This is a tale of two betrayals. One in fiction, and one in reality. Those loyal to a system of deceit and betrayal are ultimately consumed to feed the system. It happened to a literary character and it is possibly happening to a teacher today.
George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” were required high school freshman reading for decades in public schools across the nation. Not so today, and that is too bad. Orwell’s predictions are turning out to be eerily accurate. The power of his predictions hit me hard when I was speaking with a friend and fellow New York City teacher about vaccine mandates for New York City teachers. No testing option, no religious exemptions. It seemed a bit much. Her comments made me think of Boxer, the horse from the novel Animal Farm. At first, the similarity between my friend and Boxer did not fit. Boxer was always loyal to the party and followed orders without question. Whereas my friend insisted that unlike many of our other co-workers and friends, she did her part and “held the line” against vaccine mandates. She believed the government should not be mandating vaccines especially since she herself recovered form Covid and had antibodies. She knew there was a risk of side effects. So she did not get vaccinated and did not want to get vaccinated.
Time and temptation wore down her resistance. She got upset when being unvaccinated made her miss a Foo Foo Fighters concert, and then a Broadway play with friends. It was becoming too hard to stand on principle. The final straw was the threat of losing her job and her pension. One could understand someone getting the shot in January or February because you thought you were doing the best thing for you. But if you got the shot in September or October, you were forced. She would do anything to keep her job, her pension, her weekly manicures and her $750 monthly car lease. How else would she afford that? So like so many others, she caved in to blind desperation; thereby weakening the collective resistance to this injustice. Her state of mind was devolving into the same false sense of security as Boxer. She assumed if she does as she is told and follows the orders of the government, that she will be rewarded with a pension and a peaceful retirement. Her motives selfish, unlike Boxer but she nevertheless trusts the government to be on her side. Forget about fighting tyranny and unconstitutional orders. Let somebody else take that fight. Her job, her pension, her manicures, and, her car – safe for now. Where else will she be threatened? What else will she have to give up? Did she even wonder?
I asked her if she considered that her fate might be the same as Boxer’s. Boxer was a dedicated and loyal worker. He fought in the Battle of the Cowshed and played an important part in helping the animals take over the farm. Throughout the story as he slaves over the building of the windmill, he dreams of the day when he can retire, collect his pension, and spend his days leisurely grazing in a meadow without a care in the world. He goes into great detail planning his retirement and never doubts the pigs are looking out for him and will reward his loyalty.
Eventually, and after many years of hard labor, the windmill is nearly complete. Boxer is old, tired, and almost ready to retire. He hurts his foot and the pigs say they will send him to the vet. The day comes, and a cart comes to take him. However, as the cart pulls away, the donkey notices that the cart has a sign on the side saying it belongs to the knacker, where horses are taken to be slaughtered and turned into glue. The animals try to warn Boxer, urging him to jump out, but to no avail. He is too old, his foot is injured, and he is tired to kick down the door of the cart. Young Boxer would have been able to free himself, but now Boxer no longer had the strength to fight. The animals watch as their friend is taken away.
The animals ask the pigs about the sign on the cart and are told that a veterinarian purchased the cart from the knacker and that Boxer was off to the vet. Boxer was going to receive good care, they were assured. Then he would be free to enjoy retirement. The animals wanted to believe this, and the alternative was too ugly, so they did believe this. This cognitive dissonance is quite common. The next day the animals are informed by the pigs that the vet tried his best but he could not save Boxer. A few days later a large box of whiskey is purchased by the pigs and delivered to the pigs, and the animals can hear the pigs partying into the night.
It’s too bad my teacher friend never heard this story. It’s too bad that when she was told this story she did not see a pattern. It’s understandable that she doesn’t want to see the pattern. (This cognitive dissonance is quite common.) What the American government is doing to its’ citizens has never been done in our whole history. Something is different, something is wrong.
If our government can tell us with no notice, to do as they say or they will punish us, what makes some people so sure their pensions, for example, are safe? Boxer is long gone. He did not enjoy one day of his retirement. What is the teacher’s fate? What is our fate? Can we trust the government to deliver on their promises? Is the action of getting vaccinated about helping our neighbors, or helping ourselves? Will we be betrayed? Look to those who also see the tyranny. Has a line been crossed? Will we say enough? Or will our children grow up in a world where they do not know what freedom is because we could not be bothered?