Beware of the Power of False Beliefs

Here’s an idea: Let’s listen to public health experts, and get vaccinated.

  • Thursday, December 17, 2020 5:16pm
  • Opinion

President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have now won the Electoral College vote and will be sworn into office on Jan. 20. They won the election.

These are facts, despite false claims to the contrary by Donald Trump.

But along the road to this actuality, dozens of frivolous lawsuits alleging voter irregularities have been thrown out of court or denied hearings, even in the Supreme Court. These courts have overwhelmingly found no compelling evidence to suggest the election should be overturned.

Still, armed protesters, believing Trump’s lies, have shown up in the streets and at state capitols — including ours, in Olympia — to demand that not only the election but reality itself be overturned. These protests are becoming increasingly violent, and they must stop.

Say whatever you will about Trump, but realize that if you say he won the election, or even that there is any doubt about who won the election, it isn’t true.

And the evil genius of Donald Trump is that he keeps making people believe things that aren’t true.

He did this with “birtherism,” the racist conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

He’s done it again now, with the equally racist theory that massive voter fraud occurred in predominately Black cities.

He’s done it throughout the pandemic, by refusing to amplify the sound scientific advice of scientists worldwide to wear masks and practice social distance to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But strangely, we’ve noticed that Donald Trump is also now claiming credit for the scientific miracle of a vaccine. This is absurd, of course — who could forget his suggestion that ingesting bleach might cure the virus?

But there could be an unintended benefit to what he is now saying about vaccines.

He’s implying, of course, that the vaccines will work. He’s encouraging people, albeit in his typically grotesque, self-serving and sideways way, to actually get the shot.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and so we hope Trump’s true believers — the anti-maskers, the ones who have insisted that a worldwide pandemic is a hoax designed to trample their American freedoms, the ones who still insist he won the election — will somehow line up to be immunized.

We hope everyone on Vashon will do this, too. The island’s vote did not go to Trump, but we are not immune to belief in false narratives.

We’re a notoriously vaccine-skeptical community — we’ve repeatedly made national news for our non-compliance with childhood immunization requirements.

In 2002, a New York Times article, “When Parents Say No to Child Vaccinations,” chronicled how 18 percent of the island’s primary school students had legally opted out of vaccination against childhood diseases, including polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and chickenpox.

And while the trend has improved in recent years, ABC News reported just last year that the Vashon school district still has one of the lowest vaccine rates in the U.S.

Lately, Vashon has fared better on the PR front regarding its approach to public health.

In May, a New York Times article, “Remote and Ready to Fight Coronavirus’s Next Wave,” chronicled the work of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps as a model for other isolated communities to test, trace and isolate the spread of COVID-19.

One result of the MRC’s science-based work and leadership, we believe, is that Vashon still has one of the lowest rates of positive tests for COVID-19 in all of King County, even despite a disturbing recent spike.

In the coming days or weeks, Vashon will receive its first doses of the vaccine for COVID-19. The slow process of making it available widely on the island will finally begin.

Here’s an idea: Let’s listen to public health experts, and get vaccinated.

Who knows? Wouldn’t it be cool to aim for further redemption in The New York Times, with a yet-to-be-written article extolling the fact that little Vashon Island is one of the most vaccine-compliant communities in the nation?

In the dark of winter, in the teeth of the still-exploding coronavirus pandemic, it seems like something worth dreaming about.

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