Tuesday, December 28, 2021


While I was away, Shadi Hamid (Brookings Institution foreign policy guy, Atlantic pundit) got up a lot of people's noses, including mine, with a tendentious Twitter thread about the pandemic:

If only Hamid had mentioned "virtue signaling," he'd have a perfect score in Liberal-Bashing-Liberal Mad Libs, COVID Version. A Murc's Law suggestion that liberals are solely responsible for right-wing vaccine opposition? Check. Accusations of totalitarianism ("a way to stifle debate and enforce authority")? Check. A charge that we want "endless restrictions"? Check.

It's the last one that's most infuriating. Who the hell wants this life to go on forever? Hamid, responding to criticism, says we really do. Here's his evidence:

The smoking-gun tweet he quotes:

It's only in America, a country that takes a perverse pride in its shitty infrastructure, that improved ventilation in public places could be construed as a resriction. A large percentage of Americans have decided that protecting oneself from severe illness via vaccination is a restriction, too.

Mask mandates are a restriction. I'll concede that. But Herlihy and Hamid share a lack of perspective on where we are.

Yes, it seems clear that COVID will be endemic -- we won't get rid of it. But we haven't yet thrown everything we have to throw at the virus. With regard to prescription antivirals, we are at the end of 2021 about where we were with regard to vaccines at the end of 2020 -- actually, we're not even that far along, because as of one year ago we'd approved two very good vaccines and given more than two million shots, whereas now we have one promising antiviral and one not-so-great one approved but not yet in use.

We don't know how these and future treatments, in combination with vaccines, will change the course of this pandemic -- but it's not unreasonable to hope for a time fairly soon when death, severe illness, and even long COVID are made rare by the medical tools we have, at least for those with access with good healthcare. I'm old enough to remember when HIV was a death sentence, but we have ways to tame it now, even without a vaccine. COVID is far less deadly than HIV. At some point, maybe sooner than we think, we might tame it as well.

It could take some of us a while to believe that we can stop living in fear of the virus, but if we've made really bad outcomes infrequent, we can move on with our lives. I want that. I think other cautious people want that as well. Some people might want to keep wearing masks as a way of avoiding flus and colds as well as COVID, and boosters might be an ongoing precaution, but I don't really believe anyone wants this way of life to go on forever.

But self-righteousness is a hell of a drug, as is the desire to bash liberals (everyone hates liberals), so the Shadi Hamids of the world will continue to impute totalitarian motivations to us, when all we want is not to die, not to spend the rest of our lives waylaid by illness, and not to see hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings brought low by this virus.

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