The Frustrations of Trying to ‘Fix Stupid’
There were plenty of political arguments half a century ago, but virtually nobody challenged the benefits of science. We thought that era had ended with the Scopes “monkey trial,” of 1925, when a backwoods Tennessee teacher was fined for teaching evolution, and the state became the laughingstock of the nation.
Nor did they claim that the polio vaccine was either phony and didn’t work, or some kind of attempt to inject mind-controlling serum into our bodies, as some crazy people are saying about the COVID-19 vaccinations.
Granted, there were always a few kooks out there. Some time ago, I wrote about a boy in my fifth-grade class in western New York back in the late 1950s. Bill’s “Ma”” refused to let him take ‘shots,’ as in those designed to prevent things like whooping cough, mumps and measles. Ma said if he was supposed to be injected against diseases, why, God would have done it.
A few years later, when we were in eighth grade, Bill applied his Ma’s brand of logic when he tried out for catcher on the baseball team. “If I was supposed to wear a mask, God would have made one for me.”
Well, sometimes foul balls act even faster than viruses. I can still hear the thunk when he was hit in the nose, see his blood all over home plate, and remember his reaction “Ooh – that hurt!” I will never forget that image of Bill looking straight ahead, with his nose pointing toward third base.
Bill learned a painful lesson that day, but many of us still haven’t learned ours. As the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to rage in America, now in its Delta variant, and as unvaccinated people are being hospitalized in large numbers because they have the virus, one wonders what other evidence anyone needs to show them the value of vaccinations. The new wave of infections is concentrated most heavily in the South, where the percentage of the unvaccinated is highest. Southern governors have behaved just about as sensibly as Bill’s Ma did all those years ago. Except their spin on it is: “The government can’t make you do it; it’s your constitutional right to say ‘I don’t want the vaccine.’”
If the medical profession weren’t so honorable, they’d refuse to care for and treat those that have taken this cavalier position. But that would violate their codes of ethics, and so they do the best they can for those who are needlessly sick.
The blunt fact, however, is this: These politicians who are blubbering on, railing against vaccination requirements violating their constituents “personal constitutional rights” are, for base political purposes, literally killing others with their words and putting innocents, particularly innocent children, at risk.
I believe they are guilty of crimes against humanity, and that’s something I know something about. I am a former board member and chair of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, N.Y., which is dedicated to the U.S. Supreme Court justice who was the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.
That’s where those seeking justice in all the allied nations took the leading Nazis --the perpetrators of world war in Europe and some of the foulest crimes in history, and put them on trial, as individuals, for ‘crimes against humanity.’
I doubt that many of them, such as the vile anti-Semite Julius Streicher or the diplomat Joachim von Ribbentrop ever killed anyone personally. But their words did, and their actions did too, by inciting others to murder.
And even though Ribbentrop was Minister of Foreign Affairs and thus an officer of the state, that didn’t protect him or many of the others. They weren’t allowed to hide behind the claim that they were “just following orders.”
Each was tried for crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, found guilty in a fair trial, and ten of them were sentenced to face the hangman’s noose.
Their sentences were carried out in October 1946. By their deeds they were known and for their deeds, they were -- as individuals -- condemned and hung.
Perhaps the good citizens of the United States, the great majority who believe the data proving vaccines work, should start to apply the Nuremberg process to those politicians barking the nonsense of Bill’s ma.
We can afford to be tolerant of fools who believe the earth is flat. But in this case, dangerous anti-vaccination and anti-mask nonsense spouted by authority figures is killing fellow human beings – including children.
Fixing deliberately political stupid may be harder than educating Bill’s ma, but we have to try to protect society. That foul ball rearranged Bill’s face, but it didn’t kill him. This virus does kill -- and we can no longer tolerate those who enable it.
Douglas C. Neckers is McMaster Distinguished Research Professor (emeritus) and founder of the Center for Photochemical Sciences at Bowling Green State University. He is also former Chair of the Board of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, N.Y. See his work at 3dscienceblog.com