Commentary

It’s not freedom, but free dumb that is killing us

September 10, 2021 4:24 am

Face mask, , liquid soap, protective gloves and protective eyeglasses on black background (Getty Images, illustration)

There’s no nice way to put it. Hundreds of Montanans are now getting sick and dying thanks to the anti-science, anti-mask, anti-vax messages propagated by the insane rhetoric of Republican politicians under the false rubric of “personal responsibility” and “freedom.” But as the costs to society continue to rise exponentially while the more lethal, more contagious delta variant of COVID-19 runs rampant, we should call it just what it is — Free Dumb — and it’s killing us.

You don’t have to dig very far back to recall the insane advice of the former president that people could inject bleach or put a “strong light” inside the body to kill the virus responsible for COVID. Unfortunately, he didn’t follow his own medical advice when he contracted the disease. Instead he got the best, most expensive treatment available to save himself while those who believed his sham died gasping for their last breaths. When the U.S. death toll topped 600,000, almost all on Trump’s watch, one may have expected anyone with a shred of intelligence to realize the COVID pandemic was deadly serious, in every meaning of the word.

But no. Instead we saw Republican politicians continue to blather about Democrats attempting to exercise “totalitarian control” by mandating common sense measures such as getting the safe and effective vaccines, wearing masks in public, avoiding crowds and maintaining “social distance” from others. All of those precautions work. Free Dumb does not.

Now come the consequences of the horrific decisions by Republican governors like Montana’s Greg Gianforte, Florida’s DeSantis and Texas’ Abbott in their arrogant and ignorant efforts to politicize the pandemic for electoral advantage. As for their constituents who were hoping for rational governance in the face of a very serious health crisis, they’re on their own and dying like flies.

Here’s the truth of what these fools have wrought. They’re shipping refrigerated “portable morgues” to Florida — and they’re not for oranges. Texas hospitals are overwhelmed as the dead and dying stack up. Cold as it may seem, there are now discussions on whether those who chose not to get vaccinated should be taking up scarce medical facilities due to their lack of “personal responsibility.”

Here in Montana the situation is equally dire. As reported late last week, Missoula’s St. Patrick hospital has stopped taking new admissions for non-critical procedures because it has no space left due to the alarming rise in Covid cases. Respiratory nurses say they’ve hooked up more ventilators in the last year than in the previous five years — and they, like the nurses and doctors, are heartbroken and burning out.

In Helena the situation is the same as health facilities are “reaching the tipping point” in their ability to handle the influx of COVID cases. And yes, people are dying. It’s so bad that: “More than 500 St. Peter’s personnel signed their names to a social media post Wednesday pleading with the community to get vaccinated (because) the unvaccinated population leaves thousands of people — including children — more vulnerable to the virus.” As St. Peter’s spokeswoman said: “These are people, not statistics. These are lives, local lives.”

The economic impacts are also stacking up as people curtail social activities and avoid public places with a predictable decline in new jobs and public schools seek contract online services anticipating the impacts on our vulnerable children.

There’s simply no denying who is responsible for this new wave of medical, social and economic crises — it’s the anti-science, anti-mask, anti-vaccine Republican politicians continuing to politicize the pandemic and kill our people, including helpless children, with their Free Dumb propaganda.

George Ochenski writes from Helena.

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