When I was a teenager it was still the custom to sign friends’ autograph books, often with a quote, a joke, a drawing, or a poem. The same kind of things that you might see in a High School yearbook. Someone whose name I have conveniently forgotten wrote the following in my book:

“Tact is the ability to express the truth without causing distress to another. The test of tact is not how often you please but how seldom you offend!”

Though at the time I was less than impressed, it is a quote I have never forgotten. I must admit that I am known more for ”telling it like it is,” rather than my delicate turn of phrase.

Recently I was delighted to hear a comment by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes for Infectious Disease, that really fit the “Tact” definition perfectly in describing his reaction to those who are scornful and actively negative about mask-wearing and vaccination against Covid 19:

“It isn’t only about you!”

This is a perfect comment about the ridiculous behavior of some state governors, members of Congress, and senators who are more concerned with saving their status, salaries, and political futures rather than in serving, leading, and saving the people who elected them. It is outrageous that these politicos can behave like this when the medical situations in their states are so dire and doctors and medical staff are overwhelmed, exhausted, and dispirited.

There have always been disease epidemics. We know from the Old Testament stories in the Bible of Joseph and his brothers, and the early life of Moses that disease epidemics and famine were common and that people trekked back and forth across deserts and across the Red Sea to escape disease and famine. The plagues of Europe are well documented. The Black Death in the 15th century killed more than 30 percent of the European population. The Great Plague of 17th Century London was only ended by fire consuming a significant part of the city. The causes of these epidemics were not known at the time and medical science was not able to do much to help. Many people ascribed disease and death to the wrath of God and believed that Sin was the trigger. Many diseased people undertook pilgrimages to expiate their sins, thereby spreading disease far and wide. There were no drugs or vaccines to help back then.

One of the earliest vaccines was discovered, developed, and used successfully by Edward Jenner. A country doctor in England, he discovered in 1796 that smallpox infection, a common and often fatal or disfiguring disease, could be prevented by a dose of Cow Pox, a related but milder disease of cattle. Recently I came across a reference to the early use of this vaccination technique in Ernest Bogart’s book, “Peacham: the Story of a Vermont Hill Town,” in which he states that the town voted in March 1803, to grant only to Dr. Nathan McKinstry, the right “to try the efficacy of the kine pox” in preventing smallpox. In recent times the Ebola outbreaks in Africa and the AIDS epidemic were eventually controlled through medical research, treatment, and drug therapy.

Many of us may feel secure because we now know how to produce drugs and vaccines to counter infections but these only work if they are used, and used correctly. We know that the Covid virus can only produce variants that may be even more deadly than the current Delta variant if we allow it to continue to replicate in new, unprotected human hosts. We have to do all we can to throw a wrench into that process by controlling the spread of infection. That wrench is first and foremost, using the vaccine, with help by masking, and following distancing guidelines. This should be the easy part!

It is also sad but true that so far we do not have a vaccine that can be used in young children. In the Southern states where vaccination rates are low and mask-wearing is not popular, there are now many young children, even babies of two months of age, that are hospitalized with Covid. Children are the future of any society, a precious national resource. This exposure of little children should be a jolt to the National Conscience.

Some people use excuses for vaccine hesitancy that are based on medical and social experimentation of many years ago. This is not to belittle those socially inappropriate studies and experiments but, because of more public awareness, more openness in scientific research and development, today’s vaccine production and medical studies are highly controlled and supervised. We cannot allow past distrust to destroy important and helpful health progress today.

So I agree with Anthony Fauci’s statement. There should be at the minimum a billboard and T-shirt campaign with his quote emblazoned across every person who cares for more than just themselves. Most physically and mentally able adults should be able to protect themselves but it is outrageous that those who do not support masking for teachers and kids in school should be able to prevent a safe school environment for other people’s children who are not yet old enough to be vaccinated. After a year and a half of limited in-school learning, studies have shown that school is the best place for most children to learn. To learn not only basic academic skills but how to use class materials that some homes cannot supply and how to interact with other kids and adults other than their parents. Maybe they will also learn, “It isn’t only about you!”