The pandemic — and the various government, medical and societal responses to it — continues to drive news and political machinations. Although our nation was already divided, two new unneeded riffs over vaccinations and masks are agitating citizens. We explore the implications.
As vaccinations continue, but at a reduced pace, extreme elements are coalescing around both sides of the vaccination controversy. Many citizens are stridently opposed to vaccination and are threatening the advantages of herd immunity. But there are also numerous individuals who are fully vaccinated and are still demanding masks and social distancing at most gatherings. Could this controversy impact elections?
Pignanelli: “It’s pretty wild how we used to eat cake after someone would blow on it. Good times!” — Internet meme
Scientists amaze when unlocking the secrets of the stellar and subatomic universes. But the greatest mysteries remain as to the human mind (aka why do people think this way?). One year ago, most politicos predicted the distribution of vaccines would be the battle. No one conjectured the current situation.
The emotions exuded by both sides of this controversy are matched by unexpected beliefs. Hard-core adherents to masking and social distancing appropriately relied on actual evidence to reduce the spread. Those concerned with such restrictions properly referenced indisputable facts including the low rate of mortality, identifiable vulnerable populations and overhyped media reports. But such prior logical attitudes were abandoned with novel claims that restrictions are still necessary, or coronavirus vaccinations are dangerous.
Without herd immunity, the disease is likely to remain with us in different forms for decades. The energetic factions will be demanding sympathetic responses from their elected officials, thus impacting political deliberations in some form. Hopefully, this will be dampened as most Utahns occupy the rational middle sweet spot.
Maybe the next scientific breakthrough is the discovery of how we arrived in this unusual situation … in the 21st century.
Webb: It’s remarkable to me that vaccinations and masks are even an issue. What can I say, except, “Let’s be reasonable!” Unfortunately, some folks on both sides aren’t governed by common sense, so we’ve witnessed emotional shouting matches and ugly confrontations. Politicians have to navigate gingerly.
Perhaps we should try a little humor. I’ve had to laugh at airlines that demand very young children wear masks. Whoever made those rules has never tried to reason with a 2-year-old. This wasn’t funny, of course, for families that were actually kicked off airplanes because their 2-year-old kept ripping off his mask.
Because of deficient family planning (or total lack thereof), my wife and I somehow became parents to six 2-year-olds (arriving consecutively, thank goodness). These diabolical little banshees always did precisely the opposite of my expectations of reasonable behavior, responding to every sensible request (like, “Please don’t kick the dog”) with rip-roaring temper tantrums.
This occurred frequently in public places, purposely chosen by those wicked little demons to make everyone around you think you’re murdering them. In the midst of such wondrous displays of tiny-person meltdown, I frequently offered to take the child into the bathroom, stick his/her head in the toilet, and flush, but my patient wife always vetoed that reasonable response.
Happily, each of our devilish 2-year-olds eventually became sweet, smiling, obedient 3-year-olds. (Then they became teenagers, but that’s another story.)
So, besides the obvious conclusion that forcing a 2-year-old to wear a mask on an airplane is a crime against nature, my point is that we should all stop acting like 2-year-olds. And more like 3-year-olds.
Regardless of the future pace of vaccinations, should our state and country ditch the masks and open everything up? Or is continued caution the best approach?
Pignanelli: The unquestionable goal of vaccinations is to preserve open lifestyles. Our economy, education and mental health of the population cannot survive the continuation of restrictions. Humans need interaction to succeed at all levels.
Social pressure (like anti-smoking crusades) may ensure a greater participation toward “the jab.” Yet, we may have to accept the reality that segments of the population will never be vaccinated. Society must open and adapt.
Webb: We should encourage vaccinations and those who are vaccinated should enjoy life without masks or restrictions. But we should respect private businesses and individuals who ask us to mask up. In other words: Get vaccinated, hug those you love, go maskless — but keep one in your back pocket just in case.
What are the political ramifications for our president, governor and mayors?
Pignanelli: Executive officials will garner credit or blame for any pandemic results. Over time they will be forced to declare where they stand regarding those refusing vaccinations. This will compel a decision whether to cater to those screaming for continued masks and social distancing. Most will opt for the middle. Leaders will ascertain no outcome satisfies all quarters in this weird environment. Political skills will be tested.
Webb: Despite widespread criticism, politicians have done their best in this pandemic, even though mistakes were made. There was no handbook.
The pandemic exacerbated political trends and tendencies. Certainly, the pandemic has required a large government response. But some politicians who like big government and control over citizens have happily taken advantage of the opportunity to try to permanently enlarge the size, scope, cost and coercion of government. Freedom-loving people and politicians have understandably pushed back.
There is a middle ground. We’re now at the point where we should use guidelines and suggestions, not coercion. We should all be enormously grateful that the pandemic is winding down.