The Kansas Reflector hosts opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of broadening the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Conner Kerrigan is a communications professional and advocate for criminal justice reform.
In the fall of 2020, I was furious to see then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rushing to seat Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court just 35 days before the 2020 election. all, he was the one who even refused to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, a moderate choice in all respects, as the 2016 election was nine months – far more than 35 days – from President Obama’s appointment of Garland. .
“Shame is a cage,” said a colleague I fumed over hypocrisy.
She was right. Once you stop feeling ashamed, you are free to do whatever you want. Say one thing, do another. Refuse to sit on a Supreme Court judge, rush to sit another. Getting drunk and cursing in front of a group of kids at a baseball game. If you don’t feel ashamed, there is no consequence for these actions. If there are no consequences for your actions, you are truly free.
McConnell is just one particularly egregious example, but we are all looking for reasons to do inconsequential hypocritical things. Personally, I like the convenience of Amazon Prime, even though I think its destruction of small businesses and mistreatment of its employees is a crime against humanity.
Since shame puts people in a cage, it’s a horrible motivator too. No one has been persuaded to change their mind by having a donkey cap put on their head. So why would anyone believe that shaming the unvaccinated for their decision not to receive the jab motivates them to do so? Instead, it has the exact opposite effect.
You see it on social media accounts and public testimonies of the unvaccinated, denouncing mask warrants and the CDC. They all say the same thing: “You will not take away my freedom by putting me in the cage of shame.” They planted their flag. It won’t work, so stop trying.
I realize that it is not very beneficial to only talk about what is not working. We are still in a pandemic, and it has largely become an unvaccinated pandemic. If we’re going to get out of this, we need more people to get the jab, outright. So let’s see what might work.
We have heard from unvaccinated people that vaccination is a personal medical decision. This is absolutely true, which means their decision will come from individual motivators, such as conversations with loved ones and the healthcare professionals in their lives. Personally, the decision to get vaccinated was easy for me. My wife is a medical student, whose third year of school was dominated by discussions about the virus. As she works in a hospital system for her clinical rotations, she was vaccinated early. His experience and expertise led me to get vaccinated when possible.
Those who have loved ones they want to see vaccinated should approach these conversations with delicacy, with an open ear and an unashamed speech for vaccination. “You don’t care about grandma” isn’t going to cut it. It’s time to open your ears, ask questions, and find things that can help guide unvaccinated people to a change in status. I have a loved one who was awaiting full FDA approval prior to vaccination. My response was only encouraging. “Great! I’ll let you know as soon as that happens. Glad you made that decision.”
I understand that I now shame those who are ashamed by telling them that the way they go about convincing people to get vaccinated is counterproductive. Obviously, you have the freedom to go on Twitter and complain about whatever you want, and your anger is understandable. What about your freedom to go wherever you want without worrying about getting a revolutionary case? What about your child’s freedom to do the same? After all, children under 12 cannot be vaccinated.
We all want to get back to ‘normal’ no matter what, and the fastest way is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
But if that’s what we want, it’s time to put shame on the shelf.
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