With President Biden at the helm, America can score a dramatic diplomatic coup. We could leave a lasting mark for the better — both in purely humanitarian terms, but also in terms of restoring a national image that the Trump regime left badly damaged. The pieces are in place, and the time is right. We should help vaccinate the world.
The phenomena of “vaccine-hesitancy” and the “anti-vaxxer” movement are regrettable or worse, but if we are creating a backlog of unused vaccine, now is the time to share it. If we continue to ramp up our production and engage our vast military in the task of rapid worldwide distribution, we would do more to enhance our standing in the world than anything we have done in the last 70 years.
A single C5 military transport could probably deliver many millions of doses in a single trip. The total cost worldwide would probably be less than that of buying a single new aircraft carrier. People everywhere would applaud the gesture and the livesaving help it represents. Yes, it would be the antithesis of the “me first,” “America first” attitude that has dominated our national behavior for the last four years. That is the whole point. It would put down a clear marker that an America we can all feel proud of is back.
The point of a grand gesture like this will be lost if there are strings attached. This should be a humanitarian act. Vaccines should be free to Iran, Palestine, North Korea, etc. without conditions! Some people will think that proposal silly, but any expert on public health can tell you we would still be doing ourselves a favor. If COVID-19 continues to ferment away in large foreign populations, those variants (increasing lethal and transmissible) will inevitably come to our shores. We have already seen what that can do to our own health and our economy. Let’s learn that lesson. Let us also always remember too that helping a neighbor in distress is never a waste. It is part of what makes us human.
Recently, the anti-vaccination crowd has crossed a very serious line. It is one thing to decide for yourself that you don’t want a shot. It is quite another to actively spread lies about fictitious negative side effects of vaccines, etc. When such false claims actively undermine a major government initiative directed at safeguarding the lives and health of the American public, they go far beyond the limits of free speech and become sedition and treason.
With public support, America could lock up two other major victories. First, passing Biden’s infrastructure bill would go a long way toward truly rebuilding America. Although it is expensive, it is also (unlike Trump’s huge tax cut giveaway to the rich) an expense we are likely to see re-paid. His plan would directly benefit millions of Americans and create millions of local jobs. That means much needed income in local communities while local workers repair local infrastructure. In Newport, we have a reservoir and a critical bridge that are both badly in need of work.
Third, the public can simply pull together and reject the hundreds of laws intended to suppress voter turnout that the GOP has recently spawned across the country. These are a gross violation of our democratic values.
The agenda I just outlined is hardly radical or leftist. What serious American could object to enhancing our standing in the world, repairing our frayed infrastructure and restoring the credibility of our election process? All these goals are very achievable at the moment. They are in keeping with the nation’s needs and values. They would do us and the world a world of good.
But the moment won’t last forever. Sadly, all the GOP can offer these days is delusion, division, sedition, insurrection, self-destruction and rejection of everything that might help Biden (and therefore America) succeed. It is time for people to speak out for success. The choice is simple: three easy wins or more endless GOP-driven gridlock.
Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport.