Coronavirus Restrictions: The ‘Neanderthal Thinking’ of COVID Piety

Coronavirus Restrictions: The ‘Neanderthal Thinking’ of COVID Piety

President Joe Biden speaks during a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2021. (Alex Brandon/Reuters)

The Left’s venomous attacks against Texas for lifting restrictions are more divisive than usual.

There seems to be some confusion over the origin and ownership of the three coronavirus vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration and now being administered across the country. Indeed, the reaction to Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement that Texas will be lifting its statewide restrictions — mask mandates, capacity limits, etc. — in favor of letting localities decide which mitigation efforts they’d like to keep has been clarifying in this regard.

Michael Moore weighed in:

Texas — we hear you. You didn’t want to be part of our electrical grid. And now you’ve removed your mask mandate & are allowing large crowds to gather. We hear you! COVID is a hoax! So u don’t need our precious vaccine. We’ll send it to ppl who are saving lives by wearing masks.

So did Keith Olbermann:

Why are we wasting vaccinations on Texas if Texas has decided to join the side of the virus?

Olbermann and Moore are two of the more hysterical and unserious voices online — I won’t say “in politics” since they’ve never done anything of note in that realm — but some of the assumptions and sentiments in their demented tweets are shared by others, some of them more powerful people than you might think; President Biden, for example. Asked about Abbott’s decision, Biden responded, “The last thing — the last thing — we need is Neanderthal thinking that ‘in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it.’ It still matters.” This is coming from the man who so kindly explained at his inauguration that “every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war,” and urged Americans to “see,” “hear,” and “respect one another.”

The idea that there is a clear-cut, black-and-white, right-and-wrong way to handle pandemic-related public policy and messaging has been with us for a year now. It was most famously exemplified by the dichotomy that many tried to set up between New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Florida’s Ron DeSantis. Ask anyone who participated in that stunt — including the terminally incorrect Dr. Anthony Fauci — how that went for them.

And yet the myth of the top-down, state-enforced, maximum-caution approach remains, and its advocates remain as zealous as they were a year ago. The way they express themselves has changed, though. Because the Cuomo–DeSantis contrast has become untenable, they instead claim a strange kind of ownership over the vaccines: “Our precious vaccine?” “Why are we wasting the vaccine?” “The last thing we need?” What is the antecedent to this entity that Moore, Olbermann, and Biden are referring to?

Democrats? It’s tempting to attribute this sense of propriety to partisanship alone. “Our guy is in office, and so the vaccine is ours to dole out as we like.” But it seems more likely that it’s a visceral, personal message that’s being conveyed: “I (and people like me) helped save this country, I did the unselfish thing — the right thing — and that this vaccine is here now is in part my doing.” It’s quite the formulation, one that is deserving of mockery on the one hand and pity on the other. Most all of us have made sacrifices over the past year, abstaining from the joys of life while taking on new burdens. These are not trivial or meaningless sacrifices, but it can be all too easy to place more meaning and importance on them than they deserved — and to place yourself on a protagonist’s pedestal in the fight against the virus.

The truth is, Moore and Olbermann played the same role that Biden did in creating the medical miracles that will at last pull us out of the pandemic: That is to say, no role at all. None of them helped devise the public-private partnership, Operation Warp Speed, that produced three safe and shockingly effective inoculations in less than a year. None of them were part of the team of scientists who accomplished something uniquely impressive and important in human history. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing evil about feeling a little bit self-important when you don your mask before walking into the grocery store. But it’s a sure sign that the delusions of grandeur have gone too far when you start not only presuming ownership over a vaccine you played no part in producing, but fantasizing about denying it to those supposedly less pious in their observation of proper COVID protocol.

Say what you will of Abbott’s decision, but he’s far from the only governor to trade statewide mask mandates for a more decentralized approach, and the relaxation of restrictions have proven not to be the death sentence for red-state residents that some predicted they would be; Florida and Texas rank in the middle of the pack in deaths per capita. New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have the four highest rates in the country.

One would think that this evidence would have at least caused Moore and Olbermann to pause before they suggested denying the vaccine to Texans. Or the president from making such a juvenile statement of his own. But the Democratic Party, the Biden administration, and their allies have remained committed to the cult of COVID-piety and the self-worship it includes.

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Originally Posted on: https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/03/the-neanderthal-thinking-of-covid-piety/
[By: Isaac Schorr

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