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The words of Galileo echo in 2021

There has always been a small minority of Americans whose political and health opinions were tinged with xenophobia, that were also strongly anti-science and anti-fact. The Know-Nothing Party of the 1800s, the slave owners of the South, the pro-Nazi people of the 1930s, the 25% of people who still supported Joe McCarthy when he was run out of the U.S. Senate, the senators who blocked civil rights legislation for half a century, the people who voted for Goldwater in 1964. The hardcore Trumpers. It is long list that has one thing in common: It is always between 20% and 25% of the country.

Now, in 2021, we have the same percentage of people who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations, and rail against mask requirements. A significant percentage of them would rather die than get the vaccine. Many do, and many more will (95% of those in ICUs are unvaccinated). We will not change them. Logic and science do not matter. It is some abstraction of “freedom” that motivates them — the freedom to infect others notwithstanding.

In a letter Galileo wrote to Johannes Kepler during his Spanish Inquisition trial (he had the audacity to propose the Earth was not the center of the universe), he stated, “My dear Kepler, what would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?”

That rhetorical question is one the 75% of us could reasonably ask over four centuries later. We cannot make people look through the telescope. Instead, it is business and individual mandates that will eventually make the difference. When those folks cannot fly, or travel abroad, work in a company like Delta or Apple or Asante, or send their children unmasked to school, it will shift.

Personal mandates work as well; when you tell people they are not welcome in your home unless they are vaccinated, it starts to sink in. When people boycott businesses for failure to adhere to mask requirements, it makes a difference.

Arguing with these people does not work. For many, facts are subjective or do not count, nor does science. More of them will die, and as even more of society requires vaccines to work, they will find themselves increasingly isolated, on a shrinking island of their own misguided beliefs.

They are not bad people. Some are my friends. They just follow false prophets.

Rich McIntyre lives in Eagle Point.