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Dear Editor, 

Back when we trusted more of what we were told (and we usually could, with some exceptions). 

Back when J. Edgar Hoover was presented simply as a hero, and Nelson Mandela (if you even heard of him) as a terrorist.

Back before “social media” or even the World Wide Web, during much of the 20th Century when TV reporters could focus less on making money for the network and more on news ...

There were some crazy ideas out there, but they didn’t seem to have the same impact as today.  If someone insisted that our astronauts landing on the Moon was all staged in a movie studio, then you could try to find a question to ask that might start that person looking at it from a different angle – or you could just shrug and put it aside.  You didn’t have skin in that game.

But today if you meet someone who disagrees with you about whether COVID-19 is a hoax, whether vaccines against it are dangerous, or whether wearing a mask protects anybody – More than “skin in the game”, you have lungs, blood vessels, and other vital organs.

Re-thinking has always been difficult (for other people – not for ourselves?).  Further complicated if you’re not lucky enough to be first to raise the question, because the person with the minority view already has bruised feelings and is “touchy” about it.

One such idea going around is that MRNA vaccines change your DNA.  That’s like saying if someone reads a book, the book changes to reflect the reader’s understanding. Is that possible?  I have bought used textbooks where someone had highlighted or underlined or written in the margins – but I could still read what had been printed.  Nothing had been blacked out or torn out.

I hadn’t heard that vaccine changes your DNA before I met someone in Ritchie County who holds this belief.  And though I had skin in the game, my head wasn’t in the game because it caught me flat-footed and busy thinking about other things. (So the encounter didn’t go well.  My apologies.)

You, my reader, need to be prepared for such an encounter because it turns out this one has been going around a lot. (Not just locally.)

But above all remember: the person you encounter isn’t just an example of something you heard about.  That person has a unique medical history and lived experience.  So (if you have the time and are inclined to do this), put what you think you know aside and use your curiosity.  The more you can get someone to talk about their own experience because you’re willing to listen, the more likely you’ll eventually get them to expand their thinking a little.

If you don’t have the time or the interest, it’s better to keep walking.

Jim Lowther

Auburn, WV