While enjoying the spectacle of health, fitness, and sport that is the U.S. Open Tennis tournament recently, I was blindsided to learn that only about 50% of the players are vaccinated for COVID-19, the least among all professional sports. I learned this while watching the No. 3-ranked player, Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas, prevail in a match, when commentators reported that he is an outspoken “anti-vaxxer”—so much so that his own government openly condemned his public remarks on the subject. As a COVID survivor, this news instantly turned my feelings for Tsitsipas—and his entire cohort of COVID-deniers—from genuine admiration to utter disdain. Now, I can’t hear his name without being triggered.
Such nosedives into loathing are all too familiar to many of us today. The sharp contours of our political landscape are such that we daily, even hourly, find ourselves set off by some passing comment, tweet, or news account and sent spiraling down into the valley of contempt for them—those who incredulously choose to live on the other side of the political divide. The forces driving these divisions are considerable, and their venom has spread into even the most mundane aspects of our lives—from where we will no longer shop and eat out to who we refuse to ride an elevator with.