Let’s run a thought experiment and imagine ourselves back in 1986. I tried to get Elon Musk to provide a time machine, but apparently he’s waiting on spare parts from China. So instead, let’s just close our eyes, put on some Lionel Richie or Pet Shop Boys, and have our own Breakfast Club.
Welcome back to 1986 …
Just a few year years ago, a mysterious disease emerged, apparently targeting young, promiscuous gay men in our nation’s largest cities. In only five years, half a million infections have been reported, with the possibility of up to two million more undetected. There have been nearly 25,000 known deaths, indicating a startling mortality rate of up to 5%.
Indeed, according to a recent article in the newspaper The New York Times, faithfully delivered to our doorstep every morning, scientists and other experts have just predicted that “deaths will rise sharply” from AIDS, and become like “the highly feared epidemic of polio,” attacking millions indiscriminately and fatally. The New York Times reports that the “greatest damage may be yet to come,” based on a dire prediction from the CDC:
The New York Times, January 14, 1986
Dr. Anthony J. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the Government’s top authorities on AIDS, said today that he believes, on the basis of very “soft” estimates, that one million Americans have already been infected with the virus and that this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years. He also hazarded a guess that about 40 percent of those infected would eventually develop AIDS and die from it, over the course of years or even decades, unless a treatment is found. If he is right, then perhaps 400,000 Americans are already doomed to die from AIDS, and that number could climb to a million within 5 to 10 years.
Millions infected! 40% mortality! 400,000 to a million doomed! We need action!
The nation is rightly frightened and concerned. After all, just last year, an innocent 15-year-old boy apparently contracted the virus in a hospital after getting a blood transfusion. Who knows how many others are already walking around infected. There could be no end to the spread of this horrible disease.
The Surgeon General has said that the disease is spread sexually, and not from casual contact. But still, no one can be sure, right? Shouldn’t we do everything we can to prevent our grandmothers from contracting it? And besides, I’ve heard than promiscuous gay men are clogging up our hospital’s intensive care units. There won’t be room for grandma if nothing is done.
Fortunately, help is on the way from our federal government. To combat this rising menace, the President of the United States, Ronald W. Reagan, with the support of the Surgeon General and Dr. Fauci at the CDC, has determined to take aggressive action.
Executive Order 1986-99 – Combatting the AIDS Epidemic through Compulsory Vaccination
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
From this day forward, September 14, 1986, every gay or bisexual man in America, along with every promiscuous heterosexual with more than 2.5 sexual partners per month, will be required to take an experimental vaccine believed to reduce but not eliminate the possibility of infection and transmission of HIV, and, for those refusing to take the vaccine, report for weekly testing at the nearest health center. Additionally, in order to not discriminate against gay men and loose women specifically, every American is hereby required to carry an identification card which clearly states: sexual orientation, frequency of sexual encounters, and, if homosexual or highly promiscuous as defined above, confirmation of vaccination status.
Members and staff of congress, the Federal courts, and the executive branch are hereby exempted.
Back to reality
OK let’s come back to present day and to reality. The newly-issued executive order from the Biden administration requiring vaccines for Federal employees is unprecedented in American history.
What actually happened
We know the scenario above would never have happened. First, an anachronism – vaccines for HIV weren’t available in 1986 (clinical trials began in 1987), but that’s not the point of the fable. Even if they had existed, there is no possible way – politically, socially, or otherwise – that vaccines would have been mandated in the 1980s for HIV, just as they were not in the 1950s for polio. Or that such a clearly discriminatory policy – and one so invasive of medical privacy and “body autonomy” – would have ever passed muster.
Despite a young Dr. Fauci’s dire 1986 prediction of “at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years” living with HIV, the actual number grew from 500,000 in 1986 to around 750,000 in between 1991 and 1995, according to the CDC’s own historical data. What made the difference?
At risk men and women had made their own decisions to change their behavior, based on rational self-interest, without being bullied and harassed by their government. HIV/AIDS education became widespread in schools, medical offices, and though public service outlets. Condom use went up, promiscuity and high-risk sex went down, and testing became more frequent and easily available.
Government certainly had a role, but it was one of facilitation, not coercion. The Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, called in 1986 for a nationwide education campaign (including early sex education in schools), increased use of condoms, and voluntary HIV testing. Even though HIV numbers continued to climb for the next decade, because treatments had improved so dramatically, the mortality rate fell sharply, at least in the United States. HIV is still with us 35 year later, but it has become a manageable disease.
It is true that fear of the unknown abounded during the early 1980s, just as it does today. Much of the fear was – and is – irrational. There was, at least initially, an increase in homophobia and hate-crimes against gay men, and ostracism of anyone infected. With the passage of time and better scientific understanding of what the disease was and how it could be managed, these things also passed.
What is happening today is wrong
What the Biden administration is attempting is not just unprecedented; It is unjust, un-American, and almost certainly (I’m no lawyer, I just play one on TV) unconstitutional. And it’s unnecessary. Enough Americans have chosen of their own free will to receive the vaccines such that herd immunity is now within reach. Infection rates are high but not skyrocketing out of control, despite what mainstream media keeps screaming. Daily new case rates remain well below last winter’s highs and appear to be plateauing. But this is the wrong measure. Mortalities remain below 1%; substantially zero in the absence of co-morbidities. As the data have shown for a while now, people are getting infected, some are getting sick, but the overwhelming majority are not dying in the absence of multiple pre-existing conditions.
On the one hand, the data show that, once infected, the unvaccinated are at greater risk of serious illness or death than the vaccinated. On the other hand, recent studies indicate that natural immunity provides substantially better protection than the vaccine. And many millions of Americans have already been infected.
This is not an anti-vaxx message. The point is not to say vaccines are good or vaccines are bad. Either get the vaccine, or don’t get the vaccine; it’s really up to you.
The point is that every single adult American should have the right to choose for themselves, without the tyranny of governmental intimidation, coercion, bullying and shaming. And parents, not the State or elected school boards, should have the right to choose on behalf of their children. Americans have brains, and they have constitutionally guaranteed inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let them exercise them as they see fit.
It should be noted that by ordering vaccine mandates, Biden is breaking his own campaign promise made just a year ago, disappointing many of his own voters. As a final note: the mandates are classist. It’s everyday Americans, Federal employees, and contractors, who are now facing a horrible choice. Either take an experimental drug that to date they have freely determined they don’t want and/or need, or risk losing their job. This is the injustice.
Anytime members of Congress and the executive branch don’t have to eat their own cooking, you know something is wrong.
It’s time for Americans to stand up and say enough is enough.