I hadn’t seen her in years. She looked terrific. Three times she told me how great I looked. I was flattered, until later when I realized my N95 mask likely undermined the veracity of the compliment.
Looking youthful, (we are both in our seventies) healthy, slim and cheerful, is a huge American value. Most goods and services advertised to older people are selling this attribute, especially when advertising pharmaceuticals. Side effects such as fatigue, internal bleeding, blood clots, hematoma or even death are listed at the end of the advertisement by a cheerful, healthy, youthful sounding voice. I am not a big fan of pills, unless one needs them to stay alive.
She and I are long-term white privileged, holistic health aficionados as proven by the organic vegetables over-flowing in our carts. Each of us could afford a $5 bunch of broccoli, although I put back the seven dollar eggplant on principle.
She came towards me smiling with open arms, her white teeth gleaming. Not known for restraint, I asked her the nervy question, “Are you vaccinated?” It would be within her purview to say, “None of your business,” but instead I got a dose of the language of vaccine hesitancy — which lately, according to conspiracy sites like QAon, is over-flowing with words about wellness, pleas not to judge, injunctions to stay open-minded and go for self-empowerment since the government not now and never has been trustworthy.
A major and very popular anti-vaccination influencer on YouTube stated, “Covid vaccinations disrupt mankind’s enlightenment, and lower our vibrations.” Her video sermons, delivered in a soothing voice, are often accompanied by her playing the harp. I am purposely not stating her name in case I aid and abet an advertisement without, of course, the need for a legal disclaimer, which is as least what you get when trying to decide which life-saving drug to take.
She liberally references QAnon tenets like the Great Awakening, a message of religious proportions when “lightness will overcome darkness on Earth.” She holds the conviction that the pandemic was planned by the US government with the help of Bill Gates and George Soros. The growing overlap between New Age spirituality and right-wing conspiratorial thinking is an unexpected odd coupling.
The most pernicious fallacy promoted by anti-vaxx rhetoric is that good health is an individual achievement available to anyone willing to face “the truth,” when health is more often the result of privilege.
Back by the vegetables, my old friend is telling me that Covid is “nothing” — she had it once and her partner, twice. All that is required is an all-organic diet, exercise, sufficient vitamin D levels, zinc and eight hours of sleep at night. Her surety is astounding. I wish I shared her total confidence. I think the vaccine is safe and until I grow a third leg, my fingers are crossed.
I did not tell her the all-organic diet, etc. is a pipe -dream well out of reach for many black, indigenous, refugee and immigrant populations who have suffered far worse than she and I, with our financial means will never know. I wanted to tell her that her maskless, unvaccinated good-looking self could kill one of those people. But, I kept my mouth shut. I have severely compromised two friendships already and no minds were changed.
As she was leaving, she gently touched my arm which made me wince in pain. “I just got the flu vaccination yesterday,” I told her. It was a strange almost humorous end to the conversation.
That’s three Covid vaccines and one flu shot. I can tell you with absolute certainly in that moment she felt a lot healthier than I did and likely looked better, too. But I am determined not to kill anyone. The vaccine is our best “shot” at loving one another through this crisis, no pun intended.
My friend by the vegetable stand also told me, “You do not have to be frightened.” I know she was telling me that I am safe, will not get sick and die and did not need the vaccination or the mask.
She got one point right. I am frightened. I am afraid we have stopped caring about each other, in which case we are all doomed.