From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:
When does poignancy lose its meaning? Do you become hardened against it or does it become just another little bit of humanity that has no purchase on you anymore? Damned if I know at this point, I just know that this AP dispatch from Missouri has anger and empathy running too close a race for my liking.
“We’ve had a big-time delta virus surge here. A lot of admissions, a lot of people who are very sick and are dying,” said Dr. Harbaksh Sangha, Lake Regional’s chief medical officer. “So as a human being it’s very frustrating, but as a physician we just take care of whatever we get.”
Which is how we meet Daryl Barker, a 31-year old who is fighting for every breath because the country’s COVID relapse got him, and he was disinclined to acknowledge that possibility. To my understanding, his explanation might as well have been in Martian.
Barker, of Branson, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) southwest of Osage Beach, understands the hesitancy. “I was strongly against getting the vaccine,” Barker said through labored breathing. “Just because we’re a strong conservative family.”
I don’t understand what conservatism has to do with saving your life. Hand to god, I don’t. What kind of faith are you keeping? What principle are you defending with your last functioning alveoli? I know liberals are supposed to be the ones who tailor their whole lives around their ideology, but there is no political principle I hold that I’m willing to trade adherence to it for breathing.
He arrived critically ill. Placed on a ventilator, Barker was given a 20% chance of surviving. “The doctor told me he was going to let my wife and kid in so I could say my goodbyes because he didn’t think I was going to pull through,” Barker said. In those conversations, he told his wife and 6-year-old son, Brody, that he loved them “and I wasn’t going to give up.” Slowly, Barker started to recover. Sohal is optimistic but said Barker, who has been hospitalized for three weeks, isn’t out of the woods. “This is the time when he’s going to get a lot better or a lot worse,” Sohal said.
Again, though, where does “conservative” enter into any of this?
Daryl and Billie Barker both plan to get vaccinated once he recovers. Daryl said his wife and son are why he’s fighting so hard. On a sweltering day, they sat outside the ICU in lawn chairs, looking at Daryl through glass. Every now and then, Brody walked up to the window and waved to his dad, who smiled and waved back. Billie used a dry erase marker to scrawl “I love you” backwards on the glass so her husband could read it. “I don’t ever want to have to do this again,” she said, “and if that means getting a vaccination to prevent something like this, that’s what I’ll do.”
I hope he makes it, and I’m glad he has seen his way clear to taking the vaccine. And, sadly, that’s as far as I can go, for him and for everybody like him. It shouldn’t be, but it is. All right, as John Dos Passos wrote, we are two countries. But both of them have the same damn disease, which doesn’t care for whom you voted in 2020, or what your favorite television and radio pundits think they know about epidemiology. Liberals and conservatives both have to breathe.