The news landscape is littered these days with anti-vaccine voices who’ve made quite a name for themselves “standing up for freedom,” only to succumb from the disease they thought was overblown, or in some cases, a hoax.
I’ve been finding lately that my empathy level has all but vanished for these folks. Now entering the third year of this pandemic, my patience level has reached the breaking point. But then I began to think not about the individuals who refused the vaccine but the bevy of family and friends that they indeed have left behind.
Was the defiance worth it? Was the notoriety of being a “spokesperson for thousands, even millions, of Americans,” as 22-year Washington state trooper Robert LaMay said on Fox “News” back in October, worth losing your life over?
We will never know, of course, because LaMay recently lost his battle with Covid-19. He said those words on The Laura Ingraham show, who praised LaMay and wondered whether he had awakened the “sleeping giant,” referring to those who were pondering defying vaccine mandates as LaMay had done. He ultimately resigned from his job, telling Governor Jay Inslee to “kiss his ass” on his last day, which was shared by thousands on social media.
Fox hasn’t had the decency to acknowledge LaMay’s death as of this writing. They exploited him for the wrong reasons, only to toss him aside like a sacrificial lamb. They’ve done the exact thing many times throughout this pandemic to the thousands who’ve perished in the same manner — many because of the reckless and reprehensible disinformation campaign from that same media outlet.
Making matters worse is that Fox itself considers Covid-19 serious, having implemented their vaccination and daily testing requirements for all employees. Yes, that includes Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson. I suppose all of it is in the name of pandering to viewers for ratings. The shameless hypocrisy knows no bounds with that network.
Again, though, LaMay made his choice. And now his family and friends will have to deal with the consequence. I can only imagine what he might have been feeling as he took the last breaths of his life.
Another person who made the same choice was rock superstar Meat Loaf, who lost his life to Covid-19 in January. While his vaccine status was unknown, he had recently begun to speak out against vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and wearing masks on planes.
In an interview with The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last August, he responded to the interviewer who talked about being controlled by everybody. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “But not me. If I die, I die, but I’m not going to be controlled.”
It’s a pretty safe bet that he wasn’t vaccinated, but who knows for sure? The bottom line is that Meat Loaf decided his freedom from control of “the man” was more than worth dying for. Judging by the heartfelt issued from his family posted to Facebook after his death, they might disagree.
While the two cases above are both high-profile media stories, they’re most certainly not isolated incidents, as we see those types of tragedies playing out daily throughout America and the rest of the world. My own family is no exception.
I found out yesterday that a long-time family friend had died of Covid-19. I’d only met him once but had heard nothing but wonderful things about him before our meeting, which occurred on Christmas Eve, 2016, at my sister’s house in Akron, Ohio.
It was a tough time for us back then. I visited because my mother’s health had deteriorated, and she was placed in a nursing home. The mood was anything but celebratory, but we made the best of a sad situation.
The family friend arrived later in the evening, a bottle of Crown Royal by his side. We proceeded to have a wonderful visit with him, and I was impressed with his charm and outgoing nature. He played the piano, sang some songs, and we both discussed our mutual admiration of Bruce Springsteen. I believe he even played the opening few bars of “Growing Up,” a long-time favorite of mine.
My two hours with him left a positive impression on me. He made the evening a pleasurable one, especially considering the circumstances surrounding my mother’s condition. And for that, I will forever be grateful.
I was highly disappointed when I discovered the circumstances surrounding his bout with Covid-19. It turns out that he was not vaccinated. And not only that, he had lied about it weeks earlier before visiting family at an annual California beach house vacation, which was attended by some elderly and immune-compromised family members.
Putting his selfishness and the ensuing anger amongst family members aside, they’re all completely devastated by his death. He was beloved by so many and will be sorely missed.
I asked my sister whether she knew of his political leanings, but she wasn’t sure. The night I met him, politics never entered the conversation. Anti-vaccine voices exist on all sides of the political spectrum, although most seem to come from those on the right. In the end, it does not matter. As did Meat Loaf, Officer LaMay, and thousands of others, he made his choice.
In the last days of his life, the family friend lay prone, in his hospital bed, for up to 16 hours a day, on a ventilator. His loved ones were told it was only a matter of time. It all could have been avoided — just as it could have been for so many more just like him.
Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about my family friend because I met him and liked him. But his actions, especially telling others he was vaccinated, reveal a selfish nature that is, I think, shared by most the folks who do not get the shots.
Of course, it could also be from listening to the anti-vaccination crazies on TV and radio. Surely that must also be part of the conversation. Where and whom we get information from is a matter of life and death these days.
Perhaps being a hero to the right-wing was something Officer LaMay could take to his grave as a badge of honor. In a post to his Facebook account from November 18, he wrote:
“Lots of speaking engagements for December. I’ll be around the state and being asked to travel out of state as well. Colorado, Oregon, you might see me soon. The platform is simple FREEDOM!!!! Fight now or lose it.”
Unfortunately, while he may have fought successfully for his “freedom,” he lost his life in the process. And now, his family and friends are left picking up the pieces.
If there were a way, in a spiritual sense, to get these vaccine deniers and defiers in a room together in some way, to show them what their actions have done to the loved ones and friends in their lives, I would certainly do so. And then I’d proceed to ask them one question:
Was it all worth it?