The COVID witch-hunt

In Salem, Massachusetts, there is a memorial to the 20 victims of the witch trials of 1692, bearing the words "God knows I am innocent" cut off to represent the lives cut short and the deafness to their pleas.  In Vardø, a village in the Norwegian Arctic, an eternal flame burns to the memory of 91 victims of witchcraft trials between 1601 and 1663.  Traveling around Europe, it would be hard to find a region that was not afflicted with witch hunts.  Today we look at this history and shake our heads, wondering how it could have happened, ignoring the signs of the new witch hunt threatening the 21st century. 

I refer to the rising anger of the vaccinated against those who are still hesitating to get the vaccine.  Looking at the language employed in this article, there are alarming echoes of the language employed against suspected witches.  There is talk of the risk the unvaccinated pose to society, how they are making the world darker for the virtuous vaccinated, the accusation that unvaccinated people don't care who dies, and calls to make the unvaccinated accountable for their actions.  Take out "unvaccinated" and substitute "witch" and it's almost a perfect parallel.  And it's terrifying because witch hunts rose in the past out of social crises and lack of education, two factors plaguing America today.  According to the CDC, 34,248,054 total cased of COVID have been reported.  There have been 607,684 deaths.  That works out to approximately a 98% survival rate.  So looking at the unvaccinated as if they are about to unleash a plague that will kill us all can only come of being uneducated about the facts, or ignoring the facts. 

Which brings me to the social crisis component.  The United States has been suffering from increasing dishonesty from our leaders since this pandemic started.  We were overwhelmed with stories in the mainstream media that warned of our impending doom if we didn't put on masks and shelter in place; we were solemnly told by politicians that there was no hope if we got sick; and highly placed health authorities continually changed the goalposts on everything from masks to treatments to the proper care of our vulnerable elderly.  There has been no solid information that the public can put their trust in, and this insecurity has led to fear.  In some people, the fear is so great that they need a target to focus on to relieve their terror. 

That focus has fallen on the unvaccinated, and like every witch hunt in the past, the fearful are trying to relieve their fear by taking out their anger on what is frightening them.  Never mind that most people are vaccinated and that if the vaccine is safe, the unvaccinated pose no threat.  Dismiss the fact that people have the right to decide if they want to take an experimental vaccine that is unapproved by the FDA to protect against a disease that very few people die from.  The important thing to the fearful is that the fear be relieved, and if causing innocent people to suffer relieves fear, it's worth it.  Later there may be monuments to the victims of unreasonable terror, and trials held with spectral evidence, but that does no good to the victims when they are in their graves.  This time around, we should shut down the witch hunt before it gets started. 

Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story based on the thief on the cross in the Bible. 

Image: Thomkins H. Matteson

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