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OPINION | GREG HARTON: Arkansans are giving covid-19 another chance to attack

by Greg Harton | August 1, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

Thirty years ago, director James Cameron and lead actor Arnold Schwarzenegger thrilled movie-going audiences with the second installment of a hit franchise with "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

Since the movie is three decades old, do I even need to advise about spoilers?

Boiling the plot down to overly simplistic form, it's a science fiction story that involves living, thinking (but not feeling) cyborgs or robotic machines (don't even get fans of the franchise started on that debate) sent into the present from a bleak future, at least for humankind.

The machines have taken over in the future and want to destroy humans. The story line is a little like historical fantasies of sending someone back in time to kill Hitler before he has a chance to conceive of the Third Reich. Except in "Terminator 2," the antagonist machines come back in time to kill the human teenager who will eventually become leader of the future resistance. Likewise, the protagonists try in the present day to destroy or prevent development of "Skynet," the man-made artificial intelligence that will become self-aware -- a bit like HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- and decide its makers are a danger to its own future. And so it unleashes nuclear weapons on the planet.

Yeah, don't expect this to show up on the Hallmark Channel at Christmas.

It's a movie. It's entertainment. And it can be treacherous territory to attempt to find some meaningful lesson in many films. So, of course, that's what I'll do.

One can argue over whether any movie has some underlying message of lasting significance, or several. If "Terminator 2" has any, beyond a German-tinged "Hasta la vista, baby," perhaps it's that we humans don't always anticipate the full ramifications of our actions, or even our inaction.

Isn't that the very point of many who refuse to accept vaccinations against covid-19? They've concluded with virtual certainty that the vaccines will have some unintended and malevolent outcome. The potential horrors are limited only by their imaginations.

But could it also be that their fertile imaginations fail them by not adequately anticipating the outcomes of their inaction? The first vaccine in the United States outside a medical trial was given last December, launching a science-based response to the coronavirus that, by that time, had killed more than 300,000 people and infected 16 million in the U.S. The medical experts viewed vaccines as the exit strategy from the pandemic. And the experience of the last few months shows they've delivered.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson showed stats on Thursday, when he announced he was invoking a new public health emergency, that demonstrated 96.3% of cases, 95% of hospitalized people and 97% of deaths in Arkansas involved unvaccinated people. That means a minuscule 3.6% of cases, 4.6% of hospitalizations and 2.6% of deaths happened to vaccinated people. Give a gambler those odds and he'll mortgage the house.

What science can't do is make people listen. What science can't do is make legislators step outside their political ideologies long enough to recognize an opportunity to preserve the public health rather than serve as a barrier to it. It can't make them understand there's a greater responsibility to Arkansans than positioning themselves or their party for the next election.

There's a scene in "Terminator 2" in which the teen destined to lead the future resistance against the machines sees two children play-fighting with weapons. He grows somber.

"We're not going to make it," he says to Schwarzenegger's cyborg from the future. "Humans, I mean."

"It's in your nature to destroy yourselves," the Terminator replies.

"Yeah, major drag, huh?" the boy says.

Yes, in the situation Arkansans are creating for themselves at the moment, it's a major drag indeed.

Print Headline: Arkansans give covid 2nd chance


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