Matthew Walther, editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal and a contributing editor at The American Conservative, penned an article for the liberal Atlantic magazine stating what should be a truism but is actually a shock to the liberal intelligentsia and opinion molders and makers on the coasts.
Nobody really gives a rat’s patootie about COVID.
I don’t know how to put this in a way that will not make me sound flippant: No one cares. Literally speaking, I know that isn’t true, because if it were, the articles wouldn’t be commissioned. But outside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.
Walther spent the last two years going to two weddings, traveling extensively, taking family vacations, spending hundreds of hours in bars and restaurants, and never wearing a mask once.
Meanwhile, our children, who have continued to attend their weekly homeschooling co-op since April 2020, have never donned masks, and they are distinctly uncomfortable on the rare occasions when they see them, for reasons that, until recently, child psychologists and other medical experts would have freely acknowledged. They have continued seeing friends and family, including their great-grandparents, on a weekly basis. As far as I can tell, they are dimly aware that “germs” are a remote cause of concern, but only our oldest, who is 6, has any recollection of the brief period last year when public Masses were suspended in our diocese and we spent Sunday mornings praying the rosary at home.
Naturally, there is pushback from Walther’s betters. Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump portrays Mr. Walther as just another rube who believes in COVID conspiracy theories.
It’s interesting to consider variants on Walther’s headline, not to unnecessarily confuse him with discussion of variants. One might imagine an essay written in 1988: “Where I Live, No One Cares About AIDS.” Surely it would contain some brief aside a few hundred words in, relaying the number of local deaths from the disease before flipping back into jokes about the sorts of losers who wear condoms.
Of course, the difference here is in how the virus spreads. The indifference of Walther’s neighbors (and, of course, himself) means that the virus can spread more easily to people who may not be able to avail themselves of vaccines. His response is just: oh well.
Mr. Bump is taking Mr. Walther to task for not getting hysterical about COVID. Because, of course, America is a third-world country and not everyone can “avail themselves” of the vaccine. Really?
Is Bump completely clueless? Here in Livingston County, Ill., you can’t turn a corner without being told where to go to get vaccinated. The vaccine is everywhere. The only reason that someone isn’t getting vaccinated today is that they don’t want to be vaccinated. And that’s what Bump is ragging Walther about.
Walther has made a choice. It’s not the choice I made or that 200 million other Americans made. It was his choice. And what is really chapping Bump’s arse is that people feel free enough in America to exercise that choice.
They aren’t doing what they’re told to do — what Bump, the White House, and the CDC are telling them to do. Bump and his colleagues see Walther and others like him as disobedient children who need punishment. Instead, Walther and the tens of millions of others who also don’t let COVID run their lives should be seen as ordinary people going about their very ordinary lives, living with an infectious disease as mankind has lived with diseases for thousands of years.
Really, guys. It’s not that big of a deal. Just chill.
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