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Stop begging the COVID bullies. We can’t ‘nice’ people into doing the right thing. | Helen Ubiñas

If people who are eligible and able to get the vaccine haven’t been moved by the more than 3 million people worldwide who have been killed by the virus, no amount of pleases and thank yous will do it.

Anti-vaccine rally protesters hold signs outside of Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on June 26, 2021. (Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
Anti-vaccine rally protesters hold signs outside of Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on June 26, 2021. (Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)Read moreMark Felix / AFP via Getty Images

I’m not an especially nice person (more on that later), so this admittedly comes much more naturally to me. But I’m not about to talk nice to anti-COVID vaxxers and maskers — and I’d suggest we all stop begging and pleading with these folks to walk toward the light.

Bullies can’t be niced into doing the right thing. That’s like Grade School 101.

And by this point, that is exactly what many of these COVID deniers are. Bullies, plain and simple.

Just look at how anti-mask parents recently threatened doctors and nurses at a Tennessee school board meeting as the number of cases rise in the district and state.

“We will find you!” one of the especially deranged dads yelled as he and others screamed at the medical professionals, blocking their cars and berating them as they tried to drive away.

Yo, tough guy, that would sound a lot more ominous if we didn’t already know where to find most doctors and nurses these days — at a hospital, probably near you, trying to save the lives of the unvaccinated.

“If you don’t trust the medical field to prevent you from getting it, why do you trust them to cure you from it?”

That drop-all-the-mics question came from a viral TikTok video posted a couple of weeks ago by Jason Arena after his wife, with stage IV breast cancer, was discharged from a North Carolina hospital early because it was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Warning: The following video includes explicit language.

“Stick to your [bleeping] guns and keep your [bleeping bleeps] at home,” he said. “Stop running to the hospital, putting everybody else at [bleeping] risk. People like my wife who actually need medical [bleeping] help get kicked out of the hospital because your [bleeping bleep] is too stupid to go get a [bleeping] vaccine shot.”

Even for an expletive enthusiast like myself, that’s a lot of bleeps. But who can blame anyone for losing their faith and their tempers these days.

Earlier this month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy righteously, if a little too politely, lost his cool with a bunch of anti-vaxx demonstrators, calling them “ultimate knuckleheads.”

And this week, while announcing the city’s latest mask mandates, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney grew frustrated when asked if even more restrictive policies could be put into place in the future.

“Not if everyone acts like a mature adult,” he sniffed.

But he also did that thing that too many people do when trying to soft-walk folks to the right side.

“Please,” he said, “just get the vaccine.”

Stop. Just stop. This isn’t 2020. It’s damn near 2022. We’re nearing two years of living in this hellscape, and if people who are eligible and able to get the vaccine haven’t been moved by the more than three million people worldwide (636,369 and counting in the U.S. alone) killed by the virus — no amount of pleases and thank-yous are going to persuade them to side with science, common sense, and decency.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus and the variants. But we do know how to keep ourselves relatively safe: Keep our distance, wear a mask, get a [bleeping] vaccine!

And I’ll add one more: Stop coddling and catering to the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.

You don’t want to believe? Wearing a wittle mask makes you cry? Convinced the vaccine is the mark of the beast or whatever? Proud member of Team Insanity? Cool, you have an inalienable right to do you — God Bless ’Murica and all that.

But the rest of us also have a right and a responsibility to do whatever we need to protect ourselves, mostly from you.

That means you shouldn’t get to inconvenience or endanger our lives anymore. You shouldn’t get to displace other patients because of your selfishness. You shouldn’t get to go to school or work or your favorite restaurant or exercise class if you won’t do the literal least to save lives. Time to take those squats outdoors, Joey. No, Aunt Fran, you don’t get to come to Thanksgiving or Christmas — again. Kevin, you’ve been uninvited to the company conference.

But hey, feel free to join that COVID-19 Deniers Clubhouse; I hear they always have room.

And this, my fellow vaccinated, is where we come in. If an institution, organization, or establishment has the guts to do the right thing, at the risk of threats, harassment, and their bottom lines, it’s on us to support them.

If given the choice, pick the school, the grocery store, the restaurant, the hotel, the hair dresser, the corner bodega, the public officials who require masks and vaccinations. As much as you can, boycott those who don’t.

Bullies thrive on fear, and acquiescence, and when we talk nice and act nice in the face of dangerous disinformation and defiance, that niceness is read as weakness. Fear.

Which brings me back to my self-proclaimed lack of niceness, of which I have no regrets nor apologies.

Niceness is more about appearances, about keeping things civil, polite — superficially comfortable. And that’s fine, until it endangers truth and accountability, and these days, our lives.

What this very uncomfortable time in history calls for is less niceness and more kindness, which means we care enough about one another to do and say and, yes, mandate what needs to be done.

And right now, the kindest thing we can do is stand against the bullies and say no more.