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  • Writer's pictureKaren L


Recently, I engaged in another frustrating interchange with a relative about the COVID-19 vaccine. She is polar opposite to me on a variety of subjects. Her history is troubled, and she has embraced evangelical Christianity for many years. That in itself is not problematic, but as a result, this type of Christianity has influenced her to choose paths that lead to extreme thinking. How does a bright woman--born to a Jewish mother--become a rabid follower of right wing conspiracy theories? Her arguments are delineated logically, but, to me, they are strangely alien and paranoid. Her personal viewpoints are couched in research, which is dubious or outright fallacious. A few weeks ago, she commented--on social media--that New York City's requirement of proof of vaccination for in-restaurant customers was "like the Nazis." Needless to say, she caused a firestorm of protests, beginning with her sister. My sister and I followed with outrage, as did many individuals of various genders, races and ages. She or her husband went on to say that requiring proof of vaccination was similar to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. These comments are inflammatory, dangerous, and misleading. That is clear. But, what concerns me is there are an increasing number of Americans who expound these ideas. My conscience does not allow me to "let this go" any longer. For years, I have heard justification for Trump's presidency--what he said, did, and allowed to happen--from her. I know I am powerless to change this person. She is "free" to say what she wants. You know, "it's a free country." The communication of misinformation, with dangerous consequences, should be a crime. However, disseminating lies is rarely punished. The Nazi comment was hurtful because my parents were Holocaust survivors. As my mother said, when she watched the Charlottesville march, "those aren't real Nazis. They don't even know what a real Nazi is like." I was shocked at her statement because I thought Charlottesville was bad enough. Nonetheless, individuals born after World War II have no idea about fear and suffering. We simply do not! And that sensitivity and awareness decreases as the years rapidly fall away from post World War II America. I, at least, grew up with adults who had actually experienced Nazis. My peers grew up with parents who had fought in World War II. Someone born in the 1980's or 1990's and onward may not have ever met a person from the World War II era. The suffering endured by those involved in the Korean War, the Cold War, and Vietnam have not effected people born after those horrible conflicts. Which brings me to our present situation, our plague of 2019--?. COVID-19 is probably as close to true suffering as all of us alive today will experience. I am astounded when I hear of the selfish acts of my fellow citizens. I am guilty of self-centeredness, since I grieve the loss of the opportunity to travel. I am self-centered, and I focus on reducing this behavior constantly. But there are many among me who feel "they must do-----". I do not need to elaborate, since we all have seen pictures and heard the stories of individuals traveling for pleasure during the pandemic, one example of our self-absorption. I get into trouble by speaking of this. It is true that we all do what we feel is ethically sound. But are we truly making the effort, striving for our best selves? Questions to ponder as we pray, meditate, or think quietly. And, for Jews, 'tis the season. The main thread of this essay is egocentricism, whether it is refusal to get vaccinated based on the right not to or going on a pleasure trip to escape. I can do what I want to do, no matter. This is our American credo, the basis of our upbringing. We are now reaping the bitter fruits of the primacy of free will and supremacy of the individual. Rugged individualism has its merits but has been tempered by altruism throughout my life. There has been a tug and pull between these philosophies, a balance. Ayn Rand, in her book The Fountainhead, had a character who counteracted the libertarian. As I remember, he was weak and pathetic, but he existed. Now, I see people in our country who truly believe that their freedom of choice is the only factor in making decisions, the best examples being the possessions of automatic weapons and not following normal health precautions. But, almost more frightening, are those who appear liberal, but are actually self-centered to the max. They are the wolves in sheeps' clothing as warned by Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount and described in Aesop's Fables. As I previously mentioned, Mea Culpa. I am selfish. But, I do temper my self aborption with self-monitoring. I am just as fallible as the next person. However--I have not gone off to a villa in Bali yet. One more mention of my mother, she loved the book The Fountainhead and fashioned herself somewhat of a libertarian much to my chagrin. But, I know she never would have refused a vaccination to help to decrease the spread of a deadly virus. She valued health over all else. Why the anti-vaxxers may ask? She saw too many people and loved ones die.

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