I Lost a Friend, it Felt Like Five

“Who can think of kissing a stranger, jumping on to a bus or sending their child to school without feeling real fear? Who can think of ordinary pleasure and not assess its risk? Who among us is not a quack epidemiologist, virologist, statistician and prophet? Which scientist or doctor is not secretly praying for a miracle? Which priest is not — secretly, at least — submitting to science?”

-Arundhati Roy

Financial Times APRIL 3 2020

The following is an account of how I lost a friend. What’s been more exhausting than confinements and quarantines has been the turn this pandemic has turned into an existential battle. I spent so much of this summer nagging family and friends over phone calls and IG DMs (like the two weeks of back and forth I’ve shared here) trying to pass on everything I know about the international response to COVID-19, knowledge that goes back to December 2019 when I first started seeing government intelligence reporting on it during my work at a US Embassy.

The following comes from a debate with someone who was the person who best understood me but who is know lost to internet rabbit holes that and pulled them far into a conspiratorial world that allows the privileged classes to spend their time imagining their own oppression instead of working to help the historically oppressed (the same populations that have been devasted the most by this pandemic). It’s very raw and even more disorganized. But the weight of this conversation living in a Google doc needs to be exorcised. Identifying details have been removed. It ends before things got really personal and I realized that they person I thought was an intellectual/cultural/emotional counterpart for me in this world was lost to psuedo-scientific internet charlatans while he makes his living from a corporation that has more blood on its hands than my nine years of military service can stomach.

More than anything, I just hope that if you read this and you’ve been in this same sort of battle with someone you love, that maybe it helps you understand better, or maybe you can help me understand better, because I feel like I’m losing people from this virus without really losing anyone from this virus.

My messages are in bold.

26 juillet 2021 17:18

I continue to be amazed how people back Stateside could ever think they had anything forced upon them

After two years of living in countries that institute curfews, based who can go into public spaces with their national ID number, showing vaccination cards to be allowed out at certain times to do certain things

And Americans continue to whine that some parts of the country made them wear a mask in some places

But not surprising in a country that represents only 5% of the global population but 25% of its resources

Just sad to continue to be part of the problem as the species hurtles towards existential demise

I find it sad that those countries are run that way.

I don’t see how the medical-industrial complex is doing anything to help us from hurtling toward existential demise. After all, if it’s seemingly inevitable, why live in such a state of paranoia and subsequent enforcement of increasingly strict regulation?

All due respect for your experiences abroad, they don’t justify those types of medical interventions, especially when other alternatives aren’t given the same level of attention. The corporate interests are so blatantly obvious at this point.

We are not following a model congruent to health, and this, as you very well know, isn’t solely a conversation about vaccines. The environment is something both you and I agree about, and it plays a role.

As always, I appreciate your argumentative eloquence

But the fact remains that the few countries have done less to combat this pandemic

And pretending like the US is running some sort of Gestapo state is counterfactual

And it is therefore irresponsible to sardonic memes that encourage the spread of that misinformation

Well, it’s not a Gestapo state yet thankfully

But in all fairness, distributing information that could potentially lead to biological injury doesn’t seem responsible either

A sense of humor isn’t all that bad either

Adherence to an alarmist mindset won’t benefit our health. In general, the state of mental health that ensued from the incessant reporting of various health-related statistics hasn’t done the public much good. As if now in 2020 some new crazy phenomenon is plaguing our streets

“A sense of humor isn’t all that bad either”

It is when it’s just some elitist trash with white Americans going on about “freedom”

As if their freedom has ever been in danger

Because the reality is in Navajo Nation, or among California workers, or among meat pickers in the Midwest, or essential workers in the NOLA wards, they didn’t get freedom from this virus because their government was content to let them die while all those who denied the severity quietly got vaccinated themselves

I too would like to live in balance with nature and go back to a world where we ate what we planted and lived in balance with the planet

But that’s gone.

And the only way we come back from that is to challenge the imperialism of countries like the ones where we grew up and their exploitation of the countries where our families are from

And work to protect the most vulnerable

But this ain’t it. This shit you’re sharing doesn’t reflect the reality anywhere out of a suburban American bubble

And as long as that’s what people are believing, all we’re gonna get is more wildfires, more floods, and more zoonotic diseases like Coronaviruses

But it won’t be people like us that’ll be most affected. It’ll just be the ones under our American imperialist boots 🤷🏽‍♂️

27 juillet 2021 07:38

Interesting story about the essential workers. I’m surprised that a government whose mission was to achieve 100% vaccination knowingly left people to die like that.

Well I hope you can see I don’t fit the avatar of the elitist right-wing prick 😇 nevertheless, I’m ok with you directing your frustrations about them at me. In spite of how good a suburban guy like me has it, there is still a lot of work to do to accomplish true freedom. My vision of freedom isn’t selective either. It applies to everyone.

27 juillet 2021 08:52

“Interesting story about the essential workers. I’m surprised that a government whose mission was to achieve 100% vaccination knowingly left people to die like that.”

Because we went right from an alt-right denial of the severity to a neoliberal hoarding of vaccines and the jealous guarding of their intellectual property rights that is the Democratic party’s signature

Yikes! They seem to be very generous with their current vax campaign though

And it doesn’t matter who fits that description if you’re still falling into their trap. “Freedom” only matters as much as how we protect our most vulnerable. The US in no moment in its history has met that definition.

And as I work to get the stench of a decade of the military-industrial complex off me, nothing enrages me more than the people most favored by the system complaining about oppression

Do you view me as most favored?

Agree that the US seems incapable of doing that, but does a different approach than yours signify ignorance to the most vulnerable?

Not gonna bore you with all the stuff in history about American caste and how it was the inspiration for Nazi Germany and South African apartheid. But neither of us figures among the most vulnerable.

What I’m espousing is what I’m hearing from people on the frontlines of this thing. The ones that have seen their communities devastated, or going back into the ERs after a brief respite from a year and half nightmare

But the same way Katrina only ravaged certain communities, even when nature tries to hold us accountable, we manage to protect those who are already most privileged

And they’re the ones that need us back out there, cramming into their indoor venues and their restaurants, and so they’re the ones telling us to ignore the reality

I’ll get back to you later! This is a juicy conversation, but unfortunately the military industrial complex has me quite busy at the moment

I’m not one to leave somebody on “seen”

Lots to unpack here though!

You’re good.

Ttyl ✌🏽

30 juillet 2021 12:32

No doubt the people on the front lines are witnessing tremendous suffering from a virus. That’s their job and was their reality pre-2020. Infectious disease is nothing new. It’s hard to know how to protect the most vulnerable given vaccinated individuals are contracting COVID, my dad included. Natural immunity has been negated to the point that it’s taboo to even think that a focus toward supporting innate defenses without invasive allopathic interventions will achieve success. Apparently the only way to do your part is to subscribe to chasing the dragon via vaccines. Yet, I’ve tested negative 4 times this year (including this week) and my Pfizer-vaccinated father who I share recirculating air with is sick with the virus. Did we make the right call on protecting our most vulnerable?

Many people are doing their best to help, but in an age of increasing censorship, much like the nightmares of history, only one message gets the spotlight, whether it works or not, and whether it changes its message or not.

To even think that we can judged and criticized for seeking freedom has blown my mind. The simple concept has been twisted into a caricature of cavalier ignorance and gaslighting. How unfortunate.

My girlfriend and everyone in her house is sick with Delta

Because her mom didn’t wanna get vaccinated

1000x the viral load with this variant

Glad you haven’t gotten sick

But it cost her the chance to come visit me for her 30th birthday

So, stay safe. Hope you keep having the good luck you’ve been having.

31 juillet 2021 08:08

It seems both vaccinated and unvaccinated are able to contract this, so why is it the unvaccinated’s fault?

Because every variant is stronger because we can’t people vaccinated

But don’t take my word for it.

Look at the history. If you read about how we got through polio, measles, even HIV and you still come to the same conclusion, nothing to be said

Because if COVID deaths were a country it’d be the size of Panama

But I’m glad you’ve been lucky. On the road all weekend so I’ll talk to you later.

I’ve done a great deal of work to understand how to support my immune system. This isn’t luck :) If only the NIH, CDC, and WHO would spend half the money educating the citizens of the world about how to support their biology that they do on vaccine marketing, maybe we would see different results

You can only say that because you have the means to do that. Because you lived in the Western world most of your life and now reap the benefits.

And if we still lived in balance with nature, sure

We wouldn’t need any of this

But that balance is broken

And if you saw what I had seen in the places we most exploit

Parts of the world where people are still getting motherfucking polio because they can’t get vaccines, you’d understand

But I legit can’t continue. I’m on my cousin’s data. Bye ✌🏽

2 août 2021 15:47

My position isn’t to eradicate vaccines, or that they don’t work. There are places in the world that are lacking important resources. Agreed. I’m not sure if vaccines are their lifesavers, but I’m not here to argue otherwise.

I stand against forced medication with a lack of informed consent, as well as a biased interpretation of data that unanimously supports vaccines as the prerequisite to earn the ability to carry out basic human tasks. Especially not for people like me who are truly doing their part. Sure, I post satire from time to time and express frustration, but I acknowledge the severity of illness in general which is why I’ve done lots of work in the past few years to enable my own healing, a process that is ongoing. But given the wording of the particular narrative, masks and vaccines seem to be the only criteria that we have established as worthy of acknowledgment. It’s compliance we’re judging each other by, ruining relationships and creating conflict within communities.

Anyway, my judgment is strictly focused on the medical community, the researchers, and politicians that care less about human life than they do corporate interest. They can wave a pen to enact emergency authorization for their coveted product for all shareholders involved, yet can’t seem to clean up this planet and respect the people that their marketing slogans claim to serve. Everybody else are good people in my book that deserve to live and not be enslaved by the double standards of their oppressors.

I saw a headline supposedly from an Australian news station that cautioned parents to distance themselves from their children

MF if I can’t take care of my family what’s the point of being alive?!?

(Speaking to the supposed news station not you haha)

3 août 2021 11:03

What you’re sharing isn’t satire. It’s a forced outrage from an imagined suppression. You live in the country with the most access to vaccines after a lifetime of immunizations that most of the developing world doesn’t have access to.

The evils of corporate medicine aren’t forcing the vaccine on you. They’re denying them to those who most need them. I don’t know if you’re gonna even hear me on that when you’ve literally said you don’t put stock in fact-checking.

But I feel like all you need to do is look at the world, and see that Israel had to be forced to give Palestinians vaccines (after first vaccinating a majority of their population), that Haiti just got its first doses in-country I think last month, and when the developing world has only received something like 600m doses when it would take as much money to vaccinate all of humanity as it does to put on these Olympic games.

So, frankly, protecting my family has been exhausting, not because of any shadowy government conspiracy but by reactionary internet accounts like yours. And it truly sucks to see some of the same principles of questioning lead to the type of confusion and dangerous thinking that puts people here, people back in Gabon in danger.

Because there’s never outrage when there’s actual medical evils perpetrated, never anyone coming to the defense of undocumented immigrants facing forced sterilization in ICE jails, never outrage when a USA gymnast doctor responsible for dozens of lost innocence among our young athletes, just imagined oppression from people living in a state that has imposed fewer restrictions on its population than literally anywhere else on planet Earth.

There’s a good animation in [this video] that I feel says a lot of what you’re trying to say. Check it out if you want. In the meantime, I have to go back to stopping members of my family from showing up and visiting my grandmother only to find out they’d lost their sense of smell the day before.

I’ll talk to you later ✌

Will check it out. This isn’t imagined oppression, it’s proactive questioning that checks the regulations that are being spoken of. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, look at what France is implementing. Also, mandated vaccinations aren’t some outlandish creation. California SB 276 is what raised my concern for that. Correct, we have less restrictions than other parts of the world, and as leaders of the free world we should set the example. I can only protect my community first, I don’t have the means to reach the entire world just yet. It seems those that do aren’t interested in protecting people. Also, you have such a narrow focus on vaccines being the protector of humanity. If only the solution were that easy.

Looks like a great book!

Interesting that a “reactionary account” such as mine is the culprit for the public health issues this world is currently experiencing.

Let’s pay no mind to the army of credentialed experts who work tirelessly to suppress any message that doesn’t say “get vaccinated, world.”

Fact checkers included

As if my message is “Fuck it, do whatever you want regardless of being sick. Go infect the world.”

Talking about leaders of the free world from a Lockheed Martin office sets of a lot of brainwashing alarms for me, man

Because it is [your message being “Fuck it, do whatever you want regardless of being sick. Go infect the world.”] . Because by the time vaccines are being produced, the house is already on fire and we’re trying to save what we can.

Because, ultimately, there is no reality you can present me than scares me more than the current one.

More than 4 million people are dead.

I’m doing what I can from my limited capability. Not sure what more I can say. Doing my best to survive and make this as temporary as possible.

What do you expect from a chronically ill world? Comorbidities are a problem. Many people also lost their lives to the failed approach of intubation and ventilators (NY being a significant example). Severe adverse events related to vaccines are a problem too.

Yet the people who speak to environmental issues, as well as presenting less invasive strategies to get ahead of future health concerns, are ultimately censored or delegitimized

I’ve experienced this on a personal level myself

MDs aren’t saving the world, unfortunately.

Yet the people who speak to environmental issues, as well as presenting less invasive strategies to get ahead of future health concerns, are ultimately censored or delegitimized

Right. Future health concerns. But the people are already dying.

Like I said, people don’t show this medical skepticism when it’s black women in childbirth in the US, or when the French want to experiment in Africa.

And that’s what gets lost.

People were dying before 2020, Bryan. Metabolic disease, heart disease, cancer, viruses. This has been an issue that no vaccination has solved yet.

It’s Floridians having to wear their mask indoors

“Like I said, people don’t show this medical skepticism when it’s black women in childbirth in the US, or when the French want to experiment in Africa.

Just like the next mosquito-borne disease will be worse.

Just like air pollution is worse.”

Right. We both agree there

My position is to address the lifestyle and environmental concerns. I’m limited in time and money though. I would love to play a bigger role in spearheading these issues.

“Leaders of the free world” doesn’t come from any sort of supposed brainwashing though. Lockheed isn’t the type of company to impose such beliefs. Not at my level at least. I said that because technically we do have more freedom than most places in the world, and are technically leading in that category. Especially here in Florida.Our conversation points to a big issue I see, though. Community members judging each other and going tit for tat over world issues as if one is the cause of them. What more are we supposed to do during a time of public health crisis beyond good hygiene and maintaining distance while we do what we can to carry out the necessary work to keep a roof over our heads, while fighting for the right to do so?You judge me based on two criteria that have not solved this issue. You also undermine the work that I did years prior in order to improve and maintain biological resilience. So I’m the detriment to this plagued world?

I do understand your point of view though, because a black and white mentality of “experts vs charlatans” could easily classify me as the latter.

4 août 2021 10:44

Fact of the matter is, it’s all a question about where and how we dedicate our time.

And in a region where every social structure exists in the shadow of chattel slavery and indigenous genocide, if that time and energy isn’t spent protecting the victims of said systems, then you’re perpetuating a problem.

And not getting vaccinated, and disseminating information that mocks these vaccines does real, human damage

Damage that people in our class and race won’t see because we’ve lived a life with access to immunization and have access to the facilities that will protect us if and when this or another virus, brought on by factors out of our individual control, come for us

And it’s just exhausting to see.

And not getting vaccinated, and disseminating information that mocks these vaccines does real, human damage

See, this is your issue. It’s vaccines or nothing. Nothing could possibly offer any other benefit. Check your brainwashing meter and look in the mirror

The human body, and in the past year and half, the simple act of breathing, is the culprit, while at the industrial level business continues. So let’s set new precedence for keeping people in fear and reliant on a corrupt medical system.

Because the vaccines come when it’s already too late

That doesn’t mean they’re the only way out.

Feel like that’s ahistorical

A short history, granted. Because the last century of industrialization has brought about bigger challenges, same way as climate change

Which aren’t unrelated

The problem is of biochemical nature, not just history. But to consider history is also to recognize the history of the allopathic medical institutions’ influence in strong-arming the public to accept their methods.

Even more recently, researchers are still berated for not following institutional doctrine.

Stephanie Seneff is one that comes to mind.

Also, the apparent intersection of vaccine rollout and discovery of the variants is troubling.

The human body, and in the past year and a half, the simple act of breathing, is the culprit, while at the industrial level business continues. So let’s set new precedence for keeping people in fear and reliant on a corrupt medical system.

This questioning always gets people so close to the actual corruption while still missing the point

The evils of these companies are DENYING the vaccines to the developing world and marginalized internal populations

Like Haiti or like Occupied Palestine

The self-victimization coming from people the countries most responsible for the exploitation is really nauseating

4 août 2021 16:50

The evils of these companies are DENYING the vaccines to the developing world and marginalized internal populations

From a perspective of vaccines being the saving grace to humanity during this crisis, I can see why you feel this way.

Self-victimization? The efforts to limit normal social participation in restaurants, bars, and other public places are already beginning to materialize.

You even blamed an unvaccinated person for infecting your girlfriend.

Either way I don’t blame you.

5 août 2021 10:56

Because accounts like yours never bring the same energy when the historically disenfranchised suffer the brunt of government inaction and medical malpractice.

And in a state like Florida where 1 in 5 US COVID cases are coming out of, when 99% of hospitalizations are unvaccinated people, inaction in pandemic response shines a light right back on our eugenicist history as a country

And so often the deep internet rabbit holes ignore the fact the US spends the most per capita on its medical system, yet has the lowest life expectancy, highest infant and maternal mortality, all because it historically doesn’t care that the victims are the descendants of genocide and slavery.

And it’s no different here. Maybe you’re right and I’m wrong, but know that your stance it’s coming at the risk of espousing the same half-truths that everyone from white doctors taking Henrietta Lacks cancer cells without her consent to the 90K AIDS deaths that Ronald Reagan presided over without doing a goddamn thing

There may be risks of misinterpretation there, but there are plenty of risks in following any advice out there. I’m not going for “I’m right, you’re wrong” here. Mutual respect in approach is my goal. I’d like to see a world where vaccination isn’t enforced as the gold standard of medicine by vast marketing campaigns and censorship of dissent. Also, I appreciate you pointing out the caveats of the message, but they do represent extremes. Nonetheless, they do keep me grounded to the extreme realities of the past.


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Bryan Rincón

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