An Open Blog Post to My Non-Believer Relatives
And, by “non-believers,” I mean the ones who don’t believe in science.
Growing up in northern Mexico, I had to deal with the two sides of my extended family disagreeing on different matters. The N’s were devout Catholics and militant partisans of the National Action Party (PAN), a right-wing party by Mexican standards. The P’s were devout Evangelicals and militant partisans of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a left-of-center party by Mexican standards. Interestingly enough, the politics of those who migrated to the United States flipped when they crossed the border. The Catholics became Liberal, while the Evangelicals became Conservatives.
Mom and dad saw in me the ability to learn difficult scientific concepts with ease, so they went out of their way to help me learn about science. Catechism school and Sunday school were secondary to the aims of my education. Although I learned much about Christianity and identify as Christian, religion did not become part of my identity. I don’t really place myself in a religious category, though, choosing instead to put myself in a category of scientist: I am an epidemiologist.
When my cousins were being schooled on the different dogmas of their respective branches of the Christian faith, I was getting a children’s encyclopedia. When they were told their normal body functions were amoral and sinful, I learned to understand the intricate functions of the human endocrine system and its control over much of what we do. And when they were getting pregnant as teenagers — because you’ll be shocked to find out that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work — I was graduating high school at sixteen and enrolled in the medical technology program at the local university.
I write all this not to say that I’m better than them in any way. In many ways, I wish I were more like them. I wish I had started a family early, because my daughter will be in early college when I plan to retire. I wish I could have started working a job and saving for said retirement early, instead of getting myself in student loan debt. And I wish I could have stayed in my culture, because diving head-first into living and working in south-central Pennsylvania — as a Mexican born and raised — threw me for a loop.
Nevertheless, the life I chose and the career I followed have allowed me to see complicated processes better. I understand science in general and biology, virology, pathology, epidemiology… Many “ologies” better than they could. And, at this point, ever will. (Maybe the young ones, the next generations, will know better. But, from what I’m seeing, they’re being indoctrinated into worshiping social media stars just as badly as their parents.) This is why I am superbly frustrated by the Evangelicals and their weirdness when the pandemic struck.
Suddenly, they became experts in everything, from virology to constitutional law. Not happy with getting things wrong, they started spreading their errors of logic on social media to the point where I had to block them. I would have said (or written) the wrong/angry thing had I continued to allow their algorithm to meet with mine. Sadly, I miss them. I miss the jokes and the good times we had as kids, but they’ve turned over to the dark side of science, so to speak. They’ve made homeopathy their thing. Supplements, complementary and alternative medicine (S.C.A.M.) are what they use for any ailment.
Worst of all, they have lately become influencers in these things, far more influencing on these matters than I ever could be… Mostly because I have ethical and moral standards. I can’t lie and tell people that homeopathy prevents and cures diseases. I can’t drive myself to Mexico and get hydroxychloroquine to sell to people who test positive for COVID-19 in my church. And I can’t claim the COVID-19 vaccine as the “mark of the Beast.” (Because it is not.)
Or, rather, I could, but I have an oath to public health and science to keep. I’ve also read the Bible, not as a work of literature, so I don’t take it literally. If you read the history of how the Bible was written, you know that the Book of Revelations was written in coded language to early Christians living in Rome. The “Antichrist” in that book was Nero, who was hunting down Christians and killing them. It’s all clear once you read the evidence.
Other evidence I’ve read talks about the difference between viruses and parasites. The novel coronavirus causing the pandemic? A virus. Lice and worms, and malaria? Parasites. So how could anti-parasitic drugs shown in clinical trials work on viruses? Also, there is no good evidence that anti-parasitic drugs work on the novel coronavirus. Someone just told people that, and people like my cousins believed so much that they’re quick to make a buck by hauling in unregulated medicines from Mexico.
I’m sure that plenty of you reading this have friends and relatives who are the same. They don’t hold degrees. They never cared about scientific concepts. But then the pandemic struck, they fired up their phones and tablets, and now claim to be top-notch virologists.
Others among you might laugh and think that this silly, that family should not break up or stop talking because of these issues. But you’re not in my position, where I am a public health practitioner with the responsibility of serving up facts and making public health recommendations that affect entire populations. It gets exhausting to see and hear them go on and on about how my colleagues and I engineered a pandemic for money, or how I’m getting rich from pharmaceutical corporations blocking the sales of ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine. (I have zero relationship with any pharmaceutical companies, by the way.) And they waste no time questioning my current accomplishments by reminding people around me about my missteps in my youth.
It’s been 30 years since I drove without a license. Let it go. (I’ve done nothing illegal since, to the best of my recollection.)
As those who work in healthcare and science continue to fulfill our sense of duty and continue to work in this pandemic to keep people safe and save lives, we will face opposition from people and groups with a warped sense of liberty. (It’s Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness… In that order. Life above all else.) The last thing we need is our own family getting in our way and complicating things. We need you, dear family, to either help or get out of the way, but do not oppose us. If you disagree with us, stay quiet, especially if you are not experts. Just walk away.
There has been too much disease. Too much pain. But I have an honorable compromise. Just walk away. Leave the science to me. Leave the medicine to the experts. Just walk away, and we’ll give you a safe passageway into the back of our minds. Just walk away, and we’ll hang out again when there is an end to the horror.
A previous version of this blog post was first published on my Medium.com page. Go over and check out some of the other stuff I’ve written: https://epiren.medium.com