Subcontinental Divide - 2021


Moral Absolutism: Divided We Stand - or Die

By Ahsen Jillani

As of this writing, 11 people I knew are dead of Covid.

Five were fully vaccinated. Some were in their 40s and had no health issues. The last few weeks, I've been angry, and have argued with people on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, both sides hung up on me. That's where we stand, while the rest of the planet is begging for vaccines and vaccine developers are protecting their patents and missing production deadlines (remember the AIDS days and the same scenario?).

I spent the last several years criticizing the far right for their rigid and radical behavior. But my job entails a lot of political copywriting and I have to force myself to listen to talk shows and podcasts on both sides. Frankly, all of them make me sick to my stomach. The political machinery in this country is so massive and influential now that their battlefield is international. Their agendas can extend into the trillions of dollars. Their influence can make or break entire nations.

As a person doing marketing for political clients, I have learned over two decades that the amount of corporate power in politics is virtually unlimited. The landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC gave corporate entities the power to pump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns using nonsense SuperPACs and other means. The result has been that you can't even trust your own brother in the political arena. Somebody has probably set up a PAC called Help My Brother PAC and given him $10,000,000 to introduce a bill in congress to build a sewage treatment plant and a coal mining operation next to your grandmother's nursing home.

I developed a natural bias over the last few years toward the right wing. There was open and blatant prejudice toward people of color; there was embarrassingly rude behavior toward international allies; there were weird and insane tweets about anyone who dared cross the mighty leader. But today, I am more relaxed and objective listening to the talking heads on both sides. They tend to report their own brand of garbage propaganda nightly, with facts that change shape from one hour to another on the same channel.

One side is standing on streets carrying “My Body-My Choice" signs demanding free access to abortion. Another side is standing on another street with the same signs arguing about the government not forcing vaccines and masks on them. I have argued with folks on both sides. It is not an easy argument. American individualism and concepts of liberty do not require allegiance to the government or even your neighbor. That is a right you enjoy. On the other hand, Supreme Court precedent dating back to the 1905 Jacobson v. Massachusetts put a Christian-centric twist to your “social responsibility" and love for the neighbor. Then, you had to get the smallpox vaccine for the common good.

But just as post-9/11 Iraq War disaster failed to mobilize America to the tune of a WW-II frenzy, over 35 percent of Americans are still walking around refusing vaccines and believing fully in horse-deworming medicines curing them. One of them I knew is dead now. But that's a choice you enjoy here. And that debate can be expanded: Aborting a baby with a heartbeat is murder; not wearing a seatbelt is also my problem, because my brain injury will strain the medical system and raise your insurance rates; smoking will do the same; eating fried chicken and becoming obese will do the same as well. The entire country should be on a treadmill nightly for the Common Good.

So how much can a government push you to do things that you consider an Orwellian intrusion on your freedom and basic human rights? That's a tough question that right wing and left wing pundits are fighting out on live competing networks nightly. Yes of course an obese, old or sickly person has more of a risk of carrying an active infection.

Do we next send them to special facilities to be isolated in critical times like a pandemic? And of course the unvaccinated are now straining the hospital systems in massive numbers. Should we let them die because they exercised their “My Body-My Choice" rights?

Actually, both these scenarios are playing out in national debates. I know of a vaccinated doctor who is dead. I know of nurses who say hospitals are lying about the vaccinated hospitalizations to make an example of the unvaccinated people. The liberal media reports only about the country folks in southern states, but as of this writing, two Midwestern states and three western states have full hospitals. Four of them went to Joe Biden in 2020. The southern state crisis has gradually faded like clockwork at the 2-month mark for the variants of this disease. But … it's time for another variant … and the next booster maybe?

So Moral Absolutism and Conventionalism are really a bi-partisan propaganda technique. It was used by many authoritarian brutes over the centuries and has now become a science – using precise keywords and buzzwords or specially targeted audiences in specially gathered databases. That's how the cash flows into the pockets of the rich and powerful. “You are either with us, or you are the enemy." Democrats are the socialist sheeple, but we are the liberty-minded warriors who blindly follow a lying and cheating and sexually molesting real estate developer guy.

The passion on both sides is as stunning as the death toll from this pandemic. In the end, we can only pray that we will get immune from both the propaganda and the virus – turn off the TVs and welcome some friends for the holidays.

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Ahsen Jillani a former editor and publisher, is originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and now lives in Mint Hill. He owns Must Media, a PR company focusing on both political and corporate clients.