“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

By Dr. Jim Ferguson
“Was FDR correct?” I guess I’m getting older because the number one question among my peers is, “Did you get it?” No, not the “stimulus check,” the Covid vaccine!

Since I won’t be 70 until May I don’t meet the current guidelines for vaccination. However, I meet the qualifications because I still do charity medical care. But I still can’t get a vaccine appointment. I have friends driving to other counties in Tennessee to get vaccinated. Others are driving to North Carolina where you can get the vaccine if you’re sixty-five.

Last week the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker showed that 26.5 million Americans had received at least the first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna Covid vaccines (now up to 35.2 million). Preventive vaccinations have now surpassed the 26.6 million cases of Covid infection in our country. Therefore, about 8% of Americans have received at least one shot of the vaccine series. Supposedly, 1.35 million doses of vaccine are being given every day across the fruited plains. Perhaps, but it’s tough to score in Knoxville.

The next question is, “Would you take the vaccine if you could get it?” Last week a Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed 51% would refuse the Covid vaccine or wait for further results. Citing concerns about safety, side effects and the vaccine’s effectiveness, 13% will refuse altogether and another 7% would only be vaccinated if required to do so (25% said No! in a Monmouth poll).

Actually, a very small percentage of people have experienced reactions to the vaccines. However, young people have a very low risk of death with Covid infection, so they are understandably concerned about the long-term risks of the novel mRNA Covid vaccines.

So, back to the FDR question, “What are you afraid of?” I remain careful, but I refuse to stop living. Several of my friends are so scared they remain in virtual isolation. “Fools are put in high places” (Ecclesiastes). Kids are not being educated. Each week on the front page of the Focus the statistics of Covid infection in Knox County are presented. I am more fearful of government enslavement than Covid infection.

Being a science fiction fan and a doctor, I’m thrilled when 23rd century Star Trek docs identify an infection, create a biological antidote and inject the cure into a patient’s arm without a needle. So cool! Recently, I read an exciting report on mRNA technology (used for Covid vaccines) which one day may allow us to direct the immune system to target specific proteins on cancer cells. Like a magic bullet, mRNA generated proteins may be used to recognize and kill cancer cells without damaging non-cancerous organs.

I don’t know a single person who believes things are fine in our country or the world. “Do you honestly believe the Biden-group has things under control or impeaching President Trump will build bridges between us?”

One of the great tragedies of the last decade has been the utter loss of trust in all our institutions. “What can we believe these days?” I no longer trust our leaders, government officials on any level, the media, political parties or titular “experts” like Fauci, from whom I wouldn’t buy a stick of gum. I’ve become a wary skeptic most days, and other days I border on being a cynic.

My wife Becky and I are native Knoxvillians and when we decided to go to college there wasn’t any controversy or hand wringing decisions, we went to UT. We both received a good undergraduate education. I went on to the University’s medical school in Memphis which was highly rated for training practicing doctors rather than researchers or academicians. Becky went on to graduate school and earned a master’s degree.

What a strange world in which we now live. Since we are UT alumni, we receive a lot of correspondence from the Knoxville campus and the medical school in Memphis. “If you’re asking for donations, wouldn’t you be sensitive to your audience?”

In the last two months we’ve received glossy magazine booklets emphasizing BLM at the medical school and the diversity focus at all university campuses. Another booklet, from the UT College of Music, ballyhooed its “diversity, equity, and inclusion” focus.

“What’s wrong with these statements and the optics of these brochures?” I guess I’m old school, but I see patients first, not color or political movements. And I choose capable musicians, not gender quotas. Equal opportunity for a good education is far more important than virtue signaling and the woke emphasis on diversity. But, perhaps it’s not my world or my university any longer.

It was cold and clear when I began this essay on Groundhog Day. I wondered if Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow. Perhaps Phil saw his shadow and we’ll have six more weeks of winter. “Who cares?” It’s a silly ritual anyway, and only an excuse to party in the midst of “our darkest days.” It did spawn a funny Bill Murray movie of the same name. Then I heard that Covid canceled the annual celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Pathetic. So, “why is it surprising that February and most of March are cold in these climes?” “Who expects spring before April Fool’s Day?”

“Who do you trust?” Hopefully not the thought police of Silicon Valley who are now allied with the Washington elite, the media and the crony capitalists of Wall Street. “Do you doubt me after the GameStop affair?”

Supposedly, we live in the information age, but the Tech Lords now control information. The craven cowards of Congress now kowtow to the likes of the weird Zuckerberg, Rasputin-esque Jack Dorsey, bizarre Bezos and the uber ruthless Sundar Pichai. “What could possibly go wrong with such an unholy alliance of Tech-Lords and Democrat-socialists?” A friend of mine hopes that in their lust for power they will turn on and devour each other in a feeding frenzy like sharks in a chum filled ocean.

But intellectual honesty begs me to ask one last question, “Should you trust me or this newspaper?”

The answer and the doctor’s final piece of advice for parsing the truth: read widely, consider carefully, use common sense and daily proclaim Psalm 118: 24. And keep looking up!