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The Atlantic started the week off with an audacious demand in an article entitled, "Let's Declare a Pandemic Amnesty." Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University, wrote, "We need to forgive one another for what we did and said when we were in the dark about COVID." Oster's proposal was met with ridicule and contempt.
Judging by the overwhelmingly negative response to the article on Twitter, many are not yet ready to absolve those who for years championed and partook in oppressive and discriminatory pandemic laws and social conventions — laws and conventions that had family members die alone, persons wary about experimental vaccines lose their jobs, children isolated and academically stunted, and Americans segregated.
No consequences, thanks
In the article published Monday, Oster noted that she and her family had taken "misguided" precautions such as wearing bandanas as masks that "wouldn't have done anything, anyway" on empty hiking trails.
While largely ignoring the more severe measures taken and rules enforced in the name of public safety, Oster referenced the arbitrary closure of beaches and the unjustifiable closure of schools as two examples of "getting it wrong."
"We didn't know," Oster wrote, indicating that ignorance justified the rest.
Oster argued that in "the face of so much uncertainty ... getting something wrong wasn't a moral failing."
Meanwhile, she contended that some of "the right people were right for the wrong reasons."
Oster is keen not to treat "pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people racked up more points than others." She wants to move forward.
Discussions about how some people were immediately ready to dehumanize their neighbors or castigate fellow citizens for exhibiting wariness about untested medications tend to be "heated, unpleasant and, ultimately, unproductive" so why, suggested Oster, have them?
Oster's solution: "Put these fights aside and declare a pandemic amnesty."
"We need to learn from our mistakes and then let them go. We need to forgive the attacks, too," Oster declared, suggesting that expecting accountability for the "complicated choices" some people made "can lead to a repetitive doom loop."
No, we insist
Oster got ratioed when she linked to her article on Twitter. The post received 2,300 likes and over 32,300 replies. Many of the replies indicated that justice must be given priority over forgiveness.
\u201cMy latest in @TheAtlantic \n\nhttps://t.co/w6GIOEMhZv\u201d— ProfEmilyOster (@ProfEmilyOster) 1667212895
Oster had recommended forgiving but not forgetting. Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean indicated that she would do neither, writing, "Many of us won't ever forgive or forget. Especially when it comes to the seniors who died in nursing homes after leaders flooded their residences with covid patients and never told us or protected them. They knew better. We deserve justice first."
\u201cOh no, @ProfEmilyOster. Many of us won\u2019t ever forgive or forget. Especially when it comes to the seniors who died in nursing homes after leaders flooded their residences with covid patients and never told us or protected them. They knew better. We deserve justice first.\u201d— Janice Dean (@Janice Dean) 1667232795
The rapper Nzube Olisaebuka Udezue (Zuby) wrote, "People want justice and accountability. Nobody has properly acknowledged nor apologised for the immense pain, grief, and harm they caused to others. People who never wronged them at all. Including you. We have receipts."
\u201c@ProfEmilyOster @TheAtlantic No. People want justice and accountability.\n\nNobody has properly acknowledged nor apologised for the immense pain, grief, and harm they caused to others. People who never wronged them at all. \n\nIncluding you. We have receipts.\u201d— ProfEmilyOster (@ProfEmilyOster) 1667212895
Libs of TikTok replied to Oster: "I'll never forget what the Democrats did - how they destroyed thousands of lives by forcing school/business closures, people died alone in hospitals while nurses danced because they didn't allow visitors, thousands lost their jobs for refusing a vax, list goes on and on."
Ukrainian-American podcaster Michael Malice noted that it is hard to forgive when those in apparent need of forgiveness have never apologized.
Turning Point USA contributor Laura Chen highlighted how the "pandemic amnesty" advocate had previously recommended the unvaccinated be shamed and segregated.
\u201c@ProfEmilyOster @TheAtlantic Forgiveness usually comes after an apology.\n\nI see no apology in this piece.\n\nRemember how you encouraged family members to pressure each other and the unvaxxed to be fired?\n\nPerhaps a little "I'm sorry for that" would be a good place to start.\u201d— ProfEmilyOster (@ProfEmilyOster) 1667212895
Others called the proposed amnesty into question, suggesting — in many cases with the aid of graphic videos depicting how people were treated for not wearing masks or being found without vaccine passports — that the offenses for which Oster demands forgiveness weren't simply a matter of not knowing "any better."
John Haar provided Oster with a reminder from Rasmussen Reports that some "mistakes" may prove too great for such swift and simple "amnesty."
The Rasmussen report referenced by Haar indicated that as of January 13, 2022, "nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters th[ought] Federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications."
The report also revealed that "Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine." 79% of Republicans were opposed.
\u201c@ProfEmilyOster @TheAtlantic Emily Oster: let's just forget this happened.\u201d— ProfEmilyOster (@ProfEmilyOster) 1667212895
Mary Harrington wrote in UnHerd that Oster's request and similar recommendations are driven by self-interest: "Those who drove Covid policy presented themselves not just as people doing their best, but as the sole bearers of rational truth and life-saving moral authority."
"Doubtless the laptop class would prefer that we judge Covid policy by intention," wrote Harrington, "not results, lest too close an evaluation result in their fingers being prised from the baton of public righteousness."
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.