I'm not a scientist. I'm not an infectious disease expert, let alone one of those who led the fight against AIDS. So I have to depend on experts. And luckily for me, there is no debate among experts on the subject of COVID-19 vaccines. I know I will get furious emails, but they won't be from the most knowledgeable scientists. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton would not be offering to roll up their sleeves if doing so would put them at risk. It won't.

The tragedy is that we are having this debate. The election-fraud misinformation has slowed down considerably since the Electoral College voted to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Instead, it is being replaced with misinformation and conspiracy theories that are convincing people they should not get vaccinated.

Vaccination should not be a political issue, yet it has become one. There is nothing political about protecting our neighbors, our communities, the people with you on the train or the bus. You have a right to assume all the (legal) risks you want, so long as you are throwing your own money away. But imposing those risks on those around you is another matter entirely. There will always be people who cannot safely be vaccinated because of underlying medical conditions, or because they don't have access to medical care or are afraid to try. At my children's school, vaccinations were required because there were other students with compromised immune systems who could not safely be vaccinated and whose health depended on everyone else getting vaccinated.

It's not a matter of "assuming the risk" but of imposing the risk on others.

Something has been wrong with COVID politics since the get-go. This should have been a time when we pulled together as a community, determined to preserve and protect not just ourselves but all Americans. Masks should never have become a political issue, and masklessness should have been unthinkable.

Both sides can blame the other.

Or we can, in the spirit of this season, do unto others as we would want to be done unto us.

How would you feel if you managed to survive COVID but someone you infected, someone with underlying medical conditions, someone without access to high-quality medical care, did not? Legally, you might not be liable, but morally, you would be proven wrong.

Turn this into a political issue and you will also cause a stigma to be put on those who get COVID. Will nurses work double shifts in intensive care to tend to people who have no one to blame but themselves? The blame game will be endless, and if one person who works for the hospital but could not be vaccinated dies because of those who "assumed the risk," we will enter holy hell in the fierceness of the attacks. I remember the days when AIDS patients were treated with contempt and blamed, victims of a disease no one really understood — until they did.

We have been split in half on so many issues. It makes for more "entertaining" cable coverage, with networks playing for one side or the other. Cheap shots. Dividing people is easy. I used to do talk radio, which I loved, but the overnight shift could be brutal in terms of callers. So I always had my Old Faithfuls in my back pocket: "If you're on the road, you better pull over, because I'm about to talk about my student who died because a rich kid was playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun." Every line on the caller board would light up before I even told the story. If you do talk radio for any length of time, you learn how easy it is to stir things up.

Far more difficult but far more important is bringing us together so we can talk about politics without people leaving the room in disgust, so we can judge people by who they are and not who they voted for, so we care for one another. I don't understand how doing less would be part of the Christmas lesson.

Happy holidays. Merry Christmas. Stay safe and well.

Susan Estrich can be reached at sestrich@wctrib.com.

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