The governor of Florida hawks “Don’t Fauci My Florida” merchandise. The Conservative Political Action Conference attendees burst into applause because COVID vaccination rates are not as high as Biden had hoped. So it occurs to me, well, golly! Maybe people just don’t understand what a virus is and what it does for a living. All I need to do is ‘splain it and then we can all move on. Right?

Viruses are itty bitty. There’s some argument over whether or not they’re alive but they definitely get around, and want to. They’re like every other bit of protein on this earth: they want to keep themselves going. Trouble is, they can’t live on their own. They die without a host. They absolutely require cushy digs such as your lungs to invade, replicate, and go forth and multiply like God purportedly intended, in another context. Once they’re done killing you, they’d be dead themselves if they couldn’t somehow jump onto the next host over and keep the whole operation rolling. So the viruses that cause you to hork and schnozzle and smear your effluent all over other folks are super successful. There are lots of those kinds. Colds. Flu.
They’re not equally bright. Like any other group of protein packets, some of them are writing sonnets, some are dominating their school teams, and some are eating library paste. COVID-19 is middling smart. Not as contagious–read, athletic in host-to-host gymnastics–as some, and not quite as likely to slay their own hosts. But impressive nonetheless. Just think about how in March 2020 there was, like, one dude in America who had custody of the virus, and the scientists said it was going to flash-over like a burning building to threaten everybody, and then it totally did. So kudos to the clever virus, and more praise to the scientists, who have been vindicated at every single step, no matter what else you’ve read.

Scientists were well prepared for this, and because of new mRNA technology and genome mapping they were able to produce effective vaccines in record time. Doggone! Ever since the first one, vaccines have proven to be a beautiful thing. We have conquered plagues that vexed us for thousands of years. Do you see this on my arm? It’s my smallpox vaccination scar. Must’ve been a doozy of a shot to still be visible. If you’re younger than fifty you don’t have one. Because we fucking killed it, by not giving it a place to land. That’s right. After at least three thousand years of smallpox, there’s no more smallpox.

That’s how it works. We’d have polio conquered now too if we could get those last few pockets of humanity in south Asia vaccinated. Similarly, if everyone in the world could hunker down inside with a jar of peanut butter for two weeks, COVID-19 would be gone from this earth. Poof. That’s a fact. That’s something we can’t manage to do, of course. But we do have vaccines. So victory is at hand!
Well, it’s hard to imagine how anyone who is not irretrievably around the bend could be against vaccines. As if we could somehow thwart viruses by ourselves with our own virtue and certitude. We can’t. We’ve had thousands of years of proof of that. Viruses have been perfecting their game for billions of years. We can protect ourselves from them but it turns out we can’t protect ourselves from con artists who want to befuddle us just to gain or maintain power. What if this whole miraculous scientific breakthrough is just a conspiracy to enslave us? What if we catch autism, or our dicks fall off, or we summon aliens? Santa Claus is coming to town! Bar the door, he probably has a gun. The coronavirus is coming! We’ll leave the light on for you.
We didn’t use to be so foolish. That’s why most of you do not have a smallpox vax scar. That’s why there are fewer than a hundred polio cases in the world today.
Weird thing is, conservative mucus membranes aren’t any damper or more receptive than liberal tissues. The virus is not biased. If there’s a political aspect to this pandemic, it’s because the virus is going to stampede toward those who refuse to protect themselves, whether or not they hate abortion or immigrants or colored voters. Bummer for them, but also for the rest of us, who have a grasp of the concept of public health, wherein we all thrive, or for that matter survive, and we’re not willing to risk ourselves and our fellow human beings for the freedom to infect.
We actually are in this together. That’s how it works. The virus does not care. The virus is a teeny tiny boll weevil. Just a-lookin’ for a home.