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Death at the lake - John Samuel Tieman

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The life expectancy in Missouri, my home state, in 2021 dropped from 77.4 years to 74.6, a forty year low. One reason was opioid overdoses. Another was suicide facilitated by guns. The other major reason was COVID-19 deaths among Missourians younger than 65. According to a recent report by the Department Of Health And Senior Services, much of the explanation for younger COVID deaths is that older Missourians “were more fully vaccinated.” Compared to 2020, when the pandemic was at its worst and vaccines were unavailable, deaths increased in 2021.

My wife and I took a small vacation in 2021. We went to the Lake Of The Ozarks in central Missouri. By this time, we were fully vaccinated. We also wore masks everywhere, and we socially distanced. As near as we could tell, we were almost alone in these precautions. Very few wore masks, and even fewer socially distanced. It's hard to tell about vaccinations, but, given all the MAGA hats, it's not hard to guess. At our resort, I vividly remember a line that formed when, at breakfast, the chef who made omelettes showed up. Twenty or so people got in line. There was not a single mask. There was no social distancing. I would later read how that area had some of the highest death rates from COVID in the United States. Now and then, I wonder how many of those folks in that line survived their foolishness.

Let us recall those times. Here's a short list of delusions that were so prevalent then, delusions about the coronavirus. COVID-19 vaccines cause you to become sick with COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine brings with it fertility problems. The vaccination contained a tracking device. Eating garlic protects against infection. Ivermectin, treatment for parasitic worms, can be used to treat COVID. Hydroxychloroquine used to treat malaria can also treat the virus. Ultraviolet light is a cure. The vaccines alter DNA. Coronavirus vaccines cause variants of the disease to form. The natural immunity from being sick with COVID-19 is better than the immunity from the vaccination. There were a vast array of other delusions, all of which were refuted by, among others, the Centers For Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and pretty much any physician anywhere.

A delusion is a belief that is contradicted by reality. Let us consider a more clinical view, from the “Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders”. In DSM-III and IV, delusions were defined as “false beliefs due to incorrect inference about external reality”. The DSM-5 calls delusions “fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence”. The consequences, that result from delusions, vary. A person can hold a delusion, hold a job, and care for a family. A person can have a delusion which persists over time, and is not altered by evidence. Many folks have that cousin who insists that Sasquatch lives in the woods down the street. Outside of immediate family and friends, a belief in Bigfoot is relatively harmless. But some delusions have deadly consequences. QAnon amplified a claim that white people were immune to COVID-19. Taking medical advice from QAnon, this got Missourians killed.

In politics, delusions are like the royal family of Great Britain. They really can't do much to solve problems, but they can do a lot to start them. Delusions isolate people. They are an intellectual dead end. They cause a lot of trouble, and they can't evolve into a solution. Such beliefs can only be disruptive. When an idea isn't true, it just doesn't go anywhere. It explains, in part, why Donald Trump's base never expands. It also explains why Missourians needlessly died of COVID.

In all likelihood, those who were deluded are condemned to remain deluded. As for the rest of us, the political goal must be to help the delusional while not being infected, literally and figuratively, because of their delusions. We need to reflect upon why such delusions affected the health of our entire state, and, indeed, our entire nation. America is not a particularly reflective nation. That doesn't mean that reflection is a bad idea.

2022.09.26 / 09:52
John Samuel Tieman
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