My Fruitless Debate with an Anti-Vaxxer

I had to try.

A friend whom I’ve always highly respected nearly died from COVID-19 recently. He lost 75 pounds and was in the hospital for two weeks, part of that time on a ventilator. His wife was in a hospital room nearby, going through the exact same thing. You guessed it: They weren’t vaccinated. Fortunately they survived, much to the shock of their medical teams.

To make matters worse, he has lost his government job because proof of vaccination is now required. He’s under the impression that he has a chance to get it back, but as they are no longer accepting religious exemptions, I know he’s out of luck. And he was great at that job. He loved it.

This is a wonderful man whom I’m happy to call a friend, but we’ve always studiously avoided talking politics or religion, because I think we both instinctively knew that we are polar opposites when it comes to those topics. And because I value his friendship, I did my best to hold my tongue about this. Truly, I did. But the other day my crashing disappointment with his ill-informed and nearly deadly choices bubbled to the surface, and I found myself incapable of keeping my mouth shut.

You already know how this turned out. I did not change his mind one whit. And I’m quite sure I went about everything the wrong way, but I had to try.

In essence, it felt like I was trying to deprogram someone who had been a member of a destructive cult for years. Needless to say, I have no training in this arena. He kept texting me misinformation and I was able to debunk every single thing, point by point, with readily available facts. I read the information on the links he sent me in order to debunk them, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t click on any of my links, because he did not want his mind to be changed.

Oddly enough, I totally get that. Think about it. If he were to come to his senses at this point, he’d be forced to admit to himself that he and his wife nearly died, and he lost his dream job, due to his own foolish choices. He’d also have to conclude that his religious and political leaders do not have his best interests at heart, and he has been duped. His entire worldview would have to fundamentally change. That would be a very hard pill to swallow. I wouldn’t want to be in that position.

He started off by saying that God told him not to get vaccinated. I wasn’t going to get into a religious debate with the man, so I let this point slide, but I’m fairly certain that unless God showed up at his kitchen table, sandals and all, and chatted about the subject over a cup of tea, he didn’t say a word. If the God of my understanding were to encourage me to put my life, and the lives of others, at risk, I’d have a hard time with that. And if that same God encouraged me to reject science, when he theoretically was the one to give us brains for the scientific research in the first place, I’d be done with him. My friend is mistaking the word of his misguided preacher, along with a heaping helping of misinformation from Fox News and a steady diet of confirmation bias, for the word of God.

This makes me really sad, because he’s an intelligent man. I truly believe that. But somewhere along the way he never quite acquired critical thinking skills, and then was taught that blind faith is superior to any thinking at all. Beware of anyone who tries to teach you that.

He kept sending me links from obscure websites, and their articles had no confirmation or validation from any credible source. I kept asking him to provide multiple sources, and he couldn’t. For me that would be a red flag, but he was too busy being blindly faithful to see it.

He also said he had natural immunity now, so he didn’t need the shot. I sent him a report from the CDC that says that “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.”

I’m sure that fell on deaf ears. He has been told not to trust the CDC, and since he’s faithful and unquestioning, he is unable to see why that’s a horrible idea. I’m quite sure he thinks that vaccinations are a part of some huge liberal conspiracy. Never mind that 163,000 unvaccinated Americans have needlessly died since June per the Kaiser Family Foundation, and all the hospitals are overwhelmed. Minor details.

Next, he hit me with a link from a website that is so suspect that I won’t even provide the link here, for fear that you’ll be overwhelmed with spam and malware. In fact, when I did a google search asking if this site was legitimate, I discovered that Scam-detector.com gives it a score of 26.9, based on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being the most reputable.

But the article says that 317 athletes have had cardiac arrest and 170 of them have died after taking the shot. The article comes with a really sketchy video that shows athletes collapsing during games all over the world. I watched this video. It shows different news reporters talking about athletes collapsing, yes, but it doesn’t show when these reports were done, and it cuts them off before they mention what the cause of the collapse was. It’s only the sketchy website that draws the conclusion that this is all recent and COVID related.

I pointed all that out to him, and also mentioned that my whole life, I’ve seen stories of athletes collapsing during games. It’s not particularly unusual. I also pointed out that this article is not only not confirmed by other news sources, but also that it is debunked by this article, which says that “there is no connection between COVID-19 vaccines and sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.” (And, incidentally, that website has a score of 85.6 from Scam-detector.com.)

For some reason I thought I could appeal to my friend’s under-exercised logic, too, so I pressed on. I said, “Even if that were true, it’s a small statistical sample. Let’s do the math. Using that small sample, all of us who were vaccinated would be having cardiac arrest, and 53% of people who get the shot would be dying. So far, 194,747,839 Americans have gotten the shot. If your sample were true, then 103,216,355 of us would be dead by now.”

No response to that. But then he said, “the VAERS websites for America and the UK are pretty informative.”

All right. I’ll bite. I hopped on over to VAERS, which stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and which is, indeed, run by CDC (which shows that he’ll believe CDC if their reports are twisted enough to agree with his beliefs), and I could debunk him pretty quickly. VAERS is a passive reporting system, which means it’s not statistically accurate and the site itself reiterates that on nearly every page, saying that it’s not designed to determine if vaccines cause a health problem. In Addition, even a quick look at it on Wikipedia turns up this information: “As it is based on submissions by the public, VAERS is susceptible to unverified reports, misattribution, underreporting, and inconsistent data quality. Raw, unverified data from VAERS has often been used by the anti-vaccine community to justify misinformation regarding the safety of vaccines; It is generally not possible to find out from VAERS data if a vaccine caused an adverse event, or how common the event might be.

All this information seems rather convincing to me, but his only response was, “I appreciate and respect your opinion. I hope you’ll do the same with mine.”

That made me get tears in my eyes. He’s a decent guy. And while I do appreciate that he shared his beliefs with me, I cannot respect opinions that are so easily debunked, especially when it relates to people’s very lives. I just can’t. All I could say is that his coworkers would really, really miss him.

I suspect that will be the last time I hear from my friend. I am not going to try to force it. I’d still like to be friends, but I wouldn’t want to breathe the same air that he does, and that might make things awkward. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why republicans want to kill off their base. Their misinformation and their desire to make this about the rights of individuals, even though public health impacts us all, is, indeed, killing them. The statistics bear this out. Check out the graph below, and read this article for more details.

Public Health should NEVER have been politicized. It’s too important. And it’s way too easy to prove that vaccines are important. When’s the last time you saw a child die of Polio?

In recent days, even Trump has encouraged people to get vaccinated. Such is the dire state of this pandemic. He admits that he got two vaccines and a booster himself. So did Sean Hannity, the hypocrite. But they can’t unring that disastrous anti-vax bell. People have too much pride to admit they’ve been led astray. It’s heartbreaking that so many people will die needlessly because of it.

People who don’t get vaccinated are not only foolhardy, but they are also selfish. As long as they persist in their inaccurate beliefs, this pandemic will continue to rage on. The virus will continue to morph in those carriers, and people will continue to die, all alone, even as they assert their independence. It’s all so unnecessary.

Sigh. I’m so frustrated and disappointed. I’m so sad. And most of all, I’m tired to the very marrow of my bones.

Incidentally, my blog gets a 75.7 score from Scam-Detector.com, which indicates that it is “Standard. Valid. Common.” And more importantly, safe to use. It says it would have gotten a higher score if the site hadn’t ranked zero in popularity. Well, ouch. You guys need to start sharing my posts with friends!

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The Waste of a Perfectly Good Little Old Lady

Be a force for good.

If I make it to the age of 72, if I’m in relatively good health and if I have the good fortune to be able to retire, I hope I’m doing something with that amazing extra time. I hope I’m using myself as a force for good. I hope I’m volunteering for a few hours a week, and/or keeping up with my little free library and/or mentoring someone and/or cultivating a healthy organic garden. Something positive, no matter how small.

I believe that everyone makes some type of impact on this world. Only you can decide what kind of an impact you will make. There’s a wide spectrum that can range somewhere between dedicating every waking hour to some form of service, or, at the opposite extreme, being a completely toxic waste of space that everyone secretly wishes would hurry up and die already. (Harsh, but true.) I’d like to fall on the more positive end of that spectrum, but I doubt I’ll be too radical. I’m not Mother Teresa. Even in my 50’s I do cherish my spare time and my naps. But I hope that if I’m capable of acting at all, I’m able to be an asset, not act like a despicable liability.

Here’s what I will not do, under any circumstances. I will not cause my neighbors to fear for their lives, as Jan Myers, 72, of Shoreline, Washington has done. According to this article, she has been charged with one count of malicious harassment, but in essence she has made the life of one of her Vietnamese-American neighbors a living hell.

Apparently this toxic woman has been hurling racial slurs at her neighbor for years, but recently it escalated into actual threats. She started driving her car up and down the road, yelling for her neighbor to come out, calling her names, and saying that she (the neighbor) wasn’t going to live very long. Myers, of course, is denying everything, but that contradicts the multiple cell phone videos that her neighbor showed the police.

I feel so sorry for her neighbor. No one should be made to feel unsafe in one’s own home. It should be a sanctuary. It should be the one place where you can count on feeling secure, unjudged, and completely yourself.

I wish I knew who that neighbor was so that I could go over and befriend her, take her flowers or cookies or something, and let her know that not everyone feels the way Myers does. I’d exchange contact information with her, and tell her that if that evil old bat threatens her again, just call me and I’ll come over and stand by her side, and that my home would always be a safe place to come to as well. I hope that if her other neighbors see what is going on, they have done so. We all need to take care of one another.

If you haven’t learned how to be a decent human being by age 72, you are wasting your gift of longevity. If all you can do is hate, and make the people around you be afraid and miserable, you are doing nothing but taking up space in this world and making it a much worse place. Is that really the hill you want to die on? I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy at any time in life, but especially not in my later years. I want to make those years golden, not sh** brown.

Just sayin’.

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Discouraging

How dare you?

Recently, someone I know spent a great deal of time trying to talk a friend out of getting a divorce. She was convinced that this divorce would be the worst possible thing her friend could do. She applied a lot of pressure and created a ton of doubt. The jury is still out as to whether she changed her friend’s mind.

But the whole time this was going on, I was thinking, “How dare you?”

First of all, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in any relationship. And it’s not for you to decide how someone else is to live life. Even if what that person is doing seems like a monumental mistake, it could be the catalyst that brings on greater things for him or her in the future. At the very least, the experience may be an important life lesson. The choices one makes are what shape that individual. You don’t have the right to determine someone else’s shape.

In my opinion, the only time you should try to intervene in another person’s decision-making process is when that person is contemplating suicide. Because that’s the one choice in life from which one cannot turn back. Give your opinion about other things if asked, yes. But don’t get all definitive unless someone is about to step off a cliff.

I came by this belief the hard way. Once, I was in a relationship that was making my life so miserable that I decided it was time to move on. I had all my stuff packed. I had decided what to say. I was ready.

And then I made the mistake of telling my oldest sister. And she screamed at me. Because she liked the guy.

At the time, my self esteem was so low that that was all the discouragement I needed. Maybe she was right. Maybe this was a huge mistake. I mean, he was a nice guy. A great guy. Was it his fault that he left me feeling unfulfilled and alone? Was it his fault that I felt as though we had no common goals, that we were working toward nothing, and that our future would forever be exactly the same as our dreary present? Was it his fault that I felt more like his mother than his partner? It’s not like he beat me or cheated on me. What were the odds that I’d wind up with anyone better?

And so, with tears in my eyes, I unpacked. And he never knew. And we stayed together for another 12 long, miserable, unsatisfying years. What a waste. What an unbelievable waste. For both of us, because he certainly deserved more, too. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

Discouragement is an interesting word, when you think about it. It basically means that you are taking away someone’s courage. No one has a right to do that. Ever.

Discourage

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The Gifts We Give Ourselves

We are capable of giving ourselves many gifts, indeed.

So, today is my birthday. I’ve written before about how short-changed we Christmas babies are. And frankly, at this point in the season, I’m kind of over the idea of celebrating.

Maybe birthdays ought to be a day in which we take a moment to celebrate ourselves. We give ourselves many gifts throughout the year. They may not be wrapped up in a big bow, but still, they are gifts.

Doing the right thing is a gift, as is making the hard, but rational, choices. Not eating that third, delicious slice of pie because you know that in the end it will make you feel sick is a gift. Saying no is often the biggest gift you can give yourself, because it isn’t easy, but in the end it’s such a relief. And saying yes is a gift too, because sometimes you need to take a risk and push that outer envelope.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a huge gift, and it often reaps unexpected rewards. Giving people space to be themselves is a gift, because it enriches your world. Giving a hug is like receiving a gift, and it often keeps on giving.

A great gift to give is cutting yourself a little slack. There are plenty of people out there who are going to be hard on you. You should not be one of them.

The biggest gift we give ourselves is acting with integrity, being kind, and treating others with respect, because until we do these things, we cannot expect them in return.

So today, and every day of the year, give yourself a gift. Celebrate the wonderful person you are. By doing that, you’re giving a gift to the world.

Gift.jpg

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What Mother Does This?

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and wonder how I ever made it to adulthood.

I have zero desire to be a parent. I have no idea what it’s like, and I don’t want to. But I do know that if I had become a parent, there are certain things that I would have never done.

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and wonder how I ever made it to adulthood. My mother was an amazing human being. You’d have loved her. Everybody did. I’d never be writing this post if she were still alive. But I have to say that some of the choices she made with regard to my upbringing leave me absolutely speechless now that I’m looking back at them as an adult.

I won’t even get into the whole looking-the-other-way-while-I-was-sexually-abused thing. That’s a subject for another day. I’m just too worn out to even tackle that topic.

No. Today I remembered something that makes my adult eyes widen in horror, and sorry, I need to vent. So here goes.

When I was about 8 years old, my mother, my stepfather and I went camping. We had a little trailer and we stayed in a very nice campground. So far, so good.

But after we got there, the campground manager approached us and said that a violent offender had escaped the local prison and police would be searching the area, so we should probably stay in our trailer and lock the door. No sooner had he said that when we saw a helicopter fly overhead with a spotlight. The guy was close.

So we sat in the locked trailer. I don’t know how long we were in there. I was 8, so it seemed like an eternity. My mother was content. You have never seen anyone get lost in a book the way that woman could. My stepfather, too, was content. He fell asleep sitting up, as he was wont to do. The man spent very little time conscious, which suited me right down to the ground. I, on the other hand, was bored silly.

I guess my mother finally got sick and tired of my whining, so she let me sit outside at the picnic table. She kept the door open, but locked the screen door. Safety first, I suppose. For them, at least.

It was pitch black outside. I saw police flashlights in the woods in the distance. I was fascinated by the helicopter.

Then, out of the darkness, I saw a scruffy man approaching. Suddenly I was aware of my vulnerability. I went to the screen door and whispered, “Mom…”

I didn’t want to draw his attention, in case he was the bad guy and he wasn’t heading specifically to our site. I didn’t want him to notice me. And being the respectful child that I was, I also didn’t want to insult him with my fear if it turned out he was one of the good guys. I whispered again. “Ma…”

She was lost in her book. And her parental radar, which was feeble at the best of times, was apparently switched off. My stepfather slept on.

The guy was getting closer. I was terrified. Even after all these years, I can feel my heart beating a little faster just thinking about it. “Maaaaaaaa…” I hissed.

When she finally looked up, I was clawing at the screen door and the man was looming over me.

“You should get your kid inside, Ma’am. It’s not safe out here.”

So she unlocked the screen door and let me in.

And then she yelled at me for not saying something.

It was awful then, but I didn’t grasp how outrageous the situation was, because stuff like that happened all the time to me. I still have a hard time feeling safe to this day.

But from an adult perspective… damn! Who does that? What mother does that?

Jeez. My inner child needs a hug.

Vulnerable by Julia Galemire

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Forgotten Bruises

I bruise easily. So easily, in fact, that I think my sister worried for a time that I was a battered woman, when I truly wasn’t. I’m just a pale-skinned klutz, is all.

Quite often I can’t even say what caused a bruise. Many times, when I bump into a door knob (or whatever happens to be the offending solid), I say to myself, “I should write this down, because I’m going to be black and blue, and I’ll forget why.” But I never do. (Write it down, I mean. I pretty much always forget why.)

It kind of makes me wonder about the other forgotten bruises in my life– namely, the emotional ones. I know I’ve earned the right to be cautious in relationships, for example, but do I really remember all the causes for this caution? How will I ever know for sure?

Maybe that’s a blessing. I doubt many of us want to dwell on all the slings and arrows we’ve experienced in our lives. And I am grateful that I’m still willing to take a chance when a wonderful person crosses my path.

But on the other hand, it might be helpful to know why I’m overreacting in a certain situation, or why I’m making a choice that even I can see isn’t particularly rational. The bottom line is that we are all a product of our past experiences. The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to understand your gut reactions.

But I’m beginning to think that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to sometimes take that x factor into account: the forgotten bruises. They made an impact, too. And while it would be great to always know what makes you tick, the honest truth is that you won’t. Not always. That’s what makes us human. So be gentle with yourself, dear reader. Just do the best that you can.

bruise

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Staying Out of Trouble

At the risk of sounding ultra-conservative (heaven forefend), I really don’t get it when people are incapable of staying out of trouble. I mean, I understand making mistakes, believe me. I’ve screwed up a time or two. But when you do it over and over and over again, and can practically hear Dr. Phil whispering in your ear, “How’s that workin’ for you?” You really have to wonder.

Is it about bad choices? Because I’ve managed to choose not to break the law my whole life long. It’s not always easy. I’d love to grab that brand new suede jacket and run like the wind, but I choose not to. Sure, I’d like a little instant gratification every now and then, but the first time you tried to play with a candle flame as a child, you should have learned that actions have consequences.

Is it about feeling like you have no choices at all? I can relate to that, too. I’ve lived in a tent. I’m 53 years old and I’ve only just now managed to scratch and claw myself to the very murky, sketchy bottom of the middle class. And I know darned well I’ll never be able to retire. Things are stacked against the 98%. It sucks. But at least I can look myself in the mirror.

You see, I never had much. But I knew I had integrity, and that no one could ever steal that from me. I could, however, give it away. I chose not to. Because it was all I had.

I guess what it all boils down to is what’s most important to you. Possessions? Control over others? Or your own self-worth? Maybe think about that before robbing your next liquor store. Because that money isn’t going to stay with you. Neither will the drugs. In the end, all you have is you.

handcuffs

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The Choices We Can’t See

“So, why didn’t you do it like this?” She asked.

“Because it never occurred to me,” I replied.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a similar conversation, both as the inquisitor and as the embarrassed person who failed to find the obvious solution. It makes you wonder how many choices are out there that you just never see.

That’s why I always find it so helpful to discuss issues with third parties. Inevitably, they bring a unique perspective to the table. Not that I always take their advice, but it is always good to have alternatives.

It’s almost as if the fifth dimension (rather than being a band that sings about the Age of Aquarius), is a land of invisible options. It’s a place that we sense, but can’t seem to access, try as hard as we might.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” I ask, while pressing my nose against the window of that quirky dimension.

I suppose that if we always got things right, there would be no challenges in this world. There would be no room for improvement, and nothing to strive for. It would certainly squelch all creativity and innovation. What would be the point?

I like the concept that there are choices out there that we don’t see. I like unlimited possibilities. I only hope that we figure things out at the most critical junctures, because much hangs in the balance. But it kind of makes me wonder if it’s ever possible to get something completely “right”.

L0027293 The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biom

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My Run-In with the Random Word Generator

Sometimes I can’t think of a thing to blog about. Today was one of those days. I was getting rather desperate, so I consulted the Random Word Generator. Perhaps it would inspire me to break through this blockage.

The first word it gave me was “lip”. No. I’m sorry. Maybe this was a bad idea. What on earth could I do with the word lip? Nothing. That’s what.

I kind of got irritated. Curse you, Random Word Generator! You were supposed to save me! But I’m not one to give up. (Especially when I can’t think of anything else to do.)

I noticed that the generator allows one to choose the number of words that get generated at a time. What would be good? Three, I decided. And this was what I got:

unfortunate memory cancer

Okay, granted, that’s a bit bleak, but really, when you think about it, it ought to be a thing. Because who among us doesn’t have memories that they wish they could forget? The sound of Trump’s voice springs to mind.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind erasing some of my past relationships, from beginning to end. I’d also like to apply chemotherapy to some of the idiotic choices I’ve made in the past. And those bell bottoms that I wore in the 70’s? Blot them out of existence. Please. I’m begging you.

True confession: I’ve been getting more forgetful lately, and it’s scaring me half to death. But on second thought, it might have its advantages. Who knows what unfortunate memory cancers I’ve already been cured of?

Brain_memory

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Adult-y Chores

I was feeling petulant, so I did what petulant people do these days. I left a snarky post on Facebook:

Screenshot-2017-10-20 Barbara Abelhauser

“There’s nothing worse than adult-y chores,” I was thinking. I had to go to the dentist and get a filling. I had to have the rear struts on my car replaced. I had to go to a home improvement store and buy 3 huge bundles of fiberglass insulation to put on the under-floor of my house. I had to grocery shop and get gas. I was tired and grumpy just thinking about it. And to make things even more special, it was raining. I would have greatly preferred staying in bed and cuddling with my dog Quagmire.

Then a friend responded to my post, “Just remember what it was like being a powerless child. Those chores are ok by me.”

Whoa! Perspective!

That’s a very good point. I still go into a bit of a panic when I’m feeling powerless. And that was my status quo as a kid. Sometimes I felt like the only logical person in my world, and yet I wasn’t taken seriously. I could see disasters on the horizon, and I’d speak up, and not be heard. And then sure enough… catastrophe. It was frustrating.

I absolutely hate not being heard. I’ll take a visit to the dentist every day of the week, rather than go back to that powerless place of childhood. As an adult, I get to make choices. They may not always be fun choices, but at least they are mine. There’s an awful lot to be said for that.

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