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You Are Not Alone
Really and truly, you're not.
“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’”
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1997, in his final book, Timequake
I have been hearing from people who feel very much alone. People who are grateful that I and many others are speaking up and out. We who speak up are publicly analyzing trends and claims. We refuse to kowtow to authoritarians, including the ones who wear lab coats or have fancy degrees or work at legacy institutions. And we call out bullshit when we see it. Because I am one such public voice who has been standing for science and against newspeak, I know this for sure: You are not alone.
You, the people whom I hear from, span all the demographic markers: young and old, rich and poor, so many skin colors and ethnicities and nationalities, religious affiliations and levels of education, politics and professions and predilections. What most of you do not have is the knowledge that there are many others like you—others who “feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about.” These others are likely walking on the very same streets that you walk on. They blend in. They self-censor. They are tired, and scared, and thus they are, mostly, mute.
How many times have you recently heard that “Covid is over.” Aren’t cases rising? Didn’t the President just did get two back-to-back cases? Aren’t we, in fact, stuck with this damnable virus forever now, and oughtn’t we be thinking about that with some care and forethought? Instead, tracks are being covered—we never said that the vaccine would stop transmission! (Yes, yes you did.) Old stories are being dusted off and trotted out—it came from the seafood market! (Nice try, but no.) Early treatment with anything but the newest pharma fix is mocked and sidelined, and we continue to see evidence of mass formation in, among other things, the mantra “yeah, I got Covid, but at least I’m vaccinated and boosted!”
Those of us who cannot help but see these inconsistencies are bewildered by how many around us are blind. It can feel willful, the blindness. In some cases, no doubt, it is. But in many others, it is not.
As one correspondent recently said to me, the responses that come back when she tries to share information—links to research papers, reports put out by the CDC, the WHO, the NIH, Pfizer, more—are varied, and yet all lead to the same conclusion.
“I won’t look at that,” some say, simply. At least it’s honest.
“Trump owns the CDC,” others have told her, rather bizarrely (and erroneously).
“I am not interested in conspiracy theories,” goes a favorite retort. Conspiracy theory is a highly useful epithet: it can be wielded with no evidence, and leaves a stain behind on all that it touches. (“Anti-vaxxer” works in much the same fashion.)
“I won’t participate in denialism,” is another response, as if information itself can be denial, and as if rejecting some avenues of inquiry before assessing them isn’t, itself, a form of denialism.
And finally, there’s this go-to response for any who want their interlocutor to leave them alone already, “I don’t have time.”
We all make our choices, don’t we. We all don’t make time for some things that we know we ought to. In those failures to prioritize some things over others, we reveal our preferences. We also, many of us, crave more simplicity, fewer choices, fewer moving parts in our complicated lives. So it is understandable that, when asked to consider something that is complex, outside of one’s own expertise, and about which all of the journalistic and public health world assures you that you would be a fool to spend any time considering at all, many people simply say no. No I won’t. No that stinks of Trump. No that’s a conspiracy. No I’m not that kind of person. No I’m not listening. No I can’t hear you. No. I. Won’t.
Put the “no I won’t” people in your life aside for the moment. Their choices are their own. Consider instead those whom you do not yet know—the clerks and baristas, the customer service representatives and delivery people, your new neighbors down the street, or the guy sitting next to you at the bar. Consider that maybe they, too, don’t believe everything we have been told you must believe in order to be a good person. And consider opening up to them, just a little, and seeing what happens.
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