Constable: Into the valley of those dead set against vaccines, masks
During the COVID-19 explosion of 2020, my family worried that we might inadvertently infect people and be part of the pandemic problem. So, for the first time since the Fountain Park Chautauqua began in 1895, not a single member of the Constable family attended the annual two-week gathering outside the rural hamlet of Remington, Indiana. Our cottage, No. 21, was dark.
The past two weeks, buoyed by our family's 100% fully vaccinated status, our reopened cottage welcomed family and guests from Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, California, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Texas and Canada. We played euchre and Codenames with dear friends from Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and North Carolina. The fully vaccinated ranged from a 12-year-old boy to a 90-year-old woman. We laughed, hugged, ate sweet corn, stayed up late and enjoyed a closeness that almost made us feel that COVID was behind us. That's not accurate, as the delta variant is surging.
More "pain and suffering" are in the offing because some people aren't vaccinated, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases.
In Jasper County, Indiana, where our cottage has stood since 1905, only 36% of people have gotten a first vaccine shot. Venturing into that part of Indiana is like charging into the valley of death, or at least, the valley of those dead set against vaccines and masks.
The main difference between our journey and "The Charge of the Light Brigade," immortalized by poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, is that those of us charging into that scene were fully cognizant of the risks. The residents who willfully chose not to be vaccinated are the ignorant. To paraphrase Tennyson: "Someone had blundered. Theirs was not to reason why. Theirs was but to not get vaccinated and die."
A small sign on our screened-in porch explained that masks were optional for the fully vaccinated, and that everyone else was to reach into our box of disposable masks and do the right thing. We didn't need it. All visitors, whether Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or something else, said they had been vaccinated. Some told stories about "idiots" they knew who weren't vaccinated. Others admitted they got the vaccine because of pressure from family members or co-workers. All good to me.
My wife and I were the only people wearing masks during our grocery shopping adventures. The unmasked people we met were polite. although one person seemed to have been referencing us when he was talking on his cellphone. "Last I heard, we beat the Nazis," he said.
The New York Times says people who refuse to get the vaccination "tend to be disproportionately white, rural, evangelical Christian and politically conservative." That's my homeland. Some of the unvaccinated see themselves as "freedom-loving patriots," even though their refusal to be vaccinated leads to more American deaths and greater restrictions on our freedom.
During outside gatherings with people who never ventured inside our fully vaccinated porch, I met with only one friend who I found out later was unvaccinated. Everyone else in his family is vaccinated, but he apparently doesn't see the need for vaccinations.
It also could be that he just hasn't gotten good health and medical news.
It can be difficult to follow the news in rural Indiana, where internet, TV and even cellphone service can be spotty.
When I finally got the news the Chicago Cubs had traded their best -- Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel, I thought that "news" might have come from the Onion, and that the next story would be about how the Ricketts family traded the historic manual scoreboard for an iPhone 12 and replaced the ivy on the outfield walls with more-profitable marijuana plants.
It's difficult in the land of the unvaccinated to tell what is legitimate. If I feel lucky, I can make that pilgrimage again later this month. My high school reunion is scheduled in Newton County, home of our family farm and a 26% vaccination rate.