On Vaccine Mandates: A Personal Integrative Perspective

by Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D., Ph.D. November, 2021

In a number of articles I have conveyed my perspective in support of covid vaccines while acknowledging that there are some legitimate concerns about negative consequences that may arise from vaccines [1]. In a nutshell, I firmly believe that the positive benefits of the covid vaccines greatly outweigh their possible negative consequences, and that the probability of these negative consequences occurring is comparatively small [1]. However, there is currently tremendous division and antagonistic polarity over vaccine mandates all over the world, inclusive of the United States. But what is especially poignant for me is that my 40-year-old son is in the midst of this polarity as he steadfastly has refused to get the vaccine and deeply resents the government infringing on his freedom with the vaccine mandates. He has given up potential acting jobs in Los Angeles because of this, which has been the most important thing in his life for the past decade [2], and claims that the mandates are unconstitutional and an infringement on his rights. My son was the motivation for me researching the whole vaccine controversy and writing all my previous articles about it [1], and now I find myself in a dire predicament: how to preserve my relationship with my son without compromising the safety to myself and my wife.

I have not wanted to disclose my personal reasons for writing about vaccines previously, but at this point it feels not genuine to write anything more about this without doing so. In many back and forth e-mail exchanges with my son, I have tried to stretch myself as much as possible without giving up what I view as the safety of myself and my wife. I have not seen my son in over 2 years, and I want to be able to see him again. So I have come up with an offer that I hope he accepts, and it is one that perhaps other people in a similar situation to my own could benefit from. My offer is to accept my son’s bottom line of not getting the vaccine if he agrees to getting a covid test soon before seeing me. Of course this is not foolproof, as there is no guarantee that someone, especially an unvaccinated person, would not get infected with covid during travel or doing other activities between the covid test and the visit. But I would add the strong request that my son also get an antibodies test, in case he has previously gotten covid with mild symptoms or no symptoms and built up antibodies and didn’t know he was infected. And I would want us to spend as much time outdoors as possible, insist that he wears a mask indoors as much as possible, and socially distance indoors when he is eating if the weather does not permit outdoor eating.
I don’t know if my son will accept all this, but at least I feel like I have been able to offer some kind of a compromise. And I think this kind of compromise is something that should be considered to heal the bitter polarities over vaccine mandates all over the world. Once again, I don’t condone the anti-vaccine movement and the refusal of so many people all over the world to get vaccinated. I understand some of their arguments, as my son has labored to convey to me, inclusive of healthy lifestyles through nutrition and exercise, natural immunity through having already been infected, etc. But as I have discussed in my articles [1], I don’t think any of these arguments warrant the refusal to get vaccinated against covid. However, the anti-vaccine movement is not going away, and the destructive polarities are growing in hatred and violence every day. There is something to be said for genuinely listening to others who have a diametrically opposed viewpoint to your own, and this is very much related to the core principles of empathy and authenticity in humanistic psychology [3]. Thus it seems to me that if we replaced vaccine mandates with the kind of requirements that I have offered my son, there might be a lot less resistance and rebellion from the anti-vaccine movement. And this smacks of what I have previously written about in regard to an “integrative” perspective in which one looks at various perspectives inclusive of ones that are contradictory to each other and tries to integrate them into an extended viewpoint [4].

But there is certainly no guarantee that what I am proposing would work, either in the personal case with my son or in the current situation of extreme havoc that is being played out all over the world. It feels reasonable to me, accepting the anti-vaxxer’s bottom line of not being forced to get vaccinated, and asking in return for actions to help one feel more safe and less susceptible to being infected by someone who is not vaccinated. I know that this kind of extended requirement, i.e., allowing for a covid test as as alternative to a vaccine, is being instituted in some situations, but I wonder if extending this in a much more widespread fashion could help ease the tensions all over the world to a considerable extent. At any rate, I have the personal motivation to find out in my own situation. And I must also say that this is as far as I can stretch myself. I can accept an anti-vaxxer refusing to get a vaccine, even if I think their reasons are completely unjustified, as long as this anti-vaxxer is willing to meet me half-way and take the actions that I request in order to make me feel more safe and less threatened. But if the anti-vaxxer is not willing to do this, then so be it. I have made my offer and would have to accept the consequences, even if it were to mean a permanent estrangement with the anti-vaxxer, and in this personal case the anti-vaxxer is my son.

Postscript

As it turns out, I heard back from my son the day after I wrote this essay. I am very relieved that he is agreeable to get a covid test before we see each other, along with wearing masks and eating outdoors. He already gets tested in Los Angeles before gigs and events that require this, and he does not have a problem with getting tested. In his own words:

“I’m never trying to be difficult or trying to be a rebel about these things. I just have my one boundary, and if people can respect it even if they disagree with it then I can respect whatever things make them feel safe, even if my personal opinion differs from theirs.”

And this reinforces for me my suggestion for governments to ease up on vaccine mandates and allow for covid tests as an alternative. The frequency of the tests would of course be dependent upon the situation, for example whether it is a one-time event or a regular job. But the bottom line is that in order to reduce the horrific polarity over vaccine mandates that is overtaking the world, while simultaneously offering a reasonable degree of safety to people, I think that this kind of vaccine mandate alternative is both reasonable and worthwhile to undertake.

Notes and References

1) See my four-part essay series To Get Vaccinated Or Not To Get Vaccinated, and my essay Germ Theory Denial, Anti-Vaccination, and COVID-19, on the Integral World website at www.integralworld.net

2) See my book The Creative Artist, Mental Health, and Mental Disturbance, available on Amazon, and some of my related Integral World essays at www.integralworld.net

3) See the books by Carl Rogers (1969), On Becoming a Person, and Kirk Schneider (2020), The Depolarizing of America: A Guidebook for Social Healing.

4) See a number of my Integral World essays where I included an integrative perspective in the title, at www.integralworld.net

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Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, psychologist, mathematician, musician, and writer, with Ph.Ds in math and psychology. 4 published books, and over 200 articles

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Elliot Benjamin

Elliot Benjamin

Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, psychologist, mathematician, musician, and writer, with Ph.Ds in math and psychology. 4 published books, and over 200 articles

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