Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Absolute Disconnect

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post:

The weekend began with the March for Life. It ended with a march for death.

Anti-vaccine activists decided to piggyback on Friday’s annual antiabortion march in the capital by having a “Defeat the Mandates” rally on Sunday. Combined, the two groups of (mostly) conservative activists engaged in a demonstration of mass inconsistency.

Friday’s crowd invoked the mantra of the pro-life movement: “A child, not a choice.” Sunday’s proclaimed the mantra of the abortion rights movement to oppose vaccines: “My body, my choice.”

Friday’s crowd endorsed the most obtrusive of big-government mandates, laws telling women they can’t make their own reproductive decisions. Sunday’s argued that health decisions must be made by patient and doctor, not government.

Friday’s crowd pleaded for the lives of the most vulnerable. Sunday’s demanded the right to infect the most vulnerable by eschewing vaccines and masks in shared spaces.

It was enough to make one wonder: Does taking ivermectin cause people to lose their sense of irony?

The crowds weren’t the same but, collectively, the two rallies captured the hypocrisy of the right at this moment: Protect the unborn, but feel free to infect — and perhaps kill — innocent people already born, including, er, pregnant women. And yet both movements claim to be operating under the authority of “God’s mandate” and “God’s law,” as the anti-vaccine speakers repeatedly put it. God works in mysterious ways, indeed.

In a rare moment of self-awareness at the anti-vaccine rally, JP Sears, the event’s emcee, quipped that because of his belief in natural immunity to the coronavirus, “I kind of feel like a flat-Earther.”

In a sense, the dual events showed the changing nature of the political right. The March for Life, in its 49th year, is where the right has been; the march for death shows where it is going. The former, held potentially on the cusp of the long-sought overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, was a joyful assembly; the latter was paranoid and rage-filled.

The well-curated March for Life program avoided harsh language about “baby killers” in favor of calls for compassion. “Every life is worthy of our prayer and our protection, whether in the womb or in the world,” the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros said before his opening prayer. “We can and we must make the case for life both born and unborn, by our example of unconditional love. … We march with compassion, we march with empathy, with love, with our arms extended to embrace all.”

Unconditional love? Embrace all? The angry speakers at the march for death didn’t sign up for that. They railed against medical boards, peer-reviewed journals, vaccine and antiviral manufacturers, expertise of any kind. They declaimed enemies seen and unseen trying to deny them their freedom.

There is no reasoning with this sort of mindset: they see the issue of reproductive rights and vaccination in terms of absolutes. And, to quote Jed Bartlet, when there are days like that, they usually end with body counts. In this case, there seems to be no limit to the lengths they will go to in order to enforce their beliefs: killing doctors who perform legal medical procedures, bombing clinics, threatening the lives of the mothers who have made their choice to terminate a pregnancy under the law.  The anti-vaxxers will threaten the lives of scientists and allow their loved ones to get sick and possibly die because of something they read on the internet.  At least a flat-earther doesn’t put a gun to your head, literally or figuratively.

If their tactics were limited only to the people who are true believers and left the rest of us alone, then there would not be a problem: believe what you wish and live your life as you wish.  But when absolute strangers begin to interfere with the beliefs of others, then we do have a problem.

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