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The Wrong Analogy

by Jenn Kirkland 2 months ago in humanity · updated 2 months ago

Headlights, Not Seatbelts

The Wrong Analogy
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

I think we've made a mistake in trying to talk with anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. We've been saying things like, "You wear a seatbelt for safety, don't you? Then wear a mask."

They usually respond with something along the lines of "A seatbelt protects me, not other people. Sick people should stay home. It only affects the elderly and ill and infirm. There's a 99% survival rate anyway, so who cares?"

None of those are valid arguments in my opinion, because they put a relative value on humans based on age, health, ability, etc., but that's not really the point of this post, and I can discuss that one another time. I have before and I will again.

The point of this article is this: wearing a mask is not analogous to wearing a seatbelt; that analogy is better with Covid-19 vaccinations. Wearing a mask is more analogous to turning on your car's headlights when it's not fully dark.

If you are having trouble wrapping your mind around that, let me explain.

Wearing a seatbelt when driving - as with getting a Covid-19 vaccine - offers you a direct layer of protection. It offers an indirect layer of protection for other people - you are less likely to catch Covid-19 or be seriously hurt in a car crash and therefore your illness or injury is less likely to use up valuable medical resources. You are less likely to spread Covid-19 when vaccinated or be flung out a windshield into the road at 60 miles an hour when correctly belted, so you are indirectly helping others.

So that is how Covid-19 vaccinations help protect you - and indirectly other people - rather like a properly used seatbelt. Mostly you, somewhat other people.

Got that part?

Great, now let's move on to masks and headlights.

Many people think they don't need masks. "I'm vaccinated. I'm healthy and I'll take my chances. It doesn't hurt anybody else. It's just like a cold or the flu." And again, our old frenemies, "It has a 99% survival rate. It only kills the elderly and infirm."

Leaving aside (again) that with new variants this is no longer true, let's look at the headlights analogy.

When do you use your headlights? When it's dark? Good; that's a start.

I use them most of the time when I'm driving - in the dark, in the rain, in the snow, during a windstorm, in the fog, at dusk and at dawn (and I'm starting to sound like Dr. Seuss (again) here - like "I would use them on a train, I would use them in the rain, I would use them in the dark, I would use them in the park. I would use them here or there, I would use them everywhere..." but I digress), whenever there is a street sign directing me to, etc, ad nauseum.

The point is, that using my headlights when I'm driving, even in good lighting conditions, helps me and other people directly. Say, for instance, that you're in a silver-colored car here in the Seattle area, at noon, in our usual fine Seattle-style misty rain. Even at noon and with high white clouds and misty rain, a car is easier for other drivers (and pedestrians, and cyclists, etc) to see with its lights on. Likewise, masks make it harder to spread disease accidentally. It's no coincidence that I have been sick one time since January of 2020, you know; I did not get my usual round of head colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, blah blah blah... not due to the vaccine (at least not until March of 2021), but because I blocked most of the germs from getting to my face. It really is that simple.

Different types of protections do different things. The vaccine (seatbelt) keeps me from getting seriously ill from Covid (keeps me from getting seriously injured). The face masks (headlights) make it easier for me and for other people to avoid contagion (make it easier for drivers to see each other).

There are other layers, of course: isolation and extra handwashing and so forth. But seatbelts and headlights seem to be the Big Two that people complain about (figuratively speaking).


Jenn Kirkland

I'm a kinda-suburban, chubby, white, brunette, widowed mom of teens, special services school-bus driver, word nerd, grammar geek, gamer girl, liberal snowflake social justice bard, and proud of it.

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