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Uploaded:2021-04-06
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In which John discusses his all-time favorite meme, anxiety, shame, vaccine hesitancy, and how we're gonna get out of this.

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Good morning Hank it’s Tuesday.

So my all-time favorite meme is How Do You Do Fellow Kids; it’s from a scene from the TV show 30 Rock in which a then 55-year-old Steve Buscemi dresses up as a high school student and says, “How do you do, fellow kids?” The meme first appeared almost a decade ago, meaning that it is itself becoming old, thereby becoming more meta everyday. As Kaitlyn Tiffany has written, the Fellow Kids meme is “out of touch, out of date, and totally out of place in its current context.

It is a meme of a meme.” Chef’s kiss. There’s a lot to dislike about meme discourse, but got I love its turtles all the way down recursion. But what I love most about how do you do fellow kids is that it reminds me of a lesson.

I have at times learned the hard way: if I try to act hip and relatable to a young audience, it will only feel mega-cringe— to use some probably outdated slang. Anyway, my point is that I do not know what it is like to be in your teens or 20s today,. I can’t relate to those experiences as a peer.

I can listen, and try to empathize, but I can’t know what it’s like from the inside. Similarly, I don’t know what it’s like to experience vaccine hesitancy. The vast majority of people watching this are either vaccinated, in the process of getting vaccinated, or desperate to get vaccinated.

I know many of you can’t yet access vaccines and I’m sorry, and we dramatically need to increase supply and distribution. But there are also people watching this video who feel vaccine hesitancy, or who find the prospect of getting vaccinated against covid stressful or overwhelming for whatever reason. And I have to say, I sympathize with those people.

I’ve had severe anxiety for most of my life, and one of the things I’ve learned living with it is that for me, shame just isn’t very effective. Like, being told to stop worrying, or that I’m an idiot for worrying about things that aren’t rational-- that doesn’t help me. Ultimately I don’t find it helpful to judge myself for my uncertainties or anxieties; what I find helpful is figuring out a way to overcome them.

The Covid vaccines approved in the U. S. and much of the world are safe and effective; over a hundred million people have already received them, and they dramatically reduce both personal and societal risk of COVID. If everyone on Earth were fully vaccinated tomorrow, Covid 19 would be at most a minor problem for humans.

But to get there, or anywhere close to there, we must not just be inoculated against the disease as individuals, but also as communities. There are some people who just refuse to get vaccinated, and that’s their choice. But a much larger percentage of people are hesitant for a variety of reasons.

Maybe their information feeds have misinformed them about vaccination. Maybe they don’t trust the healthcare system. Maybe they find it difficult to make an appointment.

Maybe they are personally low risk and so feel like getting the vaccine is not a priority. But the thing is, immunity is not really a personal trait. As Eula Biss has written, “Immunity is a public space.” Like you getting vaccinated radically reduces your personal risk of being harmed by Covid, but every person who is immunized lessens Covid’s ability to spread and infect the vulnerable.

From small pox to typhoid, we have learned over and over again that immunity only really works when it is shared. And so you getting vaccinated is something you do for yourself, but it is also something you do for your community. That’s why you getting vaccinated matters to me, and me getting vaccinated matters to you.

When encouraging people in my life to get vaccinated, I’m trying hard not to be like, “how do you do fellow vaccine hesitants?” I don’t want to pretend that we have the same information feeds or the same perspectives on public health, but I also don’t want to shame people, both because I don’t think that worry and uncertainty are shameful, and because I don’t think shame works. What helps me when I feel fear and uncertainty isn’t shame but support and reassurance and empathy. So if you’re worried, that’s ok.

Ask for help. And if you’re trying to support someone, offer help. I think in the end that’s all we can do.

We can’t make other people’s choices for them. But I also know that the only way we’re going to end this, is together. Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.

Oh you didn’t think I was going to leave you without a vision board, did you? I am thankful for safe and effective vaccines and hopeful that we can achieve shared immunity soon.