October 25, 2021

A Pinch of Salt: Life among the privileged

View Original Notice ? A Pinch of Salt: Life among the privileged

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Let’s talk privilege.

It’s not a pleasant talk, at least if you have a sense of morality. It’s a simple matter of definition — if we are privileged, that means others are not.

There are lots of levels and lots of areas of privilege. Those of you who are around my age might remember the phrase “the Ugly American,” a reference to American travelers who felt privilege afforded them special treatment.

Plenty of writers more erudite and informed than I am have attempted to address privilege inside America. We can talk ethnicities, economic levels, heritage, male versus female, even sexual preferences.

In what I believe ultimately will be a positive development, the existence of privilege and what it does to others has become a major topic of discussion. The positive part will require action. But, as I am constantly reminded, a problem can’t be solved until it is recognized as a problem.

But what prompted me to attempt to tackle a topic with so many potential pitfalls isn’t the state of American affairs. Instead, it was an NPR story about coronavirus vaccinations around the world. (No pitfalls there, right?)

The story was two-pronged — it talked about the profit-oriented approach of manufacturers of the Moderna vaccine, then segued into the availability of vaccines worldwide while booster shots were being offered in the United States.

Moderna, according to the story, has opted to sell almost all of its vaccine to the United States and other developed countries willing to pay, with very little going to impoverished countries in Africa and elsewhere. That segment ended with an urging from President Joe Biden to release more vaccine.

Now remember that, at least as of this writing, Moderna has not been approved to offer booster shots in the United States. That offer comes only from Pfizer, at least right now.

Still, boosters are being given all across our country to people older than 65 and those who are at high risk, at least to those who received the Pfizer vaccine in the first place. And, according to the NPR story, the population of many developing countries are less than 10% vaccinated.

These countries are literally begging for more access to the immunity the vaccines provide. At the same time, we are arguing over the “right” to not take the vaccine, and/or finding ways to qualify for boosters to get some more immunity.

Talk about feeling privileged.

So if and when you are offered a booster, will you take it? I will. I rationalize my decision by realizing the vaccine they are offering me isn’t going to make it to Africa, India or elsewhere. And there’s no doubt that the booster will help me avoid a deadly illness. I happen to be in favor of that.

I could go on about how we seem to feel entitled to a job, even if we don’t fulfill the requirements for that job, or how there’s somehow some privilege of personal choice without ramifications. Feel free to not get vaccinated. It’s your privilege. Just don’t endanger me or my family while you do it.

I’ve been taught that privileges come with responsibility. How about you?

Editor’s Note: The sharp readers that you are, you’ve probably noticed letters about COVID-19 vaccinations have begun appearing again. I believe the situation has changed enough to warrant that. But I will not print letters that make false claims or denigrate other people. That is, so to speak, my privilege and responsibility.

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