Contempt for the unvaccinated is a temptation to be resisted | Dan Brooks

Because it made people wrong on the internet a matter for life and death, the Covid-19 pandemic was a complete disaster for our cultural moment.This is why I use the past tense. The more contagious Delta variant could threaten to undo a lot, especially here in the US where active coronavirus infections are up 149% compared to two weeks ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that people who have been fully vaccinated return to wearing masks indoors and in public places. This summer is not the time to be normal. The hope for a return to normal is fading fast.Moralists might argue that the Delta version is poetic justice, given the US government's reluctance in providing free vaccines to countries like India where it was first discovered. It was shortsighted and selfish to think that vaccines should be kept for Americans and exported at profit. Now the chickens (germs), have returned home to roost (sickened million). This kind of self-recrimination is old-fashioned. Modern people prefer to place blame on others, who are more comfortable.This tweet was sent by a sportswriter. It implied that people in Alabama, where the vaccine rate is still at 34%, would get the jab even if there were no American football. These remarks often focus on the association between America's south and a particular type of person: they are culturally conservative, often undereducated, and more interested in sports on television than in pandemics in newspapers. This person is a result of various statistical trends and has been a familiar scapegoat in the coronavirus epidemic. These people represent the 30% of Americans who refuse to be vaccinated. This could impede recovery efforts for all of us.This narrative is especially popular with American liberals. It excoriates imaginary dummies rather than confronting the issues that discourage people from getting the jab. These problems include a healthcare system that is employer-based and favors professionals who have permanent jobs. This makes it difficult for Americans to trust doctors. Kaiser Health News reports that the uninsured population under 65 years old has the lowest vaccination rates in the United States. This group is difficult to reach due to a global explosion of misinformation, and a political culture that panders to it.In 2020, the Republican leadership believed that Covid-19 was a glorified flu vaccine. This meant that the response to the pandemic would be based on political and cultural lines. For example, in Alabama, the refusal to get the vaccine is more a matter of socio-economic identity rather than scientific literacy. This fatal flaw is in the reasoning of non-vaccinated persons, who are completely wrong and endanger not only themselves but others.You can't blame liberals for their arrogant reaction to the situation. Even though their inobstinacy is now clearly evident, it has been more costly to admit they were wrong. To get the vaccine now would mean to bow to a class that treats them with contempt.Over the past five decades, anglophone democracies have made it a common narrative that a small minority of citizens could threaten to overthrow us through their ignorance. Trump did it in 2016 for many American Democrats. Brexit, which was not supported by voters but was opposed by the urban and more educated, had a similar effect on the UK. Trump's defeat in November may have contributed to the current Republican mania about making voting harder. A Pew Research Center poll last week found that 42% agreed with the statement that voting is a privilege that comes along with responsibilities.Social media has shattered the belief that the majority of people are decent, capable of governing themselves, or at least qualified to choose leaders capable of doing so. Every day we are confronted with the ignorance of strangers. Modern democracy has wiped out basic forms of empathy that were born from real-life communication.We should not hold the unvaccinated hostage in contempt. Although their premises are incorrect, they are doing what citizens of a democracy should do: question authority, think for themselves and refuse to be subordinated to a class that they believe is bent on dictating them by fiat. It is an irony that they do these things to spread dangerous misinformation, which threatens 21st century democracy.Covid-19 is perhaps the most persuasive counterargument to western liberal tradition that we have seen in our lifetimes. It provides a counterexample for two fundamental ideas: that ordinary people can recognize their best interests and that those who don't can be allowed to have their freedom without putting at risk the rest of us. One of the most cited exceptions in political science literature is the plague. It is not known if the existing systems are capable of surviving it. A democracy, just like a marriage can survive contempt.