Last Monday, two events began shaping the future of the United States. Both offer reason to hope—and agonize.
In New York, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center received the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination against COVID-19. Across the nation, the Electoral College met to officially determine our next president.
The first of the COVID vaccines is getting into arms and none too soon. This brightens the light at the end of the tunnel, although the tunnel may present us with twists and turns.
Electors acknowledged the will of their state’s—and Washington, D.C.’s—voters, making made Joe Biden the official winner, 306 to 232. Biden won the “meaningless” popular vote by seven million.
These two events may temper our national nightmare but won’t end it. Truth, fact, and reason remain under assault. These attacks will continue, undermining many Americans’ trust in each other and in our form of government.
We have here a reality conundrum. In the U.S., the pandemic has taken 310,000 lives, yet tens of millions of Americans resist vaccination. Many continue to scoff that COVID-19 is just another flu or support the scientific ignorance advocated by Donald Trump who on March 7, when asked about the virus and after having previously been briefed about its seriousness, said, “I’m not concerned at all.”
Such clinging to make-believe reflects cult-like thinking, the deification of a leader whose every pronouncement, no matter how incredulous, is taken as valid. Offering no proof, in imitation of Republican lawyers appealing to courts and being rejected outright, they uphold Trump’s assertions that he won re-election in a “landslide.”
It comes as no surprise that on November 18, Web.md (among others) reported on a Gallup poll revealing that 58 percent of Americans are willing to be vaccinated. That’s up from 50 percent in September. But it leaves 42 percent of Americans unwilling—some members of wary minority communities, others with political agendas. Herd immunity may be difficult to achieve.
Why so much suspicion? Trump didn’t invent the use of conspiracy theories but leveraged it to win the 2016 election. After, he continued denouncing the Deep State, Hillary Clinton, the mainstream media and for all I know, the Tooth Fairy. Trumpists drank the Kool-Aid.
Living in fantasyland cuts two ways. To gain political advantage, Trump spurred on vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed. The name raised flags. Would government agencies, researchers and manufacturers follow sound scientific principles? They seem to have done so.
But Trump’s nonsense and blatant lies gave his followers every reason to not believe in the vaccines’ efficacy. Akin to the boy who cried wolf, he espoused finding a solution to the pandemic while undercutting the people supervising the process and ignoring the ongoing tragedy suffered by the nation. Why trust a vaccine?
In November, 80 million Biden voters put the nation on the road back to a healthy sense of reality, but that road will be long and fraught with obstacles.
The prophet Jeremiah rails against deliberate ignorance. “Hear this, O foolish people, / Devoid of intelligence, / That have eyes but can’t see, / That have ears but can’t hear!” (Jeremiah 5:21).
Maintaining faith that eyes and ears will recognize reality in a nation where QAnon holds no little sway poses a challenge.
The post will be off the next two weeks and return on January 8. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate this festive holiday. Happy New Year to all.
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