Discussing things that matter to us demands a more civil approach

Understanding “those people” and 5 links worth your time

I just returned from a business trip to Florida. In the weeks prior to that trip, I kept wondering if the event would be canceled. New COVID cases are up across the country because of the Delta variant, and Florida has seen record numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases in the past month. 

I kept asking myself if it was safe to go to Florida. Should I cancel even if the event wasn’t cancelled? 

“Those people”

As I talked about this with people and wondered what they thought, I was struck by how each conversation followed a similar path: disbelief at the COVID statistics in Florida, commiseration because everyone thought things were getting better, and, finally, very harsh criticism of “those people who refuse to get vaccinated.”

If you’re reading this and you’ve chosen not to be vaccinated, I imagine that last bit is upsetting. If someone dismissed me derisively as “one of those people,” I’d be angry. If you accused me of selfishness, ignorance, or being “a wacko” (exactly how one of the people I was talking to described anyone who can get the vaccine but refuses to), I wouldn’t listen to anything else you had to say to me. 

“I just don’t understand people who won’t get vaccinated.” I heard this repeatedly in these conversations. 

That’s a situation—not understanding one another—that is unlikely to change if we keep calling each other names.

Civility and changing minds

In our five links this week, I’ve included pieces that offer some examples of conversations between people who disagree about vaccinations. An editor-in-chief of a national newspaper talks with her brother, a vaccine skeptic, about his concerns and how she tried to answer them. A group of moms built a Facebook forum that demanded civility but not unity or agreement. These moms want people to get vaccinated, but they didn’t think yelling and insults would change minds. 

You can read more about those stories and the diversity of reasons and viewpoints of those who have chosen not to get vaccinated.

If you feel strongly that everyone who is eligible should get vaccinated, perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “The time for talking is over! Let’s just mandate vaccinations.” But I got vaccinated after weighing all the information, and I think others should have the same opportunity to make their own choices. 

We need to be able to discuss the things that matter most to us

I want to preserve choice, but I still have strong feelings about the importance of getting vaccinated. 

It’s easy to be civil and open-minded when the consequences are insignificant. Maybe you think onion rings taste better with ketchup. If so, you’re just wrong, but as long as you keep your ketchup off my onion rings, we can stop talking about our disagreement. 

The issue of COVID vaccines is, however, much more serious. For many people, it is a matter of life and death, so, personally, I really hope that the time for talking is not over.

5 links worth your time

  1. Editor-in-chief of USA Today relates a conversation she had with her brother, who refuses to get vaccinated.  
  2. The two rules in this vaccine Facebook group: civility and evidence-based claims, regardless of whether you’re in favor of or against the vaccine.  
  3. Not all unvaccinated folks are ‘anti-vaxxers’.
  4. Vaccine resisters can’t be persuaded if they feel disrespected.  
  5. We must stop making assumptions about vaccine skeptics if we expect them to listen to other opinions.

Photo by James Thew on Adobe Stock