USA Today makes it plain. This is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and we can fix that. pic.twitter.com/RvO7AMGbAs
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) August 7, 2021
Grievances about Delta and the “I’m a Free Agent” Mentality
When I think about life before COVID-19, I feel surreal, as though I just woke up from a dream.
I remember a time when I could wander fearlessly into a building without worrying about how close I was to the person standing next to me or whether something I touched was ridden with viral debris. I could travel when I wanted to, feeling the rush of excitement pulsating as the plane departed the runway. There are few things I treasure more in life than freedom and movement, and as I soared 36,000 feet into the air, into the ethereal clouds, time and place seemed so small and innocuous.
Even amidst the inevitable uncertainties in life, there was some semblance of control to harness the stallion that is our imagination deep in the wilderness of doubt. Furthermore, the stallion did not appear unbridled; it seemed to me as though I could make out the figure of a person atop it in the tepid light that soon gives way to nightfall. In other words, there was a human being managing the horse so that it did not become wayward and bolt off toward the edge of the earth.
Now, here we are in 2021, a year-and-a-half into the pandemic, and I see no rider on the backs of those stallions. Instead, they morph into a dozen little vampires out for blood, with teeth like daggers and syringes in hand. The world as I once knew it has become a waking nightmare—dark, with little light left.
I can recall a conversation I had with a family member earlier in the year who said to me: “Well, people are under a lot of stress these days. Of course, they’re not going to act in good faith.” Unfortunately, my outlook on human nature is a lot less generous. I’ve witnessed, heard about, and personally experienced people’s shadows rising to the surface far too many times and it’s reached a point where I don’t expect much.
I do not place undue credence in the so-called innate goodness characteristic in all people. Yes, there is some good, but that is true of many, if not most, things. Everything we know exists as an opposite, polarized on one side of the spectrum in relation to something else, making its mere existence relative to the other. Also, when truth knocks, the good does not necessarily outweigh the bad, and to believe in that cliché is a philosophical fallacy in one’s ability to think critically and see life through a lens of realism.
The trouble is that so many of us live in what I call an alternate reality of our own creation. In this version of reality, facts are irrelevant or interchangeable and there is nothing—and I do mean absolutely nothing—to worry or feel down in the dumps over. Once again, in this world, facts are either distorted, err on the side of negative, or are painted a different color altogether in order to match an image we have in our heads that has no foundation to support it in real time or that we simply do not have the infrastructure to build. Those of us who do watch and pay attention to what is going on are considered “fear-mongered,” and for goodness’ sake, one can’t possibly be spiritual, wise, and concerned about the state of our world all in one breath.
In a similar vein, one cannot be tolerant of others and have a bone to pick with their worldview.
One cannot subscribe to and support a Zen lifestyle and get angry every now and then.
One cannot believe in peace and challenge people in debate.
One cannot be a free thinker and follow regulations set in place when the situation calls for it.
And Lord help you: if you believe that we’re still in a pandemic in 2021, you must be a sheep in the pasture. These days, one has to be “radical,” as many proudly declare themselves, in order to be “woke.”
We live in a world of extremists, with little room for negotiation, questioning of our own beliefs, or healthy moderation between two disparate ideas, modes of living, or ways of identifying ourselves. One is either black or white, up or down, wise or foolish, intelligent or dumb, good or bad, happy or sad, a free thinker or a follower, and enlightened or unconscious.
In our culture, we leave little space for nuance or aberration from any socially prescribed norm, and even some so-called “spiritual” people fall prey to this ideology. (Spiritual people, by the way, are not immune to the ego, and to deny that they have psychological flaws or are incapable of some moral hiccups, to me, exposes a lack of grace and integrity. In short, it means you cannot be honest with yourself and by default, with anyone else).
This ideology has carried over into how we’re dealing with this new Delta variant, and if we aren’t vigilant, this could land us back into the same dungeon we’ve been accustomed to for what feels like far too long. Only a few days ago, Dr. Fauci announced that the variant’s high transmissibility coupled with the greater-than-ideal number of unvaccinated people in the United States alone could soon lead to a rise in the number of infections.
According to Fauci:
“What we’re seeing, because of this increase in transmissibility, and because we have about 93 million people in this country who are eligible to get vaccinated who don’t—that you have a significant pool of vulnerable people.”
Unfortunately, this news is not enough to convince that significant portion of people to take the vaccine. In fact, there is nothing, I’ve learned, that will inspire the people on the other side of the fence to do so—except, perhaps, a stay in the ICU, resulting in a near-fatal experience.
“COVID is nothing more than a common cold,” I’ve heard people say. “I’ll take my chances with COVID before I will with an experimental vaccine.” Then, they pull out numbers and statistics from the CDC, even though they otherwise claim that this kind of organization is downright deceiving us in every other respect when it comes to news pertaining to this virus, and claim, rather flippantly, that our chance of surviving is pretty much a guarantee, whilst failing to acknowledge or account for the serious long-term effects that the majority of survivors report.
Here’s where I stand: I’m officially fed up with people’s bullsh*t.
If there is anything I’ve solidified during the trajectory of this pandemic it is that I highly prefer my own company. I’m fine. I’m not sad. I just don’t have the threshold for dealing with other people’s garbage in whatever shape or container it happens to come in. I walk around busy streets and hear fragments of people’s conversations. Most of the time, I either shake my head in utter dismay or yawn in sheer boredom. Fortunately for me, however, I’ve now mastered the fine art of maintaining boundaries—and those include minimal contact with many people.
Recently, I’ve even cut contact with someone I once considered a close friend due to opposing views that caused my blood to boil. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not always the most tolerant person, and when I happen to feel strongly about something, can become quite passionate in the face of any opposition. When someone, for instance, argues or insists that the earth is flat, that we roamed with the dinosaurs, that climate change is a hoax, and that we should outlaw abortion, my breathing begins to become labored out of sheer anger. In those moments, I put down books like, The Power of Now and A New Earth, and with a sigh of frustration, exclaim: “Okay. That’s it. I’m out.”
Granted, this isn’t necessarily something I am proud of, but when someone else’s choice to be a “free agent” impacts mine or someone else’s capacity to live freely in turn, I can no longer feel like the being of light I otherwise know myself to be. I’m certainly not a perfect person and I own up to that. You can only stretch my tolerance so far. I can’t stomach everything, and truthfully speaking, I won’t.
Despite my belief that most people deserve to be heard at least once and that we’re more than our thoughts, I also realize that those thoughts can become stains in the fabric of our society. Those thoughts can also wear and tear on our safety and keep us stuck in dangerous circumstances that serve no one. It is precisely in those moments that I put my belief that we are all special little snowflakes aside and see the truth for what it can sometimes at least appear to be. The reason I do not apply all my principles indefinitely is because most of them simply cannot be. Sometimes we really are at war with something or with one another, and sometimes when people no longer see eye-to-eye, separation must ensue.
If there was one thing that could potentially restore my faith in humanity, it would be witnessing other people’s belief that we are all interconnected—something I believe this pandemic has been trying to show us all for quite some time now—in action. But the sad fact of the matter is that far too many people choose their own interests above and beyond those of others, and if you ask me, this tendency has become downright selfish and is having a catastrophically destructive impact on the health of our planet and each other.
When I look into the eyes of a child who seems confused as to whether or not school will resume in the fall, or elderly loved ones who talk wistfully about the “good ol’ travelling days” with mist in their eyes as they sit in their home and wonder when they’ll finally be able to enjoy the rest of their days here, I feel a strong sense of moral indignation on their behalf.
If we had worked together to achieve the herd immunity benchmark required to cease the spread of this deadly virus, we could have beat COVID already. The reason that this virus is mutating is because it is now spreading among the unvaccinated population and becoming stronger and more powerful as a result.
It’s a far cry from a thoughtful and considerate world filled with well-intentioned, well-informed, and wise citizens with ample common sense. There are times I’ve wondered where exactly we’re all headed when we consider inflation, capitalism, climate change, and the revolving door that is COVID-19.
So, no, if your decision to be a “free agent” is negatively affecting myself or anyone else, I simply cannot stand by those beliefs at this point in time—not with everything I now know and have learned.
Sorry, not sorry.