Commentary: Post-Vaccination Thoughts

As of now, I have received my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. By this coming Wednesday, I should be in the clear to be "protected" from. this damn virus.

Should I be celebrating? I should. Still, there are too many things floating around that have dampened my enthusiasm for being fully vaccinated. 

You’ve seen the news. There is a possibility that Pfizer may have to ask us to get a third shot of their vaccine. There are now forms of this virus floating around that have mutated from the original strain. A third wave of cases have popped up in several parts of the world. 

There is now a feeling that the collective enthusiasm towards ending this pandemic has turned into grave concern. That light at the end of the tunnel now seems elusive. 

Somehow, there is more of a secure feeling that we’re pretty close to the end. Perhaps a false sense of security? I don’t know. 

What we know is that this pandemic is a fluid situation. The loosening of guidelines could be a blessing or a curse, depending on where you are looking. While we continue to figure out what we need to do to stay healthy, there is continuing frustration among those who would like to return to normality. 

The questions continue to be asked. How many of us can attend spectator sporting events? Can we wear masks or not? When can we fly freely again? What precautions are taken at media drive events? 

My biggest test will come at the Twin Cities Auto Show later this month. Without knowing exactly how the show will be set up throughout the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, there are guidelines in place for spectators to enjoy the exhibits while maintaining safety throughout the venue. 

The auto show is asking its spectators to purchase tickets in advance, and they will be scanned at the door. Plus, everyone needs to wear a mask throughout the venue and stay about six feet away from each vehicle. The auto show producers also state that there will be hand sanitizing and hand washing stations throughout the fairgrounds, and there will be staff on hand to clean all touch points – including the vehicles – on a regular basis. 

From this pandemic came many problems affecting the automotive industry. Because microchip factories had to shut down because of the virus, the automotive industry faced a supply chain shortage that has shut down or slow production of new vehicles. There are new vehicles sitting on assembly lines and storage lots without the necessary microchips to make sure they work properly. 

Now, there is another supply chain issue involving rubber products. Due to floods that affected rubber tree plantations in Thailand and elsewhere, the rubber sap harvest will now affect the production of tires, hoses, and other components made of this material. 

The automotive industry has been burdened with these supply chain issues since last year. One would argue that the lack of contingency plans to counter these supply chain issues have already given the industry a major disadvantage towards recovery from this pandemic. Not having a “Plan B” in affect usually spells failure for an industry. 

If you drive by new vehicle dealerships across the U.S.A., you will find lots that are low on inventory. Not just new vehicles, but pre-owned ones. Auction houses that supply dealerships with pre-owned vehicles are experiencing lower volumes coming through their blocks. 

Yet, a visual survey shows an imbalance of inventory. While some lots are low on inventory, Others are overflowing with both new and pre-owned vehicles. Still, there is a consumer base that is buying. They are buying what is available on these lots. 

Usually, the automotive industry will give us a strong indication of the economic picture. That economic picture also translates into a social temperature of the nation, as well. It is the latter that I am also gravely concerned about. 

You would think that the events of January 6 and the subsequent inauguration of President Joseph Biden would completely turn the mood of the nation around. I was wrong. 

If you ask me, the discourse among many topics has gotten more divisive and the tone angrier.

Our attention has been diverted to mass shootings that appear to be more frequent than before. Perhaps the change in sensitivity in our country has fueled the media coverage of these incidents.

Also, another police-related shooting of an African-American adult occurred nearby where I live. Without going into the details of the incident, it again provoked thoughts and scenes that the Twin Cities experienced last spring in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing. Windows were again boarded up. Curfews were in place. The National Guard was present on the streets. 

However, we may have escaped this scenario with the recent verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. We are not out of the woods. There is still his sentencing, as well as the trials of the other three officers involved in the Floyd incident and the trial of the Brooklyn Center police officer involved in the shooting of the other young African-American adult. 

As a content creator, engagement is an important component of our work. Part of that engagement is the conversation amongst readers, viewers, followers, etc. Sometimes you get good conversations going. Other strains of discourse are less than the worth of the work one puts out. 

This goes back to the notion that we have not evolved from the temperament of discourse for the last decade or so. Social media gave us the permission to be less than polite and disrespectful in our commentary. It was simply the wrong permission to give.

The pandemic amped up this discourse. It felt like that the average human had nothing better to do than argue in various comment strings about this topic or one’s opinion regardless of one’s temperament, knowledge, and use of language. 

No one likes to be attacked. 

Meanwhile, I continue to be protective of what I do – work-wise, community-wise, etc. The reason for this has been rooted in trust and some not-so-good experiences I had dating back several decades. Add to the temper of today's world, where it seems easier to hate than love…to cancel, rather than celebrate. 

What I found that in my capacity as a board member of the local region of Lambda Car Club International, I need to make sure that members, friends, and other interested parties understand that the space that the club occupies must be free from those who are anti-LGBT. Hence why I talk about the temper of discourse in the context of this continuing pandemic. 

Understand that this observation and action towards protecting myself and the activities I am involved with comes from moments when I was hated and discriminated against – even from my own people. I have to do what I can to ensure safety from hatred, cancellation, and other negative behaviors. I also know I can't change the minds of those already rooted in hatred and fear of "the other." A hatred and fear that has been amped up with the changes in society caused by the pandemic and the years before it. 

You might not see much of me out in the car culture this year. Not because of the pandemic, but because I need to feel comfortable in these situations. Believe me, there had been moments of discomfort lately in some situations and scenarios. 

An automotive retail/enthusiast friend of mine taught me years ago about how to go about the car community. He was right. It certainly prepared me for this global change in attitudes and where I stand within car culture and my work with the automotive media. 

As long as we have restrictions and guidelines in place, I am trying to keep a good perspective on things and hope we can come out of this a better society. Maybe being fully vaccinated may have helped shape this perspective. Let’s just hope we can come out of this pandemic with our heads held high and free from the hatred and fear that still pervades our universe. 

For now, I have to temper my celebration of being vaccinated.

All photos by Randy Stern

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