We’ve been framing everything in California, as well as nationally, as an “us” versus “them” thing for so long that searching for the middle ground is no longer a serious consideration.
Remember the middle ground?
It is where one plants the seeds of lasting change and understanding via solutions that aren’t forged and cast in absolute shades of deep red and deep blue.
It is also the place that allowed this country to advance the most whether it is in blending ethnicities, nationalities, and people of different creeds or coming up with food dishes and technology that created a true American bent in less than 245 years in a world where most other civilized nations can trace their roots back 2,000 years or more.
If the “other side” of the coin is where idiots reside then we are all idiots. The flip side of a coin isn’t of lesser worth simply because it isn’t the prominent side when lying flat.
Perhaps there isn’t a better time to soul search than now, just days after the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
As you read this people 20 years ago — still reacting to the unknown that was perceived as a common enemy — offered little resistance to swift government action for the common good. Commercial flights were grounded. Events large and small cancelled.
There was ugliness but it didn’t manifest itself into hysteria as it did a half century earlier when the United States was last attacked at Pearl Harbor.
Tens of thousands of Americans simply because of their ancestry were not banished to relocation camps, a nice euphemism for locking them up behind fences with armed guards on the perimeters. Yes, there were cases — and still are — of targeted racism aimed at specific groups over the attack but they are not being led by the government being pressured by the populace.
As strange as it sounded 18 months ago and also today, there were those who honestly believed the pandemic by itself would dull our divisions. They never thought it would sharpen them.
Wading through the mire of the debates surrounding face masks and vaccines we’ve very nicely compartmentalized every move as Democrats versus Republicans or more precisely as people who voted for Trump and those who voted for someone else.
If you believe “the resistance” to vaccines and face masks falls squarely on the shoulders of Republicans or all the right moves have been by the “blue team” versus the “red team” you need to bury your biases.
Although you might find Trump’s rhetoric reprehensible it was on his watch that a vaccine was produced in record time. And on the blue team’s watch they are doing their best to walk back political inspired statements they made to sink Trump that only a campaign strategist could love that poisoned the well for some when it comes to getting a shot.
However, that is way too simplistic even though those seeking to sway the masses — or more precisely those that don’t see the world in absolutes of blue and red — were guilty of fear mongering whether it was aimed at Trump or those who opposed the Huey Long of the current American era.
It also nicely glosses over the fact the modern anti-vaccine movement that has expanded significantly during the pandemic in this country was shaped by a liberal — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — in the 1990s. He’s same activist who was leading the charge against fossil fuels as being evil for the environment a decade even before Greta Thunberg was born.
And there are inconvenient details such as pockets of solid blue based on zip codes in hardcore blue states that are as resistant to getting COVID shots as are some of the most hard core “reds” in predominantly red states.
Arguably one of the most insightful observations made regarding vaccines came from Manteca Unified leadership when asked about the vaccination rate among teachers and support staff after Gov. Newsom mandated vaccines or weekly testing to start by the end of this month.
They were asked to explain why the vaccination rate among teachers and other school employees was barely higher than the 65 percent rate of the entire Manteca community as a whole.
The answer: Schools are a microcosm of the community.
That likely holds true across all segments of society including healthcare and public safety workers and even political affiliation when you look at the polls that supposedly tell us the biggest threat is the anti-vax movement as opposed to COVID-19 per se.
The June Gallup polling that asked political affiliation stripped of the “what side do you lean toward” qualifier showed 24% of respondents were Republicans, 30% Democrat, and 44% independent. Actual party registration of both Democrats and Republicans has dropped over the years. Their combined registration dropped from 77% in 2000 to 69% in 2021. Those registered as independents increased from 22% to 28%.
Based on poll responses, actual numbers more than likely includes those who have become more independent over the years but never have bothered to change their registration do not hold 100 percent allegiance to red or blue dogma.
It is against that background we’ve created a ticking economic time bomb when we locked down the economy and put extra ordinary support measures in place it keep people housed and fed.
Whether some variant sucker punches the economy again or we find weaning tens of millions of Americans off of “free money” and worries about making rent or mortgage payments during measures imposed to slow down the spread of COVID, it has created an extremely perilous proposition.
So where do we go from here?
First, we need to stop peddling borderline fairy tales that infers herd immunity will do more than come up with a more palatable mortality rate much like the flu. That doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t needed plus follow up shots such as we do with the flu that mutates as well and still kills in large numbers.
Based on clear trends in the past 18 months of other respiratory viruses dropping significantly when it comes to the damage they inflict and their prevalence — flu and the common cold — there is something significant to masks and improved indoor air circulation and filtering.
Masks are going to have to be a part of our daily routine in a variety of social interactions even with high vaccination rates until we come to grips with an accepted COVID mortality rate.
The Centers for Disease Control has pegged the number of COVID deaths in the United States during 2020 as just over 350,000.
The CDC site lists 95,000 flu deaths in 2018 as the highest annual death toll in the modern era in the USA.
And, yes, neither figure is absolute for a variety of reasons. And there are reputable experts who believe flu deaths were underreported and putting the blame on COVID 100 percent in some cases was a slight overreach.
That said, based on the most reliable matrix we have that gives us something to compare COVID to it is clear masks work at reducing the spread of respiratory viruses as does as many people as possible getting vaccines.
Neither is a 100 percent sure thing even in combination. It never can be with 332.7 million Americans with unique genes and health levels as well as countless ways that we interact with others.
It sounds cold, but we need to find a societal comfort level with annual deaths from COVID whether it is 100,000 or 250,000.
We won’t find that elusive body count as long as both sides persist in framing it as an us versus them thing as opposed to what are seeing in our own communities.
Are we OK with annual deaths attributed to COVID or your neighbors succumbing to COVID?
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.