COVID is here, in our house. Literally. It slipped in unseen last week, and its presence feels strangely surreal, menacing.
Despite dealing in words for a living, it is oddly beyond my ken to fully convey the shock when a loved one's PCR test result comes back "positive" - even though we knew what the symptoms meant.
Suddenly we are confronted with the non-negotiability of this pernicious bug, this stealthy ninja of human misery.
But the science we know is sound, and we trust the vaccine will reduce the disease's length and severity.
Amid the questions, one ricochets off every wall: why would anyone risk it when, uniquely in human history, we have the means to be inoculated? For free.
Talk about bone-headed. How else to explain the belligerent denial of reason, and worse, the supremely selfish, even unpatriotic avoidance of the most basic responsibilities of Australian citizenship?
That's beyond my ken also - all the Pete Evans lightweights and facially altered influencers with their conspiracy theories and kooky cures. All the bulging-eyed chancers pushing anti-parasitic horse pills and laughable leadership claims.
If the Devil's greatest trick was to convince people he doesn't exist, corona's cunning conjure is to use the gullible and the uninformed, the resentful and the downright nasty, as vectors against the rest of us. Somehow it knows we can't vaccinate against ignorance.
And so we all edge closer to the event horizon of a right-wing black hole, a cacophonous swirl of shouty grievance politics into which civility and reason are first sucked.
There are words in wartime for deliberately exposing one's country and people to an aggressor. Betrayal. Sedition. Treason.
By denigrating the vaccine and breaching temporary restrictions while retaining the wonderful privileges flowing from the community they directly imperil, anti-vaxxers aid the enemy.
If this is a war, it has several battlefronts - between humanity and the virus; between knowledge and ignorance; between the selfless and the selfish.
But nobody will directly accuse this mob. Its inalienable rights to free speech and assembly (during a pandemic emergency, no less) are asserted above the clear and existential right to health for the immune-suppressed, the elderly, the exhausted health workers and social service volunteers - these secular saints of modernity.
Their ridiculous claims also make a multibillion-dollar mockery of the vast spending and manifold sacrifices made by the nation as a whole. Where is an economic rationalist when you need one? Why is the government, our government, not making the point that by providing safe haven for the virus, the wilfully unvaccinated render our colossal debt-funded income assistance and health spending less effective?
So lost are we in the relativism of our age, that we call it personal choice while ignoring the real-world personal costs to others - as if there is only the person, no society, no nation nor proximate community, to whom any citizen owes a duty of care.
Instead of reason we get a culture-war pantomime of aggressive individualism, egged on by right-wing shock-jocks, grievance-mongers on subscription television, and a mendacious social media discourse.
Ever notice that the more furiously people wave the flag, the less happy they are with their country?
Perhaps their principled stand - absent the nooses and death threats, obviously - would garner more respect if they had ever defended the human rights of those excluded. Minorities like the homeless, overincarcerated First Nations peoples, elderly Australians deprived of proper care, and asylum seekers indefinitely imprisoned.
A friend in Europe told me of a member of his extended family who "did his own research". From this, he convinced his parents and his own kids that the vaccine was the primary threat, not the virus.
In the months that followed, almost everyone in his own family and some in the broader clan contracted the virus.
Both of his parents became gravely ill. His mother died.
Some choice, right?
In a society, individual rights are always attenuated.
Nobody argues any more that a person should be able to smoke on a bus, because self-evidently, the smoker's "right" would trammel a more fundamental right of others to breathe safe air.
So why should the unvaccinated be allowed to spread a virus primarily transmissible by breath, on planes, in cinemas and pubs?
Numerically, this infantile freedom fundamentalism - so beloved of hick populists and their local Trumpian franchises - is shared by a small slice of Australia.
But even before we got vaccines, too much store was placed in the individual's right - as if a rational alternative existed here that posed no risk for others.
The federal government's desultory vaccine rollout worsened this problem in two ways.
First, the supply shortage prevented it from running a front-footed advertising campaign to engender national purpose. The government could hardly implore people to do the patriotic thing when it had not provided the means. Neither did it want to hang a lantern over its negligence.
Second, the meek "strollout" provided the space for opportunistic conspiracy theorists to weaponise doubts, while also extending the duration of patience-testing lockdowns.
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Nature abhors a vacuum, but to the populists and snake-oil salesmen, it was a gift.
Nonetheless, Australia's vaccine uptake has been admirable. In the highly educated ACT, it is nudging 98 per cent for 16-and-overs.
And now that the authorities have approved vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds, we can expect this whole argument to heat up again.
Why has such latitude been given to a lunatic fringe whose message is destructive, and whose susceptibility to the virus carries a wider danger and an increased health cost? Answer: politics - specifically, Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson.
This also explains why Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce struggled to immediately condemn George Christensen last week after he appeared on an extreme right-wing American TV show and called on "freedom" protesters to demonstrate outside Australian embassies.
Meanwhile, back in civilisation, a community of care is helping us weather the storm.
We're turning a corner - a corner we might not have reached without vaccinations.
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