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Stop Death Shaming

Mocking the unvaccinated dead does not save lives.

THE ATLANTIC – A record of the plague dead:

Stacy Forbess, 55, an Alabama twirling coach; Haley Mulkey Richardson, 32, a pregnant Alabama nurse; Cindy Dawkins, 50, a Florida restaurant worker;

and Martin and Trina Daniel, 53 and 49, a Georgia couple married for some 20 years; Lawrence and Lydia Rodriguez, 49 and 42, a Texas couple married for 21.

All unvaccinated, and all whose deaths were covered by various papers and TV stations, with notes of shame or contempt subtle in some tales and bold in others.

Whom are these stories for? They seem to aspire to be persuasive—perhaps the unvaccinated simply don’t realize, or haven’t accepted, that COVID-19 can be quite suddenly fatal, even for the otherwise young and healthy.

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In that case, they could use some frightening reminders, or so the reasoning seems to go.

But if persuasion is the target, then the aim seems off—a general problem in our democracy, where persuasion is a key method of self-governance but something we’re less and less amenable to.

In that sense, the strange case of vaccine persuasion is just another entry in the annals of our disillusionment with our own liberal democracy.

One receives the distinct impression from today’s discursive environment that persuasion in its traditional democratic form—wherein a great deal of value is placed upon shrewd and moving rhetoric that assumes listeners’ basic goodwill—is a useless venture, and that lower forms—insults, scolding, intra-group memeing, the dirty persuasion of disinformation campaigns—are all that’s left.

Maybe those things are useless too, one gathers, but at least they’re fun and cathartic.

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Still, it’s worth considering what an honest persuasion effort aimed at the unvaccinated or vaccine-hesitant would look like, even if we may never see the population-level vaccine uptake that we’d like to. Good-faith persuasion is a matter of discipline and habit; it’s not something that comes naturally … READ MORE. 

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