She frowned at me, as she stepped off her truck’s side-rail and onto the pavement. If her mask had not been tightly pulling up from under the woman’s chin, it would have been harder to see her disgust with not just our vaccination event, but even with the volunteers, themselves.
“You know, it’s just like a concentration camp here.”
I looked at the Sikh doctor working with me, then at the three smiling college-age Americorps and one high school-age Jakara volunteers at Station #5 to see if anyone heard what I thought I did. Everyone seemed unphased – maybe I heard it wrong.
“I’m sorry, ma’am?”
“The way you all are doing this. Making us get vaccinated, experimenting on us, making us wait in our cars. It’s just like a concentration camp.”
This comment might have raised eyebrows on just about any Saturday, but on Passover of all days, it was even more unsettling. This is a holiday of epic and fitting analogy reaching across cultures. Beyond the 3,000-year-old narrative is a story of freedom from oppression of all types and liberation from all captors of human spirit. Even more ironic, our public health event was occurring at a Sikh Temple — a religion and culture known for their acceptance and tolerance for others, with an emphasis on nourishment, community service, and welcoming the stranger.
“Just to be clear, ma’am, we appreciate you coming out here, but this experience is totally voluntary. You can have the vaccine if you like, but you certainly don’t have to. When we’re done, you’ll be able to get back in your truck. We also have delicious Indian food inside, and you’re welcome to stay or take some for the road. Are there any questions I can answer for you?”
“No, I just want to get this the @##* over and get the @##* out of here and quit wasting my time.”
“OK, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here. I don’t want you to feel like anything we’re doing today is against your will, and I certainly would not want this to feel like this is a concentration camp. You can leave any time you want, and no one on my team, at this whole event, or at any level of our government is requiring you to be here. We’re actually all volunteers – so it’s our choice to be here this weekend, too, and we can all leave any time we like.”
“Just give me the damn shot.”
I gave her the vaccine, she climbed back in her truck, took the mask off from under her chin, and drove away.
Jonathan Terry is a psychiatrist.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com