Dear Anti-Vaxxers: Please Come Back to Reality

Protesters at an anti-shutdown protest in April 2020

I’m tired of writing about COVID. I’m sure you’re tired of reading about it. I opened up Facebook this morning and my friends’ kid, who is too young to be vaccinated, has COVID. Gov. Bill Lee is all Parents know what’s best for their kids, but every parent I know wants masks in schools, as well as information about who has been exposed and whether someone their kid has been in contact with has it. They want to be able to keep their kids learning virtually if it’s too dangerous for them to be in large groups, and they want the government and employers to make that possible.

None of these things are happening.

As infuriating as it is that we can’t have that from state leadership, the federal government’s response has been soul-crushing. I’ve been paying attention to politics for too long to have ever thought that Joe Biden was going to be a good president. I still think he's a better option than Trump, but the margin narrows, especially when it comes to his COVID response. It’s wrong when Republican politicians shrug off problems in communities that don’t vote for them. It’s wrong for the Biden administration to shrug off the devastating impact of COVID on kids in red states.

I know you’re not supposed to reveal any sign of weakness or uncertainty on the internet — trolls, like sharks, smell blood in the water — but I’ve been dealing with a medical issue since January that already necessitated surgery in order to ensure I stayed breathing. It took eight months and numerous doctors before my primary care physician found a specialist at Vanderbilt who recognized an unusual presentation of an uncommon problem. This is all vague, and I would be more exact with it, except that when I try to think for too long about it, my brain is all, “Let’s think about Jason Statham in Death Race,” or, “How many verses of ‘Up From the Grave He Arose’ do you think we can remember?”

I’ve got “right up against your windpipe,” “move your lung out of the way” and “you’ll be among the last surgeries to be canceled because of a COVID influx, due to your situation.” That’s what’s sticking in my head about things. My life is in a minor amount of peril (as long as things stay how they are), so the health care providers will do everything they can to keep my surgery date as scheduled — but I could get bumped if the hospital is full of COVID patients. (And we've seen that to be the case in Middle Tennessee.)

I’m not eager to have this surgery. I am, in fact, pretty terrified. I’ve never spent the night in a hospital before, and this could necessitate anything from two to four nights, depending on how things go. I am more terrified not to have the surgery. I’m having trouble breathing. I get tired. Stuff is oozing out of my neck. I might not have done much with my life, but I’ve lived it, and I would like to keep on living it.

Normally, this would be none of anyone’s business but mine. But we don’t live in normal times. Standing between me and my surgery are a couple of weeks and a bunch of people who aren’t vaccinated who are going to get COVID and need to be hospitalized. This is all utterly foreseeable and utterly preventable.

It is amazing — galling, actually — to see all these people who don’t trust the medical community enough to get vaccinated suddenly decide they trust the medical community enough to let it try to save their lives when their vitamin-D-and-livestock-dewormer approach turns out to be exactly as stupid as the medical community tried to tell them it was.

I don’t want hospitals picking and choosing who they’re going to treat based on the selfish, assholish behavior of some patients. Some order based on when you showed up and how bad a situation you’re in is best. It reduces the chances of harm from health care professionals’ personal biases.

But I’m also pissed that my surgery could get bumped because people who are unvaccinated are getting COVID that requires hospitalization still. We’re almost two years into this bullshit, and people are still behaving like the guests on Jerry Springer. “I do what I want.” “It’s my right to not get vaccinated.” “Freedom!” And the camera pans over to the other side of the stage to show the faces of everyone who’s affected by the utterly myopic selfishness of the thoughtless jerk.

And no one is bothering to stop them.

Unvaccinated folks: You are making a biological weapon out of yourselves and inserting yourselves into as many public situations as you can. You must know that being unvaccinated at this point means you are incredibly susceptible to COVID. You must know that you can easily pass it to others. You also must know how terrified the rest of us are, not only of your unhinged behavior, but also of finding ourselves needing health care but unable to receive it because you have caused the near collapse of health care providers.

At this point, with all we know, if you can be vaccinated but aren’t, you are a villain. And all the people who are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to go about your villainy without facing consequences are villains as well. It’s not just that we needed you and you failed to rise to the occasion. You have added to the difficulty of this situation. You have made it worse.

Someday this will be over. But I don’t know how we come back from this — knowing how many of our fellow Americans absolutely do not give a shit about anyone but themselves.

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