I remember many years ago working with an office assistant who was a chain smoker. She told me that she believed cigarettes were actually good for her lungs and that research linking smoking to cancer was a conspiracy against the tobacco companies.
I think of her when I hear about folks who don’t want to get vaccinated. A gentleman recently told me that he wasn’t going to get vaccinated because, despite the hundreds of millions of folks who have done so safely, he knew better.
“I read about it and know how dangerous the vaccine is,” he told me.
I learned years ago that you can’t have a discussion with these folks, and they are not going to change their minds.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott banned mask mandates in public schools. So much for the Republican Party’s conservative philosophy of local control. As a result of children not wearing masks in Texas, there have been multiple coronavirus outbreaks at summer camps for children. One camp run by a South Texas church involved 125 campers and adults becoming infected, according to the Galveston County Health Department. Hundreds more were exposed at the camp and after the kids returned home.
In 1937, according to the American Auto Association, the number of American fatalities from car accidents was around 30 deaths per 100,000 people. Years of research and car safety mandates by Congress cut that down to about 19 deaths in 1982 and to about 11 in 2018. These mandates included turn signals, padded dashboards, seatbelts, shatter-proof glass, collapsible steering columns, and dozens of other safety features. Today, new cars warn us if we are swerving into another lane or getting too close to the vehicle in front of us.
It took a long time and numerous battles to get here, however. Thanks to people like Ralph Nader, who wrote, “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile,” and advocates in the federal government who made car safety a priority. Instead of fighting safety requirements, most car manufacturers use these features as selling points.
I still remember people saying that they were not going to wear a seat belt because they didn’t want the government telling them what to do. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Same personalities; just replace “seat belt” with “mask” or “vaccination.” Their stubbornness may kill them or a family member, but you can’t argue with them.
When knowledge is a threat to certain industries like gun manufacturers, some believe the answer is to shut down the research. The best example of this is the Dickey amendment named after the late U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas. The Dickey amendment stopped U.S. agencies from conducting research into gun violence after the publication of a 1993 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that people with guns in their homes were significantly more likely to become victims of homicide and suicide than Americans without guns.
The National Rifle Association did not like the sounds of that and got their puppets in Congress to ban all future CDC research on gun violence. The NRA actually tried to close the CDC but settled on ending its gun research. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? How many Republicans in Congress would vote to close the CDC today? A majority, I would guess.
The amazing thing about all of this is that the people who are hurt the most by these politicians are the very supporters of the politicians who are killing efforts to protect them. Take Republican U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, for example. When he heard that President Joe Biden was trying to bring vaccines into local communities to make it easier for citizens to get vaccinated, he said, “Now they’re talking about going door-to-door to take vaccines to the people. Then think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could then go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”
How uninformed – I’m trying to be nice here – do you have to be to think that Biden is using vaccinations as an opportunity to steal your guns and Bibles? Of course, Cawthorn knows better. Yet, he knows that many of his supporters are gullible enough to believe him.
Educated citizens are more difficult for people like Cawthorn to fool and educators are frequently the target of politicians who want to control what is taught in our schools. Basically, they don’t want us to teach anything that might put them in a negative light. You know, like how they are always voting against their citizens’ best interests.
Tom Zirpoli is a professor and coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.