A Year of Extremes: From Medieval Masks to mRNA Vaccines; From Science Denying Flat Earthers to the Prospect of Civil War

What a year this has been. Our lives continue to be upended, and in many cases cut short, by this novel virus. And our responses include everything from the most sophisticated new medical technologies to medieval strategies. In fact, French Royal physician DeLorme invented PPE in 1619, all the way from clothing that covered the entire body without gaps to the birdlike face mask that filtered the air that plague doctors were breathing. It is almost mind boggling that over 400 years later, we are doing the exact same thing.

But at the same time, the introduction of the Covid mRNA vaccines is equally remarkable. The first gene sequencing, of the RNA virus called Bacteriophage MS2, happened in 1976, when I was in my second year of medical school. And it took from 1990 to 2003 to complete the sequencing of the human genome.

In this strange era of coexisting medieval and space age technologies, I cannot help thinking about the tension between those who embrace both of these strategies and those who deny both. You would think the tension would be between the new and the old ways, but that isn’t as great as the one between all and nothing.

It is as if we have, in this and many western countries, two incompatible world views, like the flat earthers and the rest of us. But in this case, the size of each camp seems to be frighteningly close to equal. And the fervor that is evident in those who want to do nothing to protect themselves from the virus is truly unsettling.

I imagined that mask wearing would be an inoffensive practice, which at least wouldn’t bother anybody else. But no, people get assaulted and harassed for doing it, for making a personal choice to protect themselves.

Many experts are predicting that the pandemic will become endemic and that continued booster shots will contain its lethality. But there are no signs that the tension between the do-somethings and the do-nothings will go away.

Instead of drawing together to fight the invader, the red and blue White American subpopulations have started to view each other as the adversary. I don’t think the insurrection of 1/6/21 would have happened if we hadn’t been in the middle of this pandemic. We are like dogs who suddenly turn on each other instead of attacking the intruder at our gate.

One of these dogs appears to be more aggressive than the other, perhaps even rabid. Or is it just that much more frightened? Not frightened by the virus, but by the Black Lives Matter, Mee-Too and Environmentalist movements they see as threats to their “Freedom”, which they believe they will lose if others gain theirs.

It seems this virus was a catalyst for a chemical, cultural chain reaction whose end product is as of yet unknown. We are witnessing incompatible progress and regression rapidly reshaping and destabilizing this country.

God bless America. God help America.

7 Responses to “A Year of Extremes: From Medieval Masks to mRNA Vaccines; From Science Denying Flat Earthers to the Prospect of Civil War”

  1. 1 OlRedHair December 30, 2021 at 5:39 am

    Do you think health insurance companies will start charging higher premiums for those who choose not to get vaccinated? I’m at the point now where I really don’t care about these anti-vaxers. I am old, and mostly stay home, wear a mask, keep my distance, improve the ventilation, and have gotten boosted. But I don’t like the idea of my money going to pay for needless hospitalizations and treatments for a preventable disease.

    • 2 acountrydoctorwrites December 30, 2021 at 5:43 am

      New life insurance premiums likely will go up, like for smokers. Doubt it for health insurance.

      • 3 OlRedHair December 30, 2021 at 5:56 am

        That sure does not make sense to me. As I said before, the fact I am paying for advanced treatment for a completely preventable disease rankles me. Also the part that is especially annoying is that routine procedures like my colonoscopy, mammogram, dental care, eye exams and CT scan were postponed because the system was busy taking care of Covid patients. I’m in Florida where they have been pretty much ignoring the pandemic since April 2020. No one wears a mask, distances themselves or refrains from getting together with large groups. In fact the corrupt governor has outlawed any sort of mask mandates.

    • 4 Will Dawson December 30, 2021 at 7:06 am

      I’m with you on this, OlRedHair!

  2. 5 Don B December 30, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Great analogy. We are simply repeating history because human nature will never change.

  3. 6 DebRN January 3, 2022 at 9:15 am

    I would not put myself in the category of flat earth denier. I am a little surprised there are physicians who would push a new technology with no long term data to prove safety. No such evidence. And there are plenty of people shouting their stories of vaccine injury. Did it really take a senator from WI to allow their stories to be told? I not the lack of curiosity about items in the doctor’s toolkit that can provide symptomatic relief and even cure when given early in the course of disease. Why the disparagement of docs who have triple the degrees in epidemiology, virology but disagree with the CDC’s management?
    I really do not belong in the group anti Vaxxer as I had four vaccines in 2020.
    I have truly enjoyed this blog, especially as you expect patients to contribute to their health in daily practice. I appreciated your remarks regarding aging women and osteoporosis: do we really need to call it a disease when 80% of women in the aged category have it? Spot on.
    I will continue to read this medical blog. Thank you.

  4. 7 Sue January 4, 2022 at 2:34 am

    I’m reposting your blog, it’s one of the few I still follow, I hoe this esssge reaches you.

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