Vaccine mandates are proliferating daily, and Americans are showing that despite almost 250 years as a sovereign nation, the "Yankees" are still very much the rebels they were in 1776.
But, this time it's not about taxation-without-representation or the loathing that resulted from rule by a country on the other side of the Atlantic. It's about the COVID vaccine. The long-established attitude of "don't tell me what to do" is still very much a theme—it's just human nature. The vaccine mandates are picking up steam, and people resist when they feel their autonomy being threatened.
Of course, that's not every American. More than 60% have been fully vaccinated and the number of daily vaccinations has recently been rising. Many who initially refused the vaccine have accepted the recent FDA approval as a statement of safety and are assuming that it's also highly effective.
But the missionary-like proselytizing of our government and Big Pharma have not been the come-to-Jesus revival that was expected. If anything, the schism between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers is a growing phenomenon, and much of it seems to follow the same divisions that pit Christian Evangelicals, Trump-contaminated Republicans and conspiracy theorists against everybody else.
Sadly, COVID is still making plenty of people sick, and the number of ongoing deaths cannot be considered OK. The latest statistics are pretty gloomy, and that's driving a full-court press by government and employers to have people receive their shots. At least from a reporting standpoint, it also appears that the number of deaths among younger people is growing, which suggests that, either the virus is gaining strength or that the bodies' defenses are weakening.
One thing is for sure: No one can ever say that COVID is some kind of hoax, or that it was caused by the introduction of 5G networks. To date, around five-million people have died. But the naysayers are abundant, and as ridiculous as their claims may appear, the virus has been one of the most polarizing events in the history of our nation.
Sadly, much of the COVID battle seems to be related to bad information, a lack of trust in the so-called experts, fears that the cure is worse than the disease and the cockeyed claims that the vaccine jabs are injecting computer chips that will destroy the privacy of our lives and give Big Brother real-time reports of our every movement.
Then there are those who claim that the vaccine is unacceptable—in a Christian view—because of the ground-up fetuses they supposedly contain. The father of one of my close friends died of COVID. He wouldn't get the vaccine because of the misinformed statements of two Catholic bishops who claimed the fetal content was fact, and that taking the vaccine would be a mortal sin. It didn't matter that their claim was untrue—someone died because high-level clergy made a religious edict based on a fabrication of the facts.
That kind of misunderstanding is a daunting opportunity for those who manipulate scripture and religion to say what they want to hear, and that type of creative interpretation of doctrine seems to be inherent in most religious texts; they are never clear and straightforward, forcing adherents to have only personal understanding of their meanings. (As an observer, I have to wonder why God didn't make himself clearer.)
Some of the so-called religious want vaccine mandate waivers, and some clergymen are seeing the problem as a political moment, in which they can strengthen their own popularity. While no one can "judge" others, these people are not representing their religions. Virtually all major religions have made public statements endorsing vaccination and anyway, the Bible never mentions vaccines.
One thing is for sure—anytime the government and large business mandate anything, the pushback will be the "equal and opposite reaction." Waving their "Don't Tread on Me" flags, and expressing refusal to be told what to do, much of the flak and resistance align with religion and politics, and not on facts, common sense or science.
Now you'd think that—particularly in the health field—employers could mandate that 100% of their employees be vaccinated. That seems to be common sense; it is a public risk for the unvaccinated to be running around our health clinics and hospitals. But health workers, despite the seemingly sound rationale for vaccination, are not saying a sheepish "baah." A surprising number have balked, and some have even declared that they'll quit their jobs rather than comply with mandates.
I just read a Salt Lake Tribune article on the matter of religious exemptions. It isn't surprising at all, quoting Crisann Holmes—a pseudo-religion-motivated holdout—with these words: "My freedom and my children's freedom and children's children's freedom are at stake." (Boy, is that a stretch.)
Holmes went on to say that vaccine cell lines did, indeed, come from aborted fetuses. To back up her claim that the vaccine question is a religious matter, she added a Biblical verse: "Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit."
Sadly, Ms. Holmes is very much like an Islamic extremist, seeing the desired scriptural interpretation that justifies the killing of all "infidels." If people want to wear suicide vests and blow-up others, they can always find a religious reason for doing so. If they don't want to submit to COVID vaccine mandates, there's always a scriptural verse that will make it a crime against God.
As COVID continues to hurt and kill people, we must all take care to ask ourselves not what we can do to exercise free-agency, but what we should do to protect ourselves and others. While not owned by any single religion, the Golden Rule seems to provide the right answer.
The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.