Does being an American mean that we hold to principles like “America First” and “Me First”?
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
I am going to draw a comparison between the America Firsters in the ‘40s who would have had us far less prepared for WWII, and today’s Me Firsters who are in the process of having us far less prepared to defeat COVID.
In 1940, the America First movement threw its weight behind Wendell Willkie, the Repubican candidate for President running against Franklin Roosevelt in his effort to be elected for an unprecedented third term. The core issue was opposition to Roosevelt’s giving aid to Britain when that country was the lone holdout against Nazi Germany. Wilkie, the Republicans and others including Charles Lindberg, the American superhero who was the first man to fly across the Atlantic, were dead set against entering the war in Europe which had started in September of ‘39. As well the one in Asia which Japan had started in ‘31 with its invasion of Manchuria–10 years before Pearl Harbor.
Most of us are familiar with Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister who believed Hitler’s lies about the limits of Nazi aggression. His naivete had tragic consequences in allowing Hitler to grab more people and more land, and most importantly, more time to strengthen his armed forces. Chamberlain signed the Munich agreement in September of ’38, abandoning Czechoslovakia to Hitler. WWII had a brief start in September of ‘39, with the real war beginning in May of ‘40 with the invasion of Belgium and the fall of France and most of Europe. Had Chamberlain confronted an unprepared Hitler in ‘38, Hitler would either have backed down, or would have been defeated. The extra time was critical to Hitler and his military ambitions. Had Wilkie and the America Firsters won, they would have done far more damage to the Allied effort in WWII than even Chamberlain did. FDR had been busy not only aiding Britain in its struggle against Nazism, but had been pushing hard to strengthen America’s own ability to fight a war, in terms of manpower, training and equipment, a war the President saw as inevitable. And the America Firsters saw as completely avoidable, and certainly not worth the time and expense of preparing for.
Here’s how it works with defending yourself, your country, against a rapidly strengthening opponent that poses a real, significant and devastating threat. You engage and defeat it before it can strengthen to the point where it can defeat your defenses. You completely eliminate the threat, as we did with both Germany and Japan in WWII when we announced that we would accept only unconditional surrender. In effect, we achieved global herd immunity, making it impossible for either Hiller’s Germany or Imperial Japan to rise up yet again–as both had done in the past.
Here’s how it works with defending yourself, your country, against a global, rapidly mutating and strengthening disease like COVID. When nearly everyone gets the vaccine, it’s extremely hard for the virus to spread, so the effectiveness jumps to almost 100%. That’s called herd immunity. That’s the goal. That’s always been the goal. Demanding, and achieving, unconditional surrender from COVID as we did with polio–and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
But is that everyone’s goal? Are many people, about a third of America’s adult population, far more interested in their opinions, their so-called rights, than they are in helping and protecting others? Let’s examine some of the excuses:
- “We do not know the long term effects.” Well, we damn well know the long term effects of having no vaccines. Both India and Brazil have done marginal jobs with the vaccines they have, leading to widespread COVID devastation; imagine the horror if there were no vaccines to begin with. That’s in addition to the trials that led to granting emergency approval for the vaccines, and the billion doses that have been administered globally with only the predicted mild reactions. And look at Israel, a test lab of 8 million people proving the remarkable effectiveness of the vaccines.
- “This is not a vaccine, it is gene therapy.” And why is that bad? It is so easy to remember the shouts and screams of those who protested, “I am not going to allow someone to inject me with a real virus.” In 1796, British doctor Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. This paved the way for the virtual elimination of the worldwide smallpox scourge, a disease that killed 300M people since 1900 alone. Now we have a vaccine that fools the body into developing antibodies without introducing the virus itself. And if that isn’t good enough, take one of the other vaccines, e.g., the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which uses more traditional DNA technology.
- “It is my right not to get vaccinated; moreover, it is none of your business.” The vaccines are not 100% effective. Even if your friends and family are vaccinated, but you’re not vaccinated, you can still carry and spread the virus. And it’s a mistake to think everyone who wants a vaccine can just get one. Some people are on cancer chemotherapy; they can’t be vaccinated–they depend on the herd to protect them. Many of the most vulnerable Americans are counting on their fellow Americans to get vaccinated.
- “I am young and healthy, so I don’t need to be vaccinated.” The B.1.1.7 variant is now the most dominant strain of coronavirus spreading in the United States. And unlike the original strain, this one is heavily impacting young people. Plenty of young, healthy people have turned into Covid 19 “long-haulers.” Many have suffered chronic fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath and brain fog months after their infection.
- “I refuse to get the vaccine. Yours will protect you, so you do you and leave me alone.” The battle cry of the Me Firsters. In order to get to herd immunity, and herd immunity is the only way to achieve eradication of COVID as we did with polio, it is important to vaccinate as many adults as possible as soon as possible. The people who are getting vaccinated are protecting the Me Firsters who refuse. As more people get vaccinated, the less chance there is for the unvaccinated to contract the disease. The people who refuse to get the vaccine, for reasons ranging from not wanting to take a risk to avoiding some sort of inconvenience or discomfort, are being protected by the people who are willing to take a risk, and are willing to stand up to discomfort or inconvenience. The ugly irony is that many of those who refuse to take the vaccine think that the ones who do, the very ones who are helping to protect them, are sheep, government dupes, or other kinds of fools.
We defeated polio worldwide by achieving herd immunity. Where would we be with this horrible disease if a good third of those who needed to be vaccinated refused–as they are doing today with COVID? Look no further than Afghanistan and Pakistan where polio is making a comeback today due to many refusing to be vaccinated. What might our American vaccine refusers have in common with their brother and sister refusers in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
We will close with a view of what three possible COVID worlds might look like. The first is one where vaccines do not exist, and the only protections against COVID are things like masks, social distancing and handwashing, and therapeutics post contracting the disease. The second is a world where we have vaccines, but because of widespread refusal do not achieve herd immunity. COVID struggles including hospitalizations and deaths continue far into the future. The third world is one with nearly everyone getting the vaccine, creating worldwide herd immunity. Which world would you want to live in?
If you want to open up America, get vaccinated. If you are your Brother’s Keeper, get vaccinated. Be a mensch, get vaccinated.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:14
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.