But I don’t write here as a formerly famous person; I write just as a citizen who might have something in common with you. After spending a decade doing everything I could to get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified, I made a decision 37 years ago to keep much quieter in public about my political opinions. If I was going to make a contribution, it should be by doing what I was good at: writing and acting.
Since then, I’ve found that one of the things I’m also good at is helping scientists communicate more clearly. I’ve helped train more than 15,000 scientists around the world, so science is important to me — as it is to all of us. We swim in a sea of science, and perhaps, like fish who take water for granted, we take science for granted. But without it, we would stop breathing.
Which is where we are now. Science is at stake, as is our very breath.
I’ve wondered what would tip me over into breaking my silence. Would it be Trump’s racism, his misogyny, his attack on the free press, his unspeakable cruelty to children — grabbing them from their parents and then forgetting to return them? Would it be the overt, brazen attempt to deprive people of their ability to vote, the right through which all other rights are guarded?
I’m outraged by all of these things, but what has finally done it for me is something even more fundamental: You can’t vote if you’re dead.
Trump’s deceitful assurances that covid-19 is nothing to worry about have laid untold dead at the feet of this president. And now, his administration is flirting with a policy to achieve “herd immunity” by following a theory put forth in a statement known as the Great Barrington Declaration that calls for deliberately allowing the less vulnerable among us to become infected while somehow protecting the more vulnerable. The authors call this “focused protection.”
This is decidedly a minority view, and it has been excoriated by the world’s leading infectious- disease experts. But the Trump administration seems willing to let a few hundred thousand people die and hope for the best.
Trump once said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without consequences. At this moment, we are all on Fifth Avenue.
You, too, might have been silent until now for fear of intruding on someone else’s opinions. But is it an intrusion to try to save lives? Is it impolite for the lemming who notices the cliff to say, “Uh, wait a minute, guys?”
There’s still time to speak with respect to friends and neighbors. Yelling at each other across this crazy gap is not accomplishing anything, but listening and speaking from the heart wouldn’t hurt.
We have to take care of one another, no matter what our politics are. I don’t take pleasure in the idea that the people most in danger are Trump’s staff and family and millions of followers. In the worst cases of covid-19, the experience — even when not fatal — has been described as a constant feeling of drowning. I don’t wish that on anyone.
So, I’m speaking now, and I hope you will, too. Someone you know who hasn’t thought it necessary to vote might decide to cast a ballot.
I hope they’ll vote for science. I hope they’ll vote for life.