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Ron W. Smith: America’s can-do spirit has been replaced by a pandemic of won’t-do

The blame for the ongoing pandemic belongs to those who resist vaccines.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters waving American flags and holding signs decrying mask and vaccine mandates gathered along the curb of 700 East in Liberty Park Saturday, making Salt Lake City one of dozens of cities around the world protesting public health-related restrictions, Sept. 18, 2021.

Who would’ve thought that the COVID-19 pandemic that arrived on American shores early in 2020 would still be going strong across the country two years later? With modern medical science and American can-do, no challenge is too great, right?

Wrong. We’ve forgotten about American won’t-do; the relatively recent manifestation of a problem known here for a long time: believing too easily.

Won’t-do in this case is unwillingness to be vaccinated. Among the great many reasons volunteered, two that stand out to me are ones seldom offered, too little concern for the common good and a great deal of concern for personal freedom.

It’s no matter that a 100% fully vaccinated population would pretty much shut down the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States and enable resumption of life as known before 2020. No matter at all. The attitude that “The government can’t tell me what to do, I have my rights” has won the day, probably many more months, maybe additional years of COVID-19 and its variants.

Ah, yes, the luxury in America of putting oneself above the common good and having the freedom to think and do as we wish, both well fed by abundant “information” filling the internet and airwaves 24/7.

But that won’t help us in the case of what is euphemistically called “vaccination hesitancy,” which has us all going through another winter of masking, distancing, closures, overtaxed hospitals and staffs, longer and longer lines for testing, ever-increasing case numbers, avoidable hospitalizations and deaths.

Children, once less likely victims, are also now hospitalized in greater numbers and, with COVID-19 and variants rampant, are faced with the possibility of adding yet another year of less-than-the-best educational experience in K-12 at a time when only the best is needed for their future and the country’s.

Wailing parents and politicians blame teachers, their unions and schools in general for shutdowns and yet more of that underdeveloped substitute, virtual learning. What they forget in their blame game is that it is the unvaccinated who have controlled the situation from the get-go, caused daily case counts to rise and the pandemic to go on and on.

And now, we’re finally hearing about the expenses associated with vaccination-avoidance. You won’t be believing too easily that they’re mounting by the day — and with no end in sight, billions likely. For the fiscally conservative, that should be nightmare number one — avoidable spending on their watch.

Thank goodness, then, for a scapegoat — the Biden administration’s endless pursuit of spending on social programs with its assorted threats to the tax-averse and to national indebtedness.

With so many of the unvaxxed in their political base and votes at stake in the upcoming mid-terms, count on conservatives to take full messaging advantage of the trillions the Democrats want foolishly to spend on plain people and what the late Rush Limbaugh often saw as “free stuff.”

To repeat the obvious, it isn’t the 62% fully vaccinated who are behind our country’s virus-induced woes, it’s the other 38%. Lay the blame at the feet of the resisters, the fearful and willingly misinformed, the Americans I’m obviously inclined to call out as shirkers of their duty to the common good — and avoidable spending.

Ron Smith

Ron W. Smith is a professor emeritus at Utah State University.

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