One of the most celebrated authors in the history of British literature is none other than Charles Dickens. Perhaps most famous for A Christmas Carol, which has been made into countless movies, he also wrote such classics as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Bleak House. What you find consistently in Dickens’ writings is the ever-present socioeconomic upheaval of 1880’s London, which saw a rising elite which benefited from exploding industrial growth accompanied by equally exploding growth in the numbers of the desperately impoverished. This is why, when Carol‘s Ebenezer Scrooge is confronted with the harsh reality of the poor he suggests that perhaps they should die and “decrease the surplus population.”
Fast forward 140 years or so and shift the geography by roughly 4,000 miles and you find a similar situation in the modern United States. There is a significant number of people who are middle class and above living in conditions that even the rich in Dickens’ time would consider grandiose, but you also have millions of people living in tents, camping out at retail outlets to beg for money, who would consider even the modest home of Bob Cratchit to be an opulent abode. Many of the poor, including the working poor, are easily swayed to do things that are against their best interests. They give in to fear mongering politicians who cynically stoke their most primal triggers, they turn to drugs that further sabotage their well being and they ignore sound science that could literally save their lives.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spread fastest among the poor, the disinformed and the paranoid. Unlike in many other countries around the world, in America pretty much anyone can get a perfectly safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for free at one of myriad locations. If I weren’t already vaccinated, I could get in my car, drive 10 minutes in any direction, and either pass or be really close to a drug store, grocery store or clinic offering free vaccinations. Then again, I’m not poor, there are quite a few medical professionals in my family, and I’m not one to give in to paranoia.
What I do have a tendency to do is worry about things that don’t directly impact me, and I’m starting grow weary of worrying about people who aren’t willing to worry about themselves.
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 vaccine is on the verge of once again shutting down the American economy. Hospitals are filling with people who have refused to get the free vaccine or even wear protective masks, and the mortality rate is once again climbing. Here in North Texas, COVID hospitalizations have increased by 292% over the past month and the statistics are telling. Of those newly hospitalized, 96% have been unvaccinated and of those 90% have been infected with the new Delta variant of the virus. Texas Governor Greg Abbott isn’t helping, ordering public schools to open at full capacity without even a mask mandate, threatening businesses that want to implement mandatory vaccines and/or masks for their employees and generally working against the best interest of the people he swore an oath to serve.
Of course now, like several of his fellow red state governors, Abbott is calling for help from other states, essentially asking blue state workers to come to Texas and put their (vaccinated) lives on the line for people who didn’t have the sense to get the free vaccine.
Is it time for President Joe Biden to step in? Is it time for a national vaccine mandate? After all, we already mandate vaccinations for small pox, diphtheria, measles, mumps and others, why not COVID-19? Vaccines have all but annihilated these childhood diseases which used to claim thousands of lives annually. It makes perfect sense to mandate the COVID vaccine, but then again the advent of the aforementioned mandatory vaccines was long before we had decided to make absolutely everything political. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that making the COVID vaccine mandatory would actually work. The purveyors of disinformation have already ingrained it in their victims’ minds that either the vaccine is fake, it has a microchip embedded to allow tracking (as if your cell phone doesn’t already do this), or some other crazy thing.
This brings us back to Charles Dickens and decreasing the surplus population. While I am not in favor of the overall concept, in this case it may have some merit. We are talking about people who are bringing down our entire global society because they are unwilling to get a free vaccine and are susceptible to the most obvious campaigns spreading bullshit like farmers spreading fertilizer. We’re also talking about a virus that (so far) very effectively targets and kills primarily the unvaccinated. These are also the folks who are most likely to protest mandatory vaccines. They are also the most likely to vote for unhelpful leaders like Greg Abbott.
This seems like a problem that might just solve itself.