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It’s past time to handle these Jokers

in Contributors/Terry Manning/Voices by

I’m tired, aren’t you? It seems like we all are, for sure.

Tired of the pandemic. Tired of the virus. Tired of humming “Happy Birthday” while we wash our hands. Tired of bottles of sanitizers and germ-killing wipes. Tired of Googling mask effectiveness. Tired of wearing masks. Tired of social distancing. Tired of not seeing family and friends.

And increasingly, many of us are tiring of the people who keep denying the dangers of the coronavirus and refusing to take it seriously. These people who refuse to wear masks or get the vaccines that would help bring all this closer to being behind us are the biggest reason we all have to keep dealing with both.

See, I’m a comic book collector. More accurately, I’m a lifetime comic reader. I’m a fan of DC Comics. Superman is my guy. I think I went into journalism because his alter-ego, Clark Kent, grew up on a farm outside a small town and went into journalism.

But most of the best stories over the years have been about Batman. And if you read more than a handful of stories about crime-plagued Gotham City and the Dark Knight detective’s never-ending battle to fight that crime, you come away with one inescapable conclusion: Batman is his own worst enemy.

His rogues gallery is without equal. The Penguin. Catwoman. Clayface. Mr. Freeze. The Riddler. Scarecrow. Ra’s al Ghul. Hush. Hugo Strange. Bane. Killer Croc. And of course, The Joker. No other superhero faces a lineup like this.

And no matter how many times Batman ruins their plans or beats them to within an inch of their lives, they never stop trying. Why? Because they know Batman doesn’t kill.

This unwritten agreement between the bad guys and the good guy gives these bad actors license to try whatever they want. This has parallels in our real world.

People who put their personal choices and rights over the good of the general populace are not dissimilar from the villains who prioritize their greed and personal gain over the welfare of the citizens of Gotham.

We don’t have a Caped Crusader with a personal code of conduct, but we do have a Constitution with guarantees these people use like a permission slip to be objectors. How many times have we heard, “It’s my personal choice”? “It’s my body”? “I have rights”?

Of course, you do. We all do, but none of us live in isolation from the rest of the people on the planet. What you decide and do individually can have consequences for others. And we “others” are tired of your selfishness.

In his essay in The Atlantic, “Vaccinated America Has Had Enough,” David Frum divided the response to the pandemic along political lines. Trump followers and other conservatives are decidedly less supportive of measures Biden voters and some independents willingly adopt to fight the virus.

“Pro-Trump America has decided that vaccine refusal is a statement of identity and a test of loyalty,” Frum writes. This has devastated red states, most of which have Trump acolytes in their governor’s mansions and are led by Republican-dominant legislatures. But they’d rather be red and dead than miss a chance to own the libs.

Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times on “The Quiet Rage of the Responsible” and the dishonesty of personal choices that aren’t.

“When you reject your shots or refuse to mask up, you’re increasing my risk of catching a potentially deadly or disabling disease, and also helping to perpetuate the social and economic costs of the pandemic,” he states.

We have been hearing for more than a year now that we should wear kid gloves when dealing with people who are deniers or hard to convince. Incentives were offered. Concert tickets. Free food. Some states offered to pay people outright to get the vaccines.

None of that worked, and now stronger measures are in order.

President Biden has raised the stakes, mandating federal employees and contractors get vaccinated and that large private employers require the vaccine for their workers. He has ordered that schools require vaccines for teachers and staff. He instructed the Travel Security Administration to double fines for passengers who refuse to wear masks.

“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said in an address to the nation. Good!

Soft touches don’t work on hard heads. It’s hammer time.

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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