REFLECTIONS/Jonathan Gramling

Jonathan Gramling

Omicron Misgivings

Christmas is coming up this Friday and I have done little to prepare or to get into the mood.

There is so much that divides us these days, things that are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a firm believer in the COVID-19 science and have followed it closely since February 2020 as we could see this epidemiological tsunami sweeping across our land. While I continued to produce a newspaper as well as do the accounting work that my neighborhood center customers and others depended on, I severely adjusted how I did things in order to keep myself and others safe and healthy.

 

My son, on the other hand, has been listening to a different voice, primarily on the Internet in social media. And while he has never described himself as an anti-vaxxer, he sure shows all of the symptoms of being an anti-vaxxer and oftentimes talks about the ‘evidence’ that he sees on the Internet. Unfortunately he has more time to read all of this stuff and I don’t have enough time to read and refute. What seems to be at the heart of it is an almost conspiratorial mistrust of large governmental institutions and corporations. When I told him I was going for my booster shot, he said, in essence, “Why do you trust these people? They are interested in making a lot of money off of the vaccines and boosters and they don’t care about you and what happens to you.”

I had to admit that I really couldn’t refute this because chances are, they don’t care about me at all or know that I exist. And probably they don’t make the vaccines because they care about me. But it’s hard for me to get my son to understand that in this day and age of mass communication of all kinds, they won’t deliberately create something and then market something that will kill me. It just isn’t good business. Now if they unintentionally screw up, it doesn’t mean they might not try to cover it up while they recoup their investment. Killing off your customers is not a good way to keep market share.

But I made sure that my son knew I was going for my booster because I wanted to be proof to him that the booster works. I wanted to be his guinea pig by which he could judge the loose and misleading “facts” that he gets on the Internet. I hope that flesh and blood proof will mean more that some unresearched conspiracy theories invented by people who should be writing fictional novels.

This whole issue spills over, of course, into our extended family. We have gotten together on Christmas Eve since I can remember my existence on this earth. And my son has been a part of the festivities since he was a baby. Outside of him living in China for a few years, he has been at these extended family Christmas Eve gatherings.

And he loves family and I know that this Christmas Eve gathering is important to him. But I think because of this anti-vaccination stuff, he somehow feels discriminated against, that he is being rejected by other people because he refuses to get a COVID-19 vaccine. And I am sure he gets reinforcement for this opinion by his “peers” on the Internet.

It is the rugged individualism of the anti-vaxxer “theology,” that government is being oppressive and robbing people of their individual rights, the “I should be able to do anything I want to do regardless of how it impacts people” attitude that doesn’t allow my son the space to be empathetic. I think there are other factors in his life that make him feel vulnerable and the decision to be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated gives him some feeling of control over his life.

But it doesn’t allow him, through empathy, to understand how other people feel.

I have one brother — my son’s uncle — who caught the Delta variant even though he was vaccinated and he still comments on the “brain fog” that he experiences.

I have several nieces and nephews who also contracted COVID-19 and some experienced severe symptoms with one having a health condition being triggered by COVID-19 that will force him to take steroids for the rest of his life. These are people in my son’s life — people whom I know he cares about and loves — who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

I come from a family where some members could have health conditions that would be exacerbated by COVID-19, but would never reveal that condition to other family members. For all my son knows, there could be people in his family whose conditions would make COVID-19 deadly.

We don’t know that and perhaps those conditions don’t exist, but don’t you take precautions just because of the possibility?

I’ve had family members ask me if I am concerned because I could get infected because my son is no vaccinated. It is what it is and I have to live with those chances.

And so COVID-19 and Omicron — doesn’t that sound like a Transformer? — perhaps through the false facts of the Internet, are dividing my family. And at this time, I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to leave my son alone — and I understand this is his decision — on Christmas. But at the same time, my brothers and sisters won’t live forever and so every Christmas spent with them is precious.

Darn those purveyors of vaccination conspiracies on the Internet. They don’t care — and probably don’t know — the pain and suffering that they inflict. But it doesn’t matter to them. They are empowered. Isn’t that a pity? Isn’t that a shame?

I hope all of you are united with family and loved ones this holiday season. Be blessed!