Fully Vaccinated

It’s been two weeks since I got the second Moderna shot.” It feels like an accomplishment. I “beat” Covid. Since I am now “fully vaccinated,” there is only a 4 or 5 percent chance I’ll get Covid, and even if I do, there’s almost no chance I’ll experience anything worse than a bad cold.

Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic, like almost everything else these days has turned into a culture war. Two groups of extremists seem to have gotten control of the discourse, at least on social media, the mask cult and the death cult. For liberals, the pandemic has brought out their terror of their fellow Americans, their love of isolation, their hatred of public space, their never ending urge to “virtue signal.” Wearing a mask isn’t a temporary precaution in crowded public spaces, a social obligation that should be discarded as soon as we achieve “herd immunity.” It’s a good in and of itself. For conservatives, on the other hand, not wearing a mask, and not getting vaccinated, is the newest form of “open carry.” Masks and vaccines are for the weak, for feeble unAmerican herd animals brainwashed by Bill Gates and George Soros into becoming lab rats for a new drug that, in their minds, is even worse than fluoridated water, a conspiracy by the “globalists” to steel their vital bodily fluids. In other words, liberals are in love with control. Conservatives are in love with death.

But social media isn’t “the real world.”

They say you should write about “what you know.” I can’t speak about the South or the Midwest because for me they might as well be foreign countries. I know New England and the Pacific Northwest a bit better, but I lack a real intuitive sense of their culture. New Jersey, on the other hand, I know like the back of my hand. Name me a town in New Jersey, and there’s a pretty good chance I can tell you all about its income and educational level, its ethnic makeup, and its political affiliation without even having to Google. I know Northern New Jersey so well that for me The Sopranos has always seemed a bit phony, a TV series written by a man who may have grown up in Clifton and North Caldwell, but who left the Garden State a lot time ago for Hollywood.

Compared to most of the United States, Union County, New Jersey is overwhelmingly Democratic, and fairly liberal. Nevertheless, it’s not San Francisco or Cambridge Massachusetts. It has a nasty history of racial segregation, two towns that went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, twice, and a lot of liberal Democrats who until as recently as a decade ago were what used to be known as “moderate Republicans.” Thomas Malinowski, my Congressman, is a neoconservative, Zionist war hawk who beat his Republican opponent by less than one percent, a hard core Russiagater whose main goals are to censor the Internet and lower property taxes for the very wealthy. In other words, while Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton both won by comfortable margins, Union County feels like pretty much every belt of suburban sprawl from Southern California to suburban Chicago, to Northern Virginia. It may be less than 20 miles from Manhattan, but culturally it’s a lot more like “America” than it is like Hollywood or the Upper West Side.

In Union County New Jersey there is no correlation at all between political affiliation and trust in the experiment Covid vaccines. There is, however, a correlation between income and and vaccination. Rich people are getting the vaccine. Poor people aren’t. Take a at the enclosed map published by nj.com. Dark means “heavily vaccinated.” Light means “sparsely vaccinated.” As you can see the closer you get to Newark and Elizabeth, to the Linden oil refineries and Amazon warehouses, that industrial wasteland associated with the state in the popular imagination, the more unlikely it is that you won’t be vaccinated. In fact, vaccination is so heavily correlated with the richer suburbs, which either barely went for Biden and Clinton or went for Trump outright and a lack of vaccination with the working class inner cities that vote Democratic by upwards of 75 percent, that the social media stereotype is turned right on its head. White conservatives are getting the vaccine. Liberals, or at least working class, black and brown Democrats, are skipping it.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. My hometown of Roselle, a working class town, heavily black, full of Haitian and Central American immigrants, voted 8219 to 1318 for Joe Biden, is only 25 percent vaccinated. Neighboring Clark, on the other hand, a Republican stronghold, almost one hundred percent white, and which voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, is 42 percent vaccinated. Elizabeth, the biggest city in Union County, which voted for Biden almost three to one, and which was devastated by Covid last Spring, is only 26 percent vaccinated. Newark, the biggest, and most Democratic city in the state, is only 23 percent vaccinated. By contrast, the wealthy moderate Republican suburbs of Westfield, Summit, Scotch Plains and Mountainside, are all hovering around 50 percent. Chris Christie’s hometown of Livingston has 60 percent of its citizens fully vaccinated and the fabulously wealthy town of Short Hills/Millburn is just behind at 56 percent.

So why is the reality 180 degrees different from the social media stereotype? Why are rich conservatives getting the vaccine and working class Democrats skipping it? If I had to guess I’d say that poor people, who live check-to-check and are constantly afraid of getting fired, are worried that the vaccine’s side effects might cause them to miss work. People in the upper-middle-class, on the other hand, which can work remotely, probably welcome the chance to get down to the local CVS and get the shot. What’s more, major universities, most of the Ivy League, the Big 10 and the University of California, now require the vaccine for incoming students. That probably skews the percentage of under 30s getting vaccinated away from the poor and towards the upper-middle-class. As far as masks go, I notice little or no difference from town to town. Pretty much everybody in New Jersey is wearing one.