Wet Paint


The American mindset is one of fierce individualism. It is a product of growing up in a free society. Who among us has not touched an item with a “Wet Paint” sign attached to it? Most of us will touch it because we are being told not to. Roughly 80% of us just want to make sure it is in fact wet.

Look, I do not want anyone to draw the wrong conclusion and therefore misunderstand where this post is coming from. I have been fully vaccinated. I did so because I wanted to travel and because I have health issues that put me at greater risk. I have friends that run businesses whose customers require proof of vaccination before they will do business. Companies are requiring vaccinations of their employees, particularly in “hot” segments of the economy. This is taking place organically and I certainly have no problem with it.

Some of the very basic fundamentals of successful leadership have been violated on a national level during a time of crisis by those who we have elected to lead us and by the media who is in a position to influence with the unbiased reporting of the facts. Neither have answered the call.

A very basic rule of human interaction is collaboration. People must feel as though their input is valued and that their concerns will be considered as an integral part of the final decisions being made. If you want maximum buy-in, you must collaborate. If you want to ensure maximum resistance, don’t collaborate – mandate. Government mandates have been successful in maximizing resistance.

The media also made a mistake characterizing those who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as “anti-vaxxers”, a term traditionally used to label parents who refuse the standard battery of inoculations for their children on religious grounds. At the time I am writing this, tens of thousands of military personnel are set to miss the mandate deadline in a few days to get vaccinated. These are not a block of Christian moms and dads standing on faith?

Military personnel, large segments of the black community and a substantial slice of the population that would not get vaccinated except for the significant influence of forces outside their control are all people who share a certain set of concerns. It is a mistake to label them anti-vaxxers because these groups are not motivated by the same things at all. Aaron Rogers summed it up well when he said, “Look, I’m not some sort of anti-vax, flat-Earther. I am somebody who’s a critical thinker.”

While the media chooses to accentuate the conspiracy theories of the group’s fringe, they have missed the weightier issues that really fuel the resistance of those who refuse to be vaccinated:

  • Personal health and wellness. Traditionally, the idea of being injected with a virus that can potentially have unforeseen health complications in a population that is not as insignificant as some may think, does not sit well with this block of people. We have nearly 100 years of data to support the effectiveness and a given level of safety on record for traditional vaccinations that have all but eradicated many childhood diseases from the planet. However, we also had those that questioned the wisdom of mass inoculation to thank for improved oversight of vaccine manufacture, better vaccine technology and safer vaccines.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are different. Apart from the fast-tracked FDA approval and the complete lack of historical data, the COVID-19 vaccine is not a virus at all but an mRNA manipulation of cells – a very new technology. To fault people who have concerns on this front seems completely unfair. Listen to them. They are not objecting on the basis of faith at all, but on the basis of prudence.
  • Fierce American individualism. Tell an American that they cannot do something and they will prove you wrong. Whether it is to land a spacecraft on the moon, harness the power of the sun or to … develop a COVID-19 vaccine, American ingenuity born from individualism takes over and presses forward until the end is achieved. An American being told they must do something resists in the same way.
  • Constitutional rights. I am sure there will be challenges upon challenges to the mandates. It seems grotesque to mandate under the weight of federal law the invasion of an individual’s body with a needle and to inject them with a foreign substance against their will. That is the stuff of spy movies and horror films – not real life.
  • Conspiracy theories. Most of us roll our eyes at anything that hints at a conspiracy theory and rightfully so, as they are so very far-fetched. Every once in a while, however, one slips through the cracks of audacious fiction into reality. Iran-contra comes to mind as does the Gulf of Tonkin, LSD experiments by the CIA and one that claims more than 100 million Americans received a polio vaccine contaminated with a potentially cancer-causing virus. That one can be read about in the American Journal of Cancer.

A national health crisis, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was politicized from the very beginning. What should have commanded the country’s unified efforts to confront, instead has been addressed through a political filter that makes good ideas subordinate to party considerations. Now, rather than working together to defeat this common threat to our health and safety, we have both sides characterizing the other as either knuckle-dragging, anti-science zealots or as power-mongering advocates of a big brother-like dystopian society.

Why do we feed this two-headed beast bent on civil war? We know what is required to successfully stage a unified effort to defeat COVID-19 in the long run and to keep us safer in the immediate future: representative voices of all stakeholder groups being heard in a collaborative effort to win this fight. So, either drop the politics or we can just keep touching the wet paint.