I received my second vaccination on Monday. I had a minor reaction for a day or so, but since then I’ve been fine. What a miracle! I can go into the world (still masked, of course) confident that I will not contract Covid-19 (or give it to anyone else) and that soon I may be able to be about my life with something approaching normalcy—although I realize that the new normal will always be unlike anything we’ve previously experienced. I am so privileged and so blessed.
The experience was smooth and efficient and, of course, painless. But in the process of receiving my inoculation, I thought about two groups of people who continue to be unvaccinated. The first are those who are marginalized and have become victims of our uneven system of benefits in this country. Just like with the pandemic itself, this group is disproportionately represented by people of color, rural people—especially in tribal areas, poor and homeless people and those with disabilities.
A caring society is truly measured by how it supports those the Bible calls “the least of these” (Matthew, chapter 25). In 21st century America, our deeply-rooted empathy deficit has left those on the margins out of sight, and therefore out of mind. We owe a collective debt of gratitude to advocacy groups who maintain their diligence in assuring that disenfranchised communities are served this life-saving remedy to the greatest health crisis in more than a century.
My heart goes out to these individuals and families for the suffering they continue to endure even as I experience the gentle euphoria that soon I will be able to get together with family, visit our children—both of whom have moved into new homes that we have yet to see—and gather with friends.
Despite the Biden administration’s admirable roll-out of the vaccine, the pandemic is not yet over. Individuals continue to become infected. Hospitals continue fill. Sadly, people continue to die. Unless we remain vigilant, we will not be free of this virus. And as we expand the lens to include the international community, there is so much work to do. Until we are all—the whole world—free from the virus, no one is free.
The second group I thought about as I waited the necessary fifteen minutes after my shot evoked an entirely different emotion. These are the people who refuse to be vaccinated for political reasons—those who are obstinate in their rejection of science, find conspiracies in the efforts of skilled professionals who seek a cure for the virus, distrust well-meaning public servants as being part of a deep-state charade to profit from the vaccines and who are so self-centered as to see mask-wearing as a limit on their freedom instead of a pathway to freedom from the virus. Polls show that almost one-half of men who identify as Republican refuse to be vaccinated. Resistance to common sense mitigation efforts has prompted CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to say she has a feeling of “impending doom.”
So, while I grieve for those who, through no fault of their own, are denied access to the virus, I continue to be frustrated by and angry with those among us who have deceived themselves into disbelieving that vaccination is a vital step forward in waging war on this relentless virus. I guess we need to pray that somehow their hearts and minds are opened. The health of us all hinges in the balance.
We are in the midst of Holy Week, the most sacred time in the Christian calendar, culminating in Easter. Last Sunday was a special day for major faith traditions. Muslim families observed Shab E Barat, Christians families observed Palm Sunday, Jewish families observed Passover, and Hindu families observed Holi and Panguni Uthirum. It is a very rare occurrence that these Holy Days coincide, and it is a spiritually uplifting reminder as we all pray/meditate differently but to some form of Transcendence, that we need to continue offering our thoughts, prayers and actions for peace, justice and the dignity for all in our fractured world.