The divisions in American society keep building, despite all the talk of tolerance and unity. Divisions between the genders, as well as between the gendered and nongendered. Divisions between the races. Between the different legal classes of immigrants. Between the religious and the secular, the Ivy League-educated and the Midwestern farmer, and between those thriving on the global economy and those tied to and dependent on their local communities. But now, yet another division has been added: between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
Never before has someone who has refused a particular medical treatment been so ostracized and condemned. And yet, the division has gone beyond just the difference between those who have received the shot and those who haven’t. The vaccinated/unvaccinated division now comprises a distinct political subset all its own.
The battle lines between vaccinated and unvaccinated mirror other combative fronts within society. The mistrust of the unvaccinated toward the aims and methods of the vaccine advocates reflects the mistrust of urban minorities toward the police. The harsh and condemning invectives hurled by the vaccine-pushers against the unvaccinated reflect those hurled by secularists against religious believers. The unvaccinated don’t just pose a health risk to COVID; they constitute a subversive group that threatens the very fabric of democracy.
In viewing the unvaccinated in the same light as it sees terrorists, the political left seems surprised, even shocked, at the emergence of this allegedly dangerous group. But it shouldn’t be surprised. The mistrust that the unvaccinated now harbor toward the vaccine-pushers is a direct result of the seeds of mistrust planted by the political left a half-century ago.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the political left waged an endless war on the alleged corruption of government and the leadership elite. The 1960s political revolution preached mistrust of government and all governing establishments. In the 1970s, the social and cultural revolution turned against all the nongovernmental institutions in society. The family, the neighborhood, the church, the employer – all were corrupt and in need of either drastic reform or abandonment. Consequently, by the time the 21st century arrived, the political left had succeeded in cultivating the seedlings of mistrust throughout American society.
Now that the left has succeeded in discrediting nearly every American social and cultural institution, it has turned full circle back to where it began – the federal government. Except now, the left wants Americans to place all their trust in the bureaucracies of central government. Now that little if any trust remains toward any social institution, the left wants all Americans to give their unquestioned loyalty and trust to the one institution at which the left first aimed its campaign of mistrust.
It is no wonder that wide reaches of American society refuse to trust the vaccination messages of the political left. Those liberal elites who call farmers and factory workers and rural residents the “deplorables” of society now insist that vaccinations are essential to life and membership in democratic society. Even though they once derided people as “deplorables,” the liberal elite now say they want to save and protect them. Is it no wonder that mistrust exists?
Maybe the “deplorables” can’t resist all the laws and regulations coming out of Washington; maybe they can’t stop the cancel culture; maybe they can’t keep from being fired for their religious beliefs – but they can at least prevent a needle from being put into their arm. Maybe…the choice to not vaccinate is the only real choice they have left against a political elite that has previously shown no regard of them.
Patrick M. Garry, vaccinated, is a professor of law with a Ph.D. in constitutional history at the University of South Dakota Law School