When I was in school, there was little I looked forward to less than the dreaded group project. Teenaged me operated beneath a relatively simple directive: get all schoolwork done and behind you so you can move on to the things you actually enjoy doing, like hanging out with friends or reading for pleasure. That’s not to say I wasn’t also a habitual procrastinator, but it helped that neglecting schoolwork wasn’t an option. The crackdown from my folks would have been swift and all encompassing if I brought home poor grades, so I chose to simply handle my business, even if I was handling it at 2 AM the night before an assignment was due. But group projects added a layer of complication to this straightforward formula of powering through until I reached the lightweight feeling of momentary freedom at the end of a pile of homework. I (mostly) had control over myself. But I had zero control over the actions of others. When they decided not to shoulder their share of the work, there was very little I could do about it besides just pick up the slack if I wanted a good grade.
Think of American society as the ultimate group project. First, no one has a choice but to be part of the group. Second, no matter how much you keep your head down and focus on simply handling your business, someone else can come along and fuck the whole thing up. Then we all get a failing grade. Now we’re all grounded! Or, worse, we get stricken with a deadly virus…
So, yeah, this is for those of you who are actively fucking things up for the rest of us.
Just a point of clarification before I lean all the way into my tirade: this is directed squarely at those who have adopted a loud and proud me first and fuck everyone else mentality, not those immuno-compromised folks that can’t actually get vaccinated. Herd immunity is what’s supposed to protect these folks, so it’s even more infuriating that perfectly (and momentarily, TBH) healthy people are selfishly refusing to protect them and all kids under 12 years old that can’t yet get the shot.
Okay, back to the rant.
We were forced to start a new and rather challenging group project in the beginning of 2020. No one was given a choice, but we were all fully in control of how we responded to the unique parameters of the project. I responded by going into self-imposed quarantine and wearing a mask for my biweekly trip to the grocery store. For months, I did very little outside of the house besides shop for food at 7 AM when the store opened and was not busy. I didn’t travel. I didn’t see friends outside of Zoom happy hours. I worked from home and waited for it to be over. It wasn’t fun, but it was necessary. Yes, I was protecting myself and those I lived with, but I was also making sure I didn’t get sick and spread the virus to others in my community.
As soon as the vaccine was made available to my age group, I got it. Two weeks after my second shot, I reentered the world as though exploring an exotic locale. I went to in-person meet ups with friends. I ate at a restaurant for the first time in over a year. Cases were going down and things were opening up again. It felt like we’d lived through the worst of the pandemic and were finally coming out on the other side. It felt really good, like all my (admittedly minimal, in the grand scheme of things; no one was asking me to parachute into a warzone or anything) sacrifices had been worth it. This was a once in a century pandemic, and we made it through. We had our lives back. Praise science!
Sure, it wasn’t great to see folks refusing to get vaccinated or continuing to turn this into an unnecessary political debate, but I felt hopeful we could still get to herd immunity without them. But then the Delta variant rolled onto the scene and it seemed like we were right back where we started, even despite the vaccines.
And you know why?
Because some of y’all didn’t do your part of the project. And your selfish bullshit is now taking down the rest of us.
And don’t come at me with that freedom nonsense.
I value my freedom as much as the next person, but we live in a society. My freedom extends only insofar as it doesn’t infringe upon yours. And, last I checked, giving you a deadly virus that might land you in the hospital counts as infringement. Your ‘freedom’ to be a dumbass might result in a variant that my two shots of the vaccine can’t protect me from. You aren’t free to drive drunk, because you could hurt or kill someone. How is this any different?
Living in a society means we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do. That’s just how it goes. The world does not revolve around you, me, or any other single individual. When you do or don’t do things, it affects others. If those effects are negative, you need to stop, and this has nothing to do with freedom. And, anyway, freedom has never been absolute, even in this so-called Land of the Free. There are laws, social norms, expectations, guidelines, and common courtesy.
We’re stuck doing this group project. There’s no getting out of it. We can succeed together or we can fail, dragging your dead (perhaps literally, because this is a deadly virus!!!) weight behind us. Unlike the group projects I quickly learned to despise in high school, this is a matter of life and death. My 2 shots of the vaccine protect me, you, and those that can’t get the shot, either because of health reasons or because they’re too young to receive it right now. Can we set aside the B.S. and just get this done? There are millions of people in other countries who would kill to have the easy access to vaccines that we’re actively taking for granted as a society.
Vaccines are safe and they work. There’s no disputing that. We just need everyone who can to get one. Let’s get an A on this project, y’all, so we can move on to the things we’d rather be doing.