Recently I came across this great sentence in a book by Timothy Synder:
Our politics are too much about the curse of pain and too little about the blessings of liberty.
There is so much in that short sentence to unpack. Our politics is filled with too many grievance mongers and selfish, dishonest applause seekers instead of people trying to solve real problems and improve the lives of our citizenry. The blessings of liberty are about a free people coming together, working together, through their natural disagreements, finding compromise, and finding solutions through the democratic process. History reminds us that oligarchy, autocracy, chaos, and civil strife are the rule and democracy, peace, and the blessings of Liberty the exception.
What we need right now is more humility, grace, intelligence, and compassion and less of the dark, greedy, selfish, tribal hatreds from the curse-of-pain crowd that are always seeking attention and stoking fear. In this brief moment of history we have the blessings of Liberty and self governance and a way of life only dreamed of by millions of souls who came long before us across the great span of human history.
We need to constantly remind ourselves of this.
I will not pretend that, if I had to choose between Communism and Nazi-ism, I would choose Communism. I hope not to be called upon to survive in the world under a Government of either of those dispensations….It is not a question of opposing Nazi-ism or Communism; it is a question of opposing tyranny in whatever form it presents itself.
Eventually, all discussions about sterilizing immunity [Ability to totally prevent infection] become nerdy quibbles over semantics. Clearly, not every infection is clinically meaningful, or even logistically detectable, given the limits of our technology—nor do they need to be, if there’s no sickness or transmission. (A koan for pandemic times: If a microbe silently and inconsequentially copies itself in a tissue, and the body doesn’t notice, did it actually infect?) There is, for every pathogen, a threshold at which an infection becomes problematic; all the immune system has to do is suppress its rise below this line to keep someone safe.
But that might be exactly the point. Say that sterilizing immunity is impossible, that our immune systems cannot, in fact, be trained to achieve perfection. Then it’s neither a surprise nor a shortcoming that COVID-19 vaccines, or other vaccines, don’t manage it: An inoculation that guards marvelously well against disease—offering as much protection as it can—can still end an outbreak. Life would certainly be easier if vaccines offered invincible armor, with pathogens simply ricocheting off. But they don’t, and assuming or expecting them to manage that can be dangerous. The dubiousness of sterilizing immunity is a reminder that just about any immune response can be overwhelmed, if exposures are heavy and frequent enough, Grad told me. The best we can all hope for is functional immunity, more like a flame retardant than a firewall, that still keeps bad burns at bay.