Both Sides Now: For my Once and (hopefully) Future Tribe Across the Vaccine Chasm

Martin Bishop
11 min readJul 13, 2021
Our own “Brigadoon”

Another Wave of COVID Tearing Families Apart

In the first wave of COVID, families were torn apart by isolation and quarantine. Now, different views about whether or not to get vaccinated against COVID are keeping many families apart.

I’m still just beginning to get to know Gemma as a fellow resident of the Permaculture community I live in, but, today, we have something important in common. She is Native American and has received word from her tribe that she and her husband won’t be allowed to attend upcoming tribal ceremonies because they haven’t opted to get the COVID vaccine and she is heart-broken about it. And me? Well…

I don’t exactly have a tribe. In 1994, I started what became a 27-year-and-counting tradition. I was married, working and raising two young boys, one still in diapers, when I decided to attempt to satisfy my desire for intentional community in my life by renting a large group camping facility in Oregon and inviting all my friends and family to come and spend three or four days each summer cooking, camping, playing games and, perhaps most importantly, singing together. Sometimes, when the night mists settled into the lower spaces in the big open field and the moon was shining down, I’ve felt that this gathering of 50–75 people was my own personal “Brigadoon”.

My musical genre is “Folk Cringe”, specifically of the “Stone Soup” school of folk music. The theory is that if you pick any song in the “Rise Up Singing” songbook and play it loudly and badly enough that, given enough time and red wine, enough people will join in singing and/or strumming to drown you out and, by the next morning, they’ll probably forget just how cringe the missed chord changes and mumbled lyrics were.

That’s the theory anyway.

But after 27 years of being the usual guitar guy, for better or worse, I think some of them would be able to pick me out of a line-up (“That’s him — the butcher of Woodstock!”)

This year, because the camp is in a state-owned facility and there are (or were) guidelines to observe and we have medically vulnerable people in our little “tribe”… the family has decided that only COVID-vaccinated folks can participate. After much deliberation, I have chosen not to get vaccinated and I am heart-broken about having to miss this year’s festivities. I feel that I know my friend Gemma’s sorrow and that she understands mine. We are both cut off from our tribes by a rigid policy that doesn’t allow for:

  1. Test-proven freedom from infection
  2. Quarantine-proven freedom from infection
  3. Symptoms screening
  4. Natural immunity, or
  5. Masking, Social distancing & Hand-washing
  6. Possible alternatives to vaccines for COVID prevention (and treatment)

I know that some of my friends and family are judging me harshly for my decision. I know some people will feel hurt because of my decision. I know they probably don’t understand why I’ve made this choice or, possibly worse, they may be inclined to make uncharitable assumptions about my politics or intelligence and think they really DO understand my choice. I know this is a highly charged issue and that nothing I can say is likely to change anyone’s mind. But, I do want people to understand that I haven’t made this choice lightly. No mere “inconvenience” could keep me away from my son’s hospital bedside, for example. No vague “fears” or “hesitancy” would be enough to keep me away from my tribe. They all matter very much to me. Especially my sons.

Breaking Taboos

I am something of a black sheep in my family with regard to what are commonly dismissed as “conspiracy theories”. The history of the term “conspiracy theory” and its abuse as a blanket dismissal for all ideas that don’t conform to mainstream narratives, both true and untrue, is a story in itself. Lance deHaven-Smith has written an excellent book, “Conspiracy Theory in America” on the subject.

deHaven-Smith exposes how the term emerged in its current usage from a CIA document discussing how to manage public opinion about the JFK assassination. It is interesting to note that public opinion on the JFK conspiracy is widely separated from media and academic treatment of that historic event. Annual Gallup polling has shown that the majority of Americans have never believed the conclusion of the Warren commission report that one man (Lee Harvey Oswald) killed JFK and, in some years, as many as 81% of Americans have agreed with the statement that “others were involved” (in other words, it was a conspiracy by definition) and yet, you’d never know this was a majority opinion to listen to mainstream news and academia. The mainstream narrative is that such views are only espoused by a small fringe group of “conspiracy theorists”.

In any case, owing to my black-sheep status in my family, at various times in the past several years I’ve agreed with some family members not to discuss vaccines and/or politics with them and that we’d just agree to disagree and still be family. If you are one of these people please be warned the rest of this article gets into my personal, political and scientific reasons for not vaccinating at this time, so you may want to stop reading here.

All roight, then…

My Personal Reasons for Vaccine “Hesitancy”

As I write this in July 2021, I would say my reasons for not vaccinating have only recently become clear enough and well documented enough to share with a larger community. Until now, my reasoning has been partly based on more general skepticism about establishment medical information and practices as they relate to the profitability of the pharmaceutical industry. That’s too big a topic for this column.

And, yet, I believe I have other good personal reasons for not choosing the vaccine for me, even if they were arguably anecdotal. For one thing, I’ve had peripheral neuropathy for over twenty years. It started about two weeks after the last flu shot I got in 1998. Years later, listening to a 60 Minutes program about the 1970’s Swine Flu and Guillan-Barre syndrome, I began to think that my symptoms of weakness, paresthesia and fatigue were, perhaps, a milder version of GBS.

60-Minutes segment on Swine Flue and GBS:

Obviously, I’m no Eric Clapton when it comes to guitar playing, but, coincidentally, he also suffers from peripheral neuropathy. In the video below, he describes how the COVID vaccine made his symptoms worse and how the second shot lead to him losing the use of his hands for over three weeks. As of this recording, he was still trying to get back to his normal baseline (or should I say “treble-line”?). Although this is one “anecdote”, it indicates to me that those of us who have underlying neurological illnesses could be at higher risk for worsened symptoms. That’s a risk I don’t want to take and don’t feel I should be forced to take.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been linked to blood-clotting, and, as an elder, I don’t want to increase my odds of getting a stroke or related cardiovascular problems. (update: WSJ now reports the J&J vaccine is linked to GBS as well, link in the end section)

In my career, I spent about 30 years working in the software industry, so, in April 2020, when Bill Gates described the task of rolling out the first mRNA vaccines as “a bit like building your computer system and your first piece of software at the same time” my skepticism was aroused. After all, the first IBM PC running MS-DOS 1.0, was horribly full of bugs. Computers can be rebooted and re-programmed. Cells in our bodies? Not so much.

These were the main reasons for my personal decision to at least delay getting the vaccine. I honestly believe that, for me, the risk of getting the vaccine is greater than the risk of getting COVID. In May of 2021, I had an infection and my fever peaked at 103 degrees on two consecutive days. Both swab and PCR tests said it was NOT COVID. So, I have a recent experience of serious symptoms to jog my mind as to what’s at stake.

I know these personal reasons are not compelling or conclusive for others. But they were enough for me to delay getting the vaccine up until now. As of July 2021, I have more solid evidence.

Scientific and Political Reasons for COVID Vaccine Skepticism

You may think I’m overestimating the risk of vaccination and under-estimating the risks of COVID. You might be of the opinion that “the science” is on your side. We could talk about Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt” documentary about how science was manipulated by big tobacco and big oil so they could keep selling cigarettes and gasoline profitably. We could debate whether Big Pharma uses similar tactics. We could review the facts behind what is called “The Replication Crisis”. We could talk about why we trust or distrust various official and unofficial sources. We could discuss the origins of COVID and whether or not it makes a difference if the virus originated in nature or in a lab:

All I might hope to convince you of is that my doubts about the safety and efficacy of this particular vaccine are sincere and based on a good deal of consideration even if we place our trust in different sources and have come to different conclusions. At least I might hope to convince you I’m not as crazy, stupid or deluded as many orthodox thinkers would probably assume. That would be a relief and comfort to me.

But I’m not an epidemiologist, virologist, geneticist or an expert in any of the other disciplines most directly related to the COVID pandemic. Nonetheless, I do devote time to studying it. If I were 100% certain, all my loved ones would have heard from me, but, as it is, I don’t feel certain enough to recommend to others either way. I would wish that others consider and decide for themselves, taking into account at least as much information, from both official and unofficial sources, as I have.

In 2020, shortly after the pandemic began, an Astrophysicist friend of mine who wrote a book on aging (he’s in his 70’s and recently hiked down to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon and back up to the rim in one day), invited me to join in an e-mail list and periodic Zoom calls with him and about a dozen of his associates (including medical doctors and professors of communications/propaganda and other fields) in discussions about COVID covering the virus itself, research about alternative treatments and the vaccines as well as media coverage(foreign and domestic) and related politics and culture. They’re a fascinating group and it has been a privilege to have the benefit of their analyses and observations.

From their discussions and from both mainstream and alternative press and academic sources we found that there appeared to be three reality-models emerging. One was the MAGA-camp that discounted or distrusted science, minimized all dangers and deaths, promoted any and every alternative treatment like bleach, HCQ, UV light. A second faction, we can call the Establishment, was firmly allied with the WHO, the CDC and FDA, Dr. Fauci, big pharma companies producing the vaccines and most of American establishment media and academia. Finally, a third model emerged that required much more consideration and research to discern. I’ll call it the Whistleblower Consensus. The basic points of the third model were:

a. The MAGA-camp model is wildly irrational and consists mostly of wishful and/or paranoid thinking.

b. The establishment model is considerably better in terms of at least having extant published research, but their narrative appears to be distorted by monied interests and political agendas.

c. Vaccines were given favorable treatment in the press and regulatory agencies, downplaying risks, overstating benefits, and maximizing vaccine company profits.

d. Other treatments that showed promise such as Ivermectin, Vitamin D, Hydroxochloroquine (HCQ) and so on were ignored or given unfavorable treatment — overstating risks, making bogus studies based on unrecommended high dosages designed to discredit these drugs. Often these other treatments emerged in foreign countries (such as Ivermectin in Mexico and India) and many of them showed promising results.

e. Under-reporting of adverse events in the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) database is estimated to be a big problem with perhaps only 1–10% of adverse events making it into the database.

Such is the rough outline of the Whistleblower Consensus and the preponderence of evidence we’ve been studying.

That’s all I can really offer by way of introduction. I invite you to take some time to look into the issue more with the links below. If you’ve heard others saying that these are sources you shouldn’t pay any attention to, please consider that such proscriptions could be “poisoning the well” fallacies, read or listen to the material anyway and decide for yourself.

Thank you.

The Washington Post discusses a link between the J&J vaccine and GBS (Guillan-Barre Syndrome)

Numbers for adverse events and deaths in the VAERS database dwarf numbers seen in the past couple of decades.

Dr. Bret Weinstein was a professor of Evolutionary Biology at Evergreen State College who currently hosts the “Dark Horse” podcast which has been focusing on COVID-related topics and guests for over a year.

Youtube censored this 3 hour podcast (the video link below is edited down to about one hour) in which Dr. Bret Weinstein interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, one of the early researchers and arguably one of the inventors of mRNA vaccine technology.

Matt Taibbi (formerly of Rolling Stone) wrote this backgrounder on Bret Weinstein:

I hope these source materials are interesting and helpful to you and I welcome your discussion and ideas about them.

Both Sides Now

“But now old friends are acting strange.
They shake their heads. They say I’ve changed.
But something’s lost and something’s gained
in living every day.” — Joni Mitchell

If nothing else, I hope you, dear reader, have seen enough to realize that the question of vaccination isn’t as simple as advertised. There is much that you and I don’t know and there is still much that nobody knows. There are serious questions remaining to be answered and it is understandable that reasonable people might gravitate to either side of the chasm.

And if, knowing that, you can be closer to, at least in spirit if not physically, and more forgiving of a loved one whose current views differ from yours, I’ll be happy. Blessings to you and yours.

UPDATE 17-DEC-2021

This holiday season is a replay of COVID still keeping my family apart. I am still not welcome at my place of worship either. It seems even more of a tragedy now that indications are that drugs like ivermectin (IVM) can prevent 75% or more of COVID deaths (according to a survey of literature in RFK Jr’s new book) and evidence now strongly suggests that asymptomatic transmission was probably never a thing.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has published “The Real Anthony Fauci” and it has become a best-seller on Amazon and has even managed to get on the NY Times best-seller list. The case against pro-corporate boosting of patented medicines while ignoring and suppressing safe and effective generic drugs (no longer under patent, no longer capable of being leveraged for price-gouging) has never been clearer or better laid out.

Dr. Peter McCullough is also getting traction showing how the medical establishment is offering NO treatment for COVID between the time of diagnosis and the time of hospitalization.




Martin Bishop

Tirelessly advocating the apparently contrarian view that human extinction is worth avoiding.