How sympathy got displaced by scorn

By | January 18, 2022

Andrea Stanley writes:

After Andreea’s mom died of COVID-19 in April, the harassment started. Noxious messages started coming in after she wrote a Facebook post letting friends and family know about her loss.

One person messaged her to say they couldn’t believe her mother hadn’t protected herself. Andreea has since deleted most of the other messages, but she remembers people saying things like “I can’t believe your mom was an anti-vaxxer” and “I can’t believe she didn’t understand that COVID could kill you.” “Instead of people saying that they were sorry for my loss, they would question my mom’s medical choices. It became all about her vaccine status. It was incredibly hurtful,” Andreea, a language instructor, who asked to be identified by only her first name in order to prevent further harassment, told me.

It also wasn’t true that her mother was an anti-vaxxer. According to Andreea, her mom, who was a nurse, did have initial concerns about the vaccine, but after talking with her doctor, she had scheduled an appointment for her first dose. Unfortunately, she got sick before she could get it, Andreea says.

In 2020, dying of COVID-19 was widely seen as an unqualified tragedy. It was the beginning of the pandemic, when it felt as if the entire world was in a state of collective grief. There was a palpable, shared mourning for all the lives gone too soon: the smiling mothers and jokester grandfathers and so-and-so from church who always lent a helping hand. All victims of a virus, unfurling and cruel.

But that was before the vaccines. Before COVID deaths got caught up in a culture war.

Now the majority of COVID deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated, and many deaths are likely preventable. The compassion extended to the virus’s victims is no longer universal. Sometimes, in place of condolences, loved ones receive scorn. [Continue reading…]

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