While some might deem it “negative,” I view it as timely, realistic, and truthful.  My wish would be that this could be widely read and published, because it’s a dose of reality that around 40% of the U.S. population (or more) needs to see.

    Let me use public transportation as an example.  I ride the train in a large city to get to work at least five days per week.  This public transportation system is privately run and requires masks of riders.  There are signs not only posted all over in clear view, but there are also audible recorded warnings for those who fail to comply.  Failure to comply may result in a twelve hour suspension from transportation usage.

    I’ve been fully vaccinated for months and had just a brief week or two prior to the Delta variant where I wondered if I should unmask myself.  I did a couple of times in the grocery store and felt as vulnerable and exposed as if I had left home without pants on.  I made the decision in my workplace nearly two months ago that although we had removed the mask mandate, I would continue to wear one.  Not only that, I have chosen to wear a button at work and on public transportation which clearly states I am vaccinated against COVID-19.

    Rewind to a couple of weeks ago when I was at an extremely busy downtown transit station waiting for a northbound train.  It arrived and it was fully packed.  This is an anomaly but there had been a soccer game at a large stadium in the city.  Every single car of this train was packed with what are sometimes derisively known as “OTP’ers.”  The majority of these people live outside the perimeter of the city in the suburbs, and not only were MANY of them lacking masks, so were their children.  I was stunned.  Refusing to wear a mask and failing to protect one’s children are no different than refusing to wear seat belts.  And I should add these people were probably educated, white, and live in more affluent suburban areas.  

    As for those covid patients who have refused the vaccine and are exhausting the healthcare system in every way, I completely agree with your stance about the cost.  How selfish can people be?

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  2. Thank you, Dana. I completely agree. Until the American culture gets over this utterly mythical fantasy of “freedom” we will continue to see the outcomes we presently live with. But I return to Bertrand Russell’s summation (above) and must add to it that, unfortunately, the unthinking people will take a lot of others down with them as they die. Your example of the unprotected children on the train speaks to this.

    Like

  3. Ray Rivers permalink

    As always – nice piece and ending on an emotional high note. I agree and then there is climate change and the reluctance for people to shift from business as usual. High carbon taxes are badly needed to help people realize the externalities of our carbon based lifestyle which are left for future generations to deal with.

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  4. Thank you, Ray. Sometimes, when we list the needs and threats facing us it seems overwhelming. Then, we begin to see how inter-tangled they are in the minds of the people who fail to understand them, or actively deny them, or even fight those of us who do understand them. The degree of overlap sometimes tempts us to lump these people into the same demographic. Sorting them out and devising educational and motivational messaging workable with each group seriously robs of the time we have left. That in itself is a huge problem.

    I’m so glad that you, and the others who comment on this site, contribute your thoughts. Perhaps one day more will listen, instead of saying “I should have listened.”

    Like

  5. jkent33 permalink

    Not only was this so timely it is filled with info that everyone who follows politics needs to consider. You mentioned info that hardly a day passes that I’m not hit right in the face just how bad things have gotten. It has reached the point that I’ve written plenty of people off. I no longer have the time nor the inclination to associate with these lost souls. I recently has it out with my family whose philosophy regarding the future of our country is placed in jeopardy when they embrace the thoughts spewed by FOX and how they somehow use their religion to justify their beliefs. Not to mention they feel my liberal leanings are Socialism in action.
    They fail to even consider just how close we are to losing our democracy while falling to Fascism! So between Trump and concerns over mask wearing I think they are forever lost!
    Thanks for sharing your thought Marco. I never tire of your writing!

    Like

    • Thank you, Jerry. I can understand the surprise and hurt that people sometimes experience when what was thought to be a close relationship fractures over issues such as politics. But I also sense that those fractures were always there, just growing beneath the surface until something specific brought them out. In my view it’s better that the fracture occur than remain covered up and finding expression in other ways.

      Yes, we did come right to the edge of losing Democracy and becoming another totalitarian state. But it’s also clear that a substantial portion of the population just does not realize that and is only awaiting their next opportunity.

      Like

  6. Dana permalink

    From Tilly in Canada:

    Marco, I could not agree with you more. The concept of freedom of choice is one thing when the consequences of that choice apply only to the individual making the choice, and is quite another when the choice can and will affect many of those around them.

    If individuals choose not to be vaccinated or not to mask it’s my belief that they must also choose the consequences or not being able to participate in many aspects of society, whether it be attending events, entering public venues, travelling, or availing themselves of publicly funded services such as healthcare. In this instance you can not have your cake and eat it too folks.
    Vaccines have eradicated many terrible diseases worldwide from smallpox to polio. Those who deny the efficacy of vaccines, will not accept one, and in fact label them dangerous causing others to fear them, should then also be willing to accept that if they should suffer a severe case of covid which may cause their incapacity or death that publicly funded services should not be available to them. However, they majority do not seem to be willing to accept the consequences associated with their choice.

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    • Thank you, Tilly. Yes, this is far more than a simple cultural divide; it’s life and death. And we have the right to protect ourselves and those around us from anyone who, for whatever reason, would bring us harm.

      Like

  7. Once again you have my apologies for taking so long to answer your excellent blog offering. Your opening quotes were already entered into my “word hoard”, so you see that we think alike. I’ve reached the end of my patience in so many arenas lately, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

    There is certainly a difference between ignorance and stupidity, but they are not mutually exclusive. I tend to believe that some people simply aren’t smart enough to think their way out of a wet paper bag, but those I can forgive. Ignorance, meaning lack of knowledge, is also forgivable within limits. It’s those stubborn folk who refuse to learn which drive me mad. It’s choosing to be ignorant, to put aside facts in favor of opinion, which is completely unforgivable.

    As long as we’ve known one another, free will has been a subject for discussion. I contend that it exists only in a very limited way, that every action we “choose” to take is made possible by the actions that we took before. Every action has its consequence. Your right to throw a punch ends just shy of the end of my nose. If your actions have the ability to affect me negatively, then you no longer have the right to them. To refuse to do the reasonable things which keep all of us a little safer is not just ignorance, it’s evil. People have a right to live or die on their own terms, but they don’t have the right to take me with them. I’ve had my shots, I wear my mask; is it unreasonable to ask you to do the same? If the consequence of your actions, or lack thereof, is illness or death, then that too was your choice. I agree that if people were forced to face the financial consequence of their chosen ignorance, perhaps a few more would think of the public good over their own.

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    • Thank you, Rose. Your analyses and comments are always more than worth waiting for. It is interesting to ponder the ways to address and mitigate frank stupidity. But we must be careful to avoid falling into the playbook of those, such as the people condemning mask mandates, who would seize on our efforts and scream Nanny State and Dictatorship. I am certainly with you in wanting to put forth straight forward measures such as cost assessment not only for the care rendered but also for the care rendered to persons who were innocently harmed.

      Like

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