Credit for image: https://owl.excelsior.edu/argument-and-critical-thinking/modes-of-persuasion/modes-of-persuasion-ethos/
In the past few weeks, in daily encounters with people trying to make conversation, people have asked me in a casual way, like asking about the weather, “Did you get your COVID vaccine?” Actually, I am still waiting. I am far down the priority list. I’m Only 62. I’m not fat nor do I have any other chronic lifestyle disease. I don’t work in a special job. When I reply with, “I’m not eligible,” people often offer suggestions about how I could beat the system. Beating the system often involves lying or cheating in some way. I can’t do that. This brings me to the topic of ethos. My thesis: the methods by which people obtain a vaccine show their ethos. White privileged Americans are showing their ethos. The predominant ethos is deservability and unqualified right.
What is ethos? Your ethos is your character. In a rhetorical argument, good character is important. You can believe and trust someone with good character. Ethos is how you show up in the world. What is your ethos?
There are some basic privileges which the currently vaccinated have, although they may not recognize them. They are things like internet access, transportation, and time. These privileges do makeup one’s ethos, even if one doesn’t think about them. If one didn’t have these privileges, one wouldn’t yet have received a vaccine. Another way to get vaccine privilege is to work adjacent to a privileged category, like to have an accounting job in a hospital or the business end of a nursing home. This person is not exposed in their job, but the hospital will finagle an extra dose for these employees. Some people have bribed their way into the vaccine line. Money buys many privileges, vaccines are just one of them. Some people are just lucky. They were standing in the pharmacy at the end of the day and happened to snag an extra dose. Maybe in today’s moral environment, there is nothing immoral about any of this. But somehow, other than old people, I know many younger people who got a vaccine through some back door method like this.
Another way to get a vaccine is to have a lifestyle disease like obesity or diabetes. Yes, I say it now. These people are at higher morbidity risk from COVID. But their problems are of their own making. Why should they get special privileges? From a public health point of view, yes, special categories of people should get vaccines as soon as possible. But it is a situation tinged with special privileges, maybe earned through years of physical neglect. Victimhood is another description of “specialness.”
Where you live is a vaccine privilege. It is not just the country, but where in the country. Notice that in the US, within any state or county, vaccine privileges vary. I live in a Democratic city in a state with a Trumpist Republican governor. Despite the state being short of doses in general, the Republican governor sent more vaccines to the Republican countryside first. Presumably, that is where his voting base resides.
If you don’t have vaccine privilege, what do you have? Vaccine poverty. Many people who were poor to begin with don’t have the rest of the means to obtain a vaccine. Many people don’t have specialness, or luck, or some other back door. So they are vaccine-poor.
The liars are the ones that really bother me. I have been offered several methods for lying in order to get a vaccine. People I thought were pretty good people are telling me to lie to cut in line. I can’t do this. My ethos is not that. The other people who bother me are those who flaunt their vaccine cheating without at all realizing that they are flaunting an ethos of cheating.
My ethos has something to do with personal integrity. Only a humble or sincerely honest ethos can defend against claiming unqualified rights and privileges. I am politely waiting in the vaccine line until it is my lawful turn.