If you grew up in a nation with a formal caste system, would you let society dictate how you treated others, especially the shunned and shamed untouchables? Would you deplore them based on what others told you to do, or would you have compassion for the downtrodden? If you grew up in the South after the civil war, when former slaves who had recently been freed found guns pointed at them if they attempted to vote and were not allowed to enjoy many of the blessings of the freedom they had supposedly gained, would you dare speak out for their rights? Would you treat them with compassion and kindness, or shun them as many did? If you were raised in Germany in the 1930s, would you look at Jews as the source of society’s greatest problems, or would you have the wisdom and charity to ignore propaganda and social pressure and instead love others in spite of their differences? I believe most of us will sincerely think that in those settings, we would have been different from the sheep around us and would have the courage to stand up for the rights of others and respect them as fellow humans. However, in the rush of real events, when one senses the possibly high price of courage and feels the surging power of peer pressure and political force, we might fail to see that we were standing before a decisive opportunity to deploy our noble intentions and face the unknown consequences of defiance.
Power seekers throughout history have found scapegoats to be valuable tools for their own gain, and the Book of Mormon gives us several case studies to ponder as corrupt men used anger and blaming of others to obtain power, including Amalickiah, King Noah, and others. Stirring up senseless anger and fear has been a tool to justify expanded power and personal agendas time after time in world history. I feel that a new caste of deplorable untouchables is being created in our midst, the caste of the unvaccinated who are shamed and blamed for many social ills, and are being systemically punished and discriminated against. We are fortunately nowhere near to the level of persecution and abuse that many groups have faced throughout history, but the shaming, exclusion, and now firing of the unvaccinated is an alarming step. Though I am vaccinated and generally encourage vaccination and thus disagree with at least some of the unvaccinated, I feel we need to stand for their rights of medical privacy, of personal choice, and body sovereignty, especially in light of what “the science” is actually teaching us (see my Nov 21, 2021 update below for more details on this).
Unfortunately, many of us have been lied to about the alleged need to compel the untouchable caste to accept vaccinations. It’s time to recognize the lies and stand up with compassion for others and respect for their rights, even if they are different in their views and choices. When you look at the stories you are not being told, it should also be clear that current government mandates and policies can no longer be assumed to be made in good faith. In fact, it’s critical that you understand why. But first, please take a moment to consider the humanity of those being targeted.
Right after the announcement of the new federal vaccine mandate that puts the jobs of many Americans at risk, I had some surprising conversations with friends and relatives who fear its impact. One single mother who works from home and only from home for a healthcare-related company is being required to vaccinate. When President Biden gave his September speech that announced the plan for vaccine mandates, signalling a ramped-up divisiveness by telling the unvaccinated that “we are losing patience with you,” her employer soon announced that she would need to be vaccinated or have weekly COVID testing. This mother with a very challenging life and overwhelming duties chose weekly testing, which involved having to drive one hour each week at her own expense to pick up a test kit. That was bad enough, but with the mandate now officially in place through OSHA, she has been told by her employer that now she must be vaccinated or be fired. She previously had a religious exemption, but now she is told that that won’t help any more. The language of the mandate appears to make exemptions possible and should not apply to those working remotely, but it seems that many companies are choosing to go the extra mile, perhaps to seem as faithful as possible in light of the fearsome penalties for non-compliance with the dictate. I guess they are just embracing the spirit of the law: expel the untouchables, even if they are among the heroes who have been risking their lives to help COVID patients, put out fires, stop criminals, or serve in many other urgently needed and understaffed areas that cannot afford losing large numbers of employees. To protect Americans, for our social good, we need to expel these people now or force them to buckle. The judicial stay issued a few days ago isn’t making much of a difference, and the Biden Administration is essentially ignoring the court order, telling corporations to move ahead with compulsory vaccination.
In reality, her reason for not wanting the vaccine may be more based on personal medical reasons than her religious beliefs. She is highly allergic to many materials. The last time she had an injection, the adjuvants (compounds added with a medication to make it more effective or preserve it) gave her a severe reaction that took weeks to overcome. But she’s had to change doctors and is not sure her current hard-to-reach doctor will support seeking a medical exemption. She’ll try to get the exemption, but fears she will be fired. With the children she’s caring for and the stress her life already has, the impact of the mandate seems rather cruel. Why cause her so much trouble and risk when she works from home and cannot possibly be putting others in the workplace at risk? It’s senseless. Please understand, the logic behind this is not based on science, as we’ll see, but pure politics. For this mother and for many thousands in similar situations, I hope you will recognize the unjust discrimination against her and feel a sense of compassion.
She and many others with concerns about the vaccine now have their jobs at risk. The reasons the vaccine hesitant have vary widely. For some, it’s medical, such as concern about long-term adverse effects or allergic reactions, a concern shared by some college students I know. For others, it may be more religious, such as concerns about the essential role that fetal cells played in the development of a new drug or religious concerns about taking experimental materials into one’s body as expressed by Victory Boyd, fired by the NFL after being hired to sing the National Anthem. Some object because of a distrust of government, a factor which I sense may be especially true among the many young black Americans who are vaccine hesitant (no, vaccine hesitancy is not unique to white Republicans).
I’m currently reading Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment by James H, Jone, 2nd ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993, first edition 1991), whose opening pages note the role the Center for Disease Control (yes, our beloved CDC) played after they were split off from the Public Health Service and took over running and justifying the horrific Tuskegee Experiment. Can we fairly blame the lack of trust in our government among many black Americans (or Americans of any color) who have heard about this decades-long experiment in which effective treatments for syphilis were deliberately and callously withheld from over 300 black men who thought they were getting treatment for their disease, all in an alleged “scientific” effort to watch the gruesome late stage effects of syphilis?
If someone has personal reasons for not trusting government and especially the CDC, go ahead and post all the lectures to them that you want about how this time everything’s totally transparent and truthful, but let’s have some respect for the feelings and concerns of those who know something about the Tuskegee Experiment or have other reasons for doubting the often contradictory and sometimes clearly questionable official information they are given (e.g., see this frank op-ed from two medical scholars published at MSN.com or this observation with reasonable support from Chicago-based Wirepoints). Some of you have been telling my black friends that America is systemically racist, but now you’re trying to tell them that they really need to trust the white folks running the CDC and the NIH and accept their “experimental drug” (as many see it and as it has been called from authoritative sources)? Can you have enough compassion to recognize that they might have genuine concerns? Do their feelings and even informed decisions not matter? If black lives matter, what about black sovereignty over one’s body, black medical privacy, black personal choice, and black concerns about the overreach of an untrustworthy government?
I have several highly educated friends working for Silicon Valley giants. One of them who works from home now has his job at risk. The company, apparently showing its political faithfulness by going beyond the actual written requirements of the mandate, is requiring even remote employees to be vaccinated well before the mandate’s requirement. As a matter of principle, my friend feels such a demand is not only contrary to logic and science, but is a violation of his personal privacy and, in my words, demeaning to him as an employee. He refuses to make his employment subject to accepting what could be an endless list of intrusions into his body as others declare what medications he must take. He works from home. His company knows he’s vaccinated. But because he won’t bow before an unconstitutional decree and disclose official proof of his medical status, his job is at risk. I applaud this man’s courage. To even stand up and object politely was an act of amazing courage. I hope we can appreciate and sympathize with this kind of courage. It’s a courage this country needs more than ever right now.
There seems to be fear that showing any kind of leniency toward the non-compliant could result in federal scrutiny with unbearable risk. This law, by the way, does not come from elected representatives in Congress as the Constitution seems to require, or, more properly, from elective representatives of the states since this should be a state or local issue, not a federal one. Rather, it comes from the decree dictated by one very powerful leader — perhaps from President Biden himself, for all we know.
The Bad Faith and Lack of Science Behind the Mandate
We just had some of the most exciting news related to the COVID pandemic, the announcement of two different drugs that appear to have very high potential for treating COVID patients. I am not talking about certain unmentionable, low-profit FDA-approved medications for other human diseases that some nations and some doctors in the US are using for COVID (sometimes prescribed in the US as well as “off-label” medications [but see my 11/19/21 update below if you are convinced that one such drug has strong studies supporting its use]). No, nothing that shady. I’m talking about nice, shiny new proprietary medications from two of the superstars of Big Pharma, Pfizer and Merck, so doctors won’t be too afraid to prescribe these and pharmacies won’t have to improperly practice medicine by declining to fill valid prescriptions for drugs the CDC doesn’t like us to use. In short, the need for constant dread is about to wane, for not only are most Americans vaccinated with millions more having the still-ignored advantage of natural immunity, but now we are about to receive medications that can greatly reduce the harm of COVID. The latest news came within hours of the mandate as Pfizer reported its medication that can reduce the harm of COVID by 89% (see Bloomberg’s Nov. 5, 2021 report and NPR’s story).
On top of this, we have already learned from the CDC that the vaccines don’t stop transmission of the disease, for the vaccinated can still get the disease (though it’s somewhat less likely than for the unvaccinated) and when they do, while the harm to them is reduced, they can still have the same viral load as others, making them able to transmit the disease to vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. The benefit of the vaccine is real, but it’s personal: it reduces the harm to the individual. My body, my choice — and I chose the vaccine. What right do I have to treat the unvaccinated as untouchables? [On the failure of the vaccines to significantly reduce transmission of the disease, see my Nov 21, 2021 update below and the excerpts from an important new study.] To the degree that the vaccine is effective, it protects the vaccinated, and if it’s not really effective, why force others to take it? But the efficacy at the moment is not quite in the glowing 100% range we heard a few months ago. According to an Oct. 17 article from CNN which appears to accurately summarize some findings from a recent study, if you got Johnson and Johnson vaccine in February, the efficacy of your vaccination is now around 3%. It’s higher for other vaccines, but the moral high ground for looking down on the unvaccinated seems to have eroded down to a small dirt clod for at least some of the vaccinated. But don’t panic, there’s that good news I mentioned about treatments for COVID.
Importantly, with effective drugs that can mitigate the harm of COVID, we can now expect a greatly reduced risk for vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. The vaccine still makes sense, but the mandate does not. We are not facing an existential threat that forces us to surrender individual rights. We do not need to create a new caste system to promote separation from and anger toward the deplorables among us who refuse to comply. Their body, their choice. If they are making a mistake in refusing the vaccine, the harm is theirs. If we who chose to be vaccinated end up facing some unexpected long-term ailments, the harm will be ours. Whichever of these two groups faces the greatest problems in the end, I hope all of us will be compassionate and help make sure that others are treated well. How appalling it is to see so many people online expressing glee when an untouchable passes away, or wishing COVID or worse upon others.
Meanwhile, as pressure against the alleged risk of the unvaccinated seems to be escalating, the government-allied media (GAM) seems to be working overtime to ignore, downplay, or suppress vital news about the scandalous crisis on our southern border, where hundreds of thousands of people have been encouraged to walk into the US without any requirement for vaccination and often without COVID testing, resulting in many thousands of COVID-positive people not just crossing the border but actively being flown to many cities around the country (see, for example, an Oct. 18 New York Post report). How is it that the same government that claims it just wants to save us from harm will force its citizens to be fired if they won’t submit to a vaccine mandate, while not requiring the same of non-citizens who enter illegally? But if you get your news from CNN, for example, you won’t hear much about the border crisis. (My search shows that “crisis” was last used to describe some challenges on the border on Sept. 20, and very little has been said about the obvious COVID risk. A Google search at CNN.com for “COVID border crisis” leads with a CNN “fact check” saying that there’s no solid evidence that immigrants are causing COVID spikes and the real problem is unvaccinated citizens, not the immigrants, whose unvaccinated status is rarely mentioned.) But NBCNews.com did run a story in August noting that between 18%-25% of immigrants tested were COVID positive. If the government is acting in good faith to protect us from a disease so dangerous that it requires spending away much of our future, giving politicians and unelected medical bureaucrats vast new powers, and taking away individual choice with intrusive mandates, why are tens of thousands of COVID-positive people entering our cities not a cause for urgent action that demands much higher priority? The neglect of the border utterly contradicts the claims used to justify the mandates. What we see at play here is something very ugly and political that further undermines trust in government. It’s not about following the science.
If we need a mandate, perhaps what we need now is a mandate for compassion:
- compassion to rescue the many jobs at unnecessary risk,
- compassion for those who have genuine, unanswered questions about the long-term effects of the vaccines on cancer or reproductive health, areas where years more of study may be needed,
- compassion for those who value their privacy, especially medical privacy (the language of the mandate raises some concerns about this), and don’t want to trust their medical records with untrustworthy corporations,
- compassion for those of any color worried about the apparent untrustworthiness of many parts of our government such as the history of medical abuse related to the Tuskegee Experiment,
- compassion for those who have sincere medical or scientific concerns about the vaccines,
- compassion for those who don’t want their employability to require subscribing to whatever medication or booster a central official decrees they must take, regardless of individual circumstances, and
- compassion, not mocking, for those who value personal liberty.
Actually, we already do have a commandment that seems to sum all this up and is far more benign than any political mandate: “love one another.” May we love one another, including the unvaccinated, and in compassion stand up for their rights, their jobs, and freedom of choice, even if we disagree with the choices they make. Ditto for those who are overweight, alcoholic, smokers, or engage in a variety of other risky lifestyle choices like, say, my personal vice of scuba diving (yes, I’m coming out!). We may disagree with the choices they have made, choices which can fill our hospitals and strain our medical system year after year, especially for those who have COVID, but let us not address the problem by requiring companies to fire the overweight or promoting coercion of any kind.
Lat’s drop the mandate, stand in support for those it may harm, and choose instead the greatest commandment of all to address the core problems in this nation. Those problems, by the way, do not include inadequate autocratic power in the hands of a few. But failure to respect those with different views, needs, and choices is a problem we all need to work on. “Love one another” — may this be our domestic and foreign policy, along with “teach correct principles, and let people govern themselves.”
If divide and conquer is the stratagem here, after companies with more than 100 employees buckle and comply as the many millions of the rest of us sit back quietly, the next step could be a mandate for all other companies as well, and then will come vaccine mandates for the children, something already in the works in some regions. I know some good people who are anxious to have their children vaccinated, but I hope all of us can recognize the right of parents to say no, regardless of how safe and effective the vaccines may be. For those who are already or soon will be facing pressure to vaccinate your children, you may wish to read the Wall Street Journal’s Nov. 9 op-ed, “Forced Covid Vaccination for Kids Is Unlawful” by