I’m a lefty. I always have been, and probably always will be. While I can see the virtue in “individual responsibility” and self-reliance espoused by the political right, I believe firmly that we need to look out for each other, and that a world in which everyone has their basic needs met and no one gets to extract wealth from others simply because they are wealthy is a world that we should work toward, even as we face declining resources and inevitable shortages in the years ahead.
I believe all profit from rent is a form of usury. I believe that profit from health care is immoral. I believe that housing and health care are human rights. I believe that refugees and immigrants are human beings and deserve to be treated as such, with empathy and respect, even if we must sometimes enact limits and restrictions. I believe that all labor deserves a living wage. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe that neoliberal capitalism is basically evil. I believe in revitalizing local communities and local economies and taking business away from multinational billionaire-led corporations.
You also believe most or all of these things. We used to talk about them, share visions and ideas. Then you walked away down a path that I could not follow, leaving me feeling abandoned, dumbfounded, and befuddled. Now you seem to lump me in with the right, with whatever thoughts and motivations you project upon them: selfishness, individualism, lack of compassion and empathy, bigotry, racism.
If the CEO of Monsanto, with the backing of the FDA, were to tell you that the solution to world hunger and climate change is GMO-chemical agriculture, would you believe him? It is certainly an argument that has been tried. If Elon Musk were to tell you that the solution to climate change is a total conversion to electric vehicles, would you believe him? If, ten years from now, we are all driving Teslas and Musk is a trillionaire but we’re still emitting the same amount of carbon generating the electricity and mining the lithium, would you still believe him?
Something very odd happened two years ago when a strange new virus appeared on the scene. You chose to believe that it was different this time: that the ecocidal, elitist capitalist villains in Big Medicine, in Big Pharma, in government regulatory institutions had the answers, if only we would deign to listen. That they knew how to control this pandemic. That they would rise to the occasion to become the true heroes that they never were before.
You chose to believe The Science. The same Science that calls fracked natural gas “clean energy.” The same Science that believes in chemical-intensive GMO agriculture. The same Science that brought us an epidemic of unnecessary opioid addiction.
With strong urging from the media, you went along with denunciation and discrediting of highly credentialed voices – allowing them to be somehow associated with the all-consuming taint of Donald Trump and his followers. Dr. Pierre Kory, a highly-respected critical care doctor, founded the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, seeking to find repurposed drugs that would be effective against this new virus. When they discovered that ivermectin – a widely used and extremely safe antiparasitic drug that earned its discoverer a Nobel Prize – seemed to work, authorities responded by banning doctors from using it and describing it as “horse dewormer.” Does it actually work? It certainly appears to at least in some cases, but even if it didn’t what is the harm in letting doctors use their training and experience to find solutions to a novel problem?
When authorities decided to recommend and then require masks – in spite of a whole body of past research finding little to no efficacy against flu transmission – you not only obeyed without question but proceeded to brand anyone who so much as questioned it an “anti-masker”, someone who clearly cared only about themselves and wanted other people to die.
When epidemiologists from Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford came together to issue a statement saying lockdowns and restrictions were doing more harm than good, and that we could save more lives by focusing on protection of the most vulnerable, and they were quickly slandered and debunked in the media, you didn’t ask whether there might be more to this story.
When vaccines were released in record time under emergency use authorizations, having been tested for a mere six months, you believed the assertions that they were “safe and effective”. When highly regarded vaccinologists like Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche voiced serious concerns, you accepted “fact-checking” claims that they were peddling “disinformation” for their own supposed gain. When the only system we have for recording vaccine adverse events – VAERS – registered more disability and death following these shots than following all other vaccines combined over the past 30 years – you accepted the explanation that these reports are unverified and therefore probably meaningless. When 12-year-old Maddie de Garay, a volunteer in the Pfizer vaccine trial, spoke out about becoming wheelchair bound and unable to participate in daily life after getting the shots (while the trial only recorded her symptoms as “stomach discomfort”), you noticed that only right-leaning outlets would interview her and so you assumed the motivation must be political. When the vaccine-injured began telling their stories – how their health crashed after the shots and their doctors didn’t take them seriously or failed to consider a connection to the vaccine – you ignored that too and supported censorship of their voices.
I had hope for the vaccines as well, at first. I almost got them back in May, but I had made a promise to myself to wait a year, which I am now glad I kept.
We were promised that vaccinated people would be “dead ends” for the virus. Then the Delta wave came along, with some of the highest case rates in the most-vaccinated countries, and high rates of breakthrough infection. I thought this might lead to you doubting the vaccines, or at least doubting the wisdom of mandating them, but instead you doubled down, asserting that they protected against hospitalization and death, and that was enough.
When immunity proved to wane after 5-6 months, you signed up for booster shots, despite the fact that we had no meaningful clinical trials whatsoever to justify them. When Omicron came around – exceedingly contagious but causing much milder illness and infecting vaccinated and unvaccinated people equally – you accepted the logic that this meant we needed more boosters, maybe even to require boosters for everyone. You believed baseless assertions that “the unvaccinated” people were to blame for continuing infection, even as the virus spread through 100% vaccinated college campuses and even as the most-vaccinated countries tallied the highest case rates in the world, suggesting that vaccine efficacy might even be negative. You supported incredibly divisive vaccine mandates that were virtually guaranteed to exacerbate ongoing labor shortages in health care, transportation, food processing, and other sectors that were already under severe stress.
Perhaps I sound a bit angry. This has been a difficult two years. But I’m not really angry at you. I would like to be friends again, to talk about the world we would like to create: resilient communities outside of the global capitalist system, mutual aid networks, local food webs. I would like to gather and sing and dance together again, free from the idea that we are all walking bags of death (with the unvaccinated the deadliest of all).
But it seems like you are still under some sort of spell, and I have to wonder: what would it take to break it? How low does the covid death rate have to go before you can treat it as an acceptable risk like the flu? How many vaccine injuries have to happen before you can acknowledge that these shots have real risks and may not be advisable for everyone of all age groups? How many boosters will you accept in the face of diminishing returns, as the virus continues to evolve?
Does Dr. Fauci need to recant, or the CDC, or CNN, or NPR? I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen. People with power and influence tend not to admit they were wrong. They will try to walk away quietly, to move on to the next crisis or news story without any reflection or self-examination.
I’m not sure I can do anything to break this spell, but whenever you are ready to leave it behind I’ll be here waiting. And perhaps then we can start to see this whole episode as not so different from previous failures of technology and capitalism. Overconfidence in the face of uncertainty. Advertised solutions that are conveniently profitable for the wealthiest citizens. Destruction and demonization of the working class. Disastrous effects on human health and community solidarity shoved under the rug. Blame cast upon our fellow citizens (“the unvaccinated” are the new “deplorables”) rather than on those at the top, when their “solutions” fail to work as promised.
Let us please not let this go on much longer. It’s OK to occasionally agree about something with the folks waving the confederate flags. Just because one side of a debate has people you personally despise, or people who have stupid political reasons for acting as they do, does not mean that side is wrong. As I write this, the media is playing that game to discredit the Canadian trucker protest against vaccine mandates. It’s time to stop falling for it, to accept that none of our efforts – lockdowns, masks, vaccines – can stop this virus from becoming endemic, and to come back together to create a new way of being and living as the extractive global capitalist system crumbles around us.