Abnormal Psychology

The Moral Injury of Anti-Maskers, Anti-Vaxxers, and #COVID19

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Fourth Circuit Court in Florida has writ her name in the infamy history books, hasn’t she? We have over a million #COVID19 dead. We have a new omicron variant stalking the unvaxxed of the land praying that it isn’t vaccine resistant. And, she strikes down the mask mandate for public transportation. Her name really will be emblazoned in the history of atrocity of our country right up there with slavery and Gitmo and family separation.

Of course all of the liberal social medias are full of vitriol because she is a Trump appointee, McConnell approved, ABA rated as unqualified, and her husband held a position in the Trump administration. I’m sure she has visions of the Supremes dancing in her thirty-three year-old head, but that’s for social media posts future.

The problem is that all sane people are facing the same problem we’ve been facing since February 2020: people not doing what they can to help contain and mitigate the pandemic. But, in many ways the problem has gotten far far worse. Now the anti-maskers feel emboldened and entitled. They don’t just let live and let live; they go out of their way to harass and harangue. And the problem with that is that it leads to moral injury, which we’ll discuss after looking at a clear example of the delivery of the said moral injury.

Typical Moral Injury Example

Just as an example, here’s the story of a fellow and his family flying on Alaska Airlines flight who was hounded by their fellow passengers, and the crew not only tolerated it, they encouraged it! I screenshotted this tweet because he deleted his first tweet on the subject. Alaska Airlines says it is “investigating.”

In that same thread came this tweet from another satisfied Alaska Airlines customer with a video recording of a pilot equating anti-masking with freedom and declaring the flight a free flight. It may be free of masks, but it ain’t free of no #COVID19.

Moral Injury

Moral Injury is the harmful psychological, behavioral, social, and sometimes spiritual effects of perpetrating, experiencing, or witnessing behavior or events that violate a strongly held ethical code or belief. Moral injury can be the result of any number of types of events including events occurring during violent conflict, battles, and war, crimes being committed, and inadequately staffed and supported stressful worksettings. Think, massacres, being robbed or violated, medical staff working #COVID19 surges.

They can also be caused by being let down by those in positions of trust or authority over us, kinda like the fellow above was in when the flight crew of Alaska Airlines allegedly threw him and his family to ravening rabid rabbits they mistook for real live human passengers.

If the event involves mortal threat, then it is PTSD. When it is an injury to a person’s deeply held beliefs, then it is a moral injury. These injuries result in severe feelings of shame, guilt, and regret, which can lead to painful cognitive distortions such as I’m a worthless failure! and I get what I deserve! and all of the concomminent self-destructive maladaptive attempts of coping that usually accompany such beliefs.

Because ethics and personal ethical codes can evolve and change over time, moral injury can result well after an event has concluded. Imagine that you insisted that Sunday Christian services should be allowed to violate #COVID19 restrictions on the size of gatherings and the wearing of masks and finding out that you’ve caused over 130 infections and eleven deaths? That might could violate your moral code even if you only found out about the true extent of the disaster long after it happened. Or if you were a superspreading super international Chinese prostitute and you single-handedly caused a superspreading event in which100,000 people were infected with #COVID19 and over 2,000 died because you violated your quarantine and partied with boys who were paying the big bucks! Imagine that it was your insistence that you had Second Amendment rights to gun ownership, and your toddler shoots and kills themselves after grabbing your gun out of your purse. You might could just blame yourself and your dumbass insistence on your Second Amendment rights, right? I know it’s far fetched because gun nuts be nuts, but it might could happen to someone somewhere some time or other maybe. It could. It might.

We can think of all kinda fun and imaginative ways that we can inflict moral injury on ourselves and others. Please share yours in the comments. If you have any real moral injuries that you know about, and you don’t mind sharing them, I’d love to hear about them.

Moral Injury and #COVID19

Now, that the right good unqualified and downright fiendish Judge Mizelle — Really, shouldn’t she have declined the nomination knowing that she wasn’t qualified? Isn’t accepting the nomination knowing you’re unqualified a violation of the professional ethics of lawyers and judges? — has vacated the Biden administration’s decision to follow CDC recommendations and extend the mask mandate on interstate transportation, we are opening a whole lot of people up to the possibilities of devastating moral injuries due to surging #COVID19 infections.

Just the act of refusing to wear masks and remain unvaccinated can be injurious to medical professionals who are working overtime to save these dumbass’s lives while they curse them and demand ivermectin and IV bleach and light bulbs be shoved up their arses. Talk about feeling betrayed and let down by your community.

When the death threats come pouring in because you have the temerity of being a healthcare professional and following healthcare protocols during the middle of a pandemic or even at the last gasping reviving breath of one, you can feel like your fellow Americans don’t have your back, amirite?

Mental Health Resources

This post has links to mental health resources in the US, UK, Canada, India, and South Africa. Use them if you need ’em!

Moral injury can accompany #COVID19 in myriad ways. Survivor’s guilt, anyone? Anger at those fools catcalling children walking to school wearing masks? Empathetic fear from watching people being heckled and threatened during public hearings? This is a regular pu pu platter of a smorgasbord of a buffet of #COVID19-related moral injury that 2022 is offering up.

If MAGA Nation is being assailed by stress and agitation leading to mass psychosis and #COVID19 is being used as naturally occurring waves of terror to deepen and reify that mass psychosis, then the rest of us are being assaulted by moral injury as we watch the million plus needless deaths from the pandemic stagger past us in the daily news and be plunged into the braying herd of smug righteous freedumb fighters liberating us from our “mask dependency.”

Moral injury is occurring all over our society now. It’s everywhere from abortion to voting rights to racial equality to guns to the religious freedumb to force you to follow my religious beliefs to assaults on LGBTQ+ and trans citizens to immigration abuse to you name it. We have loosed the hell hounds of right-wing crazy on us every conspiracy-tinged paranoid fantasy of someone somewhere doing something they ought notta is now not only being indulged but they’re trying to legislate it.

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Image Attribution

Masked” by HooverStreetStudios is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

18 replies »

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      I always scanned those notices looking for spies. I’m sure there were secret communications happening back there. It was very entertaining.

      Maybe I’ll start a NEW blog devoted to cryptic spy communications! Catch me if you can!

      Oh, wait, you mean the similarity between blogs and those notices is that no one ever reads either of them… yeah, that’s about right. Okay, we’re not no body, but just the few of us who do read them. Maybe it is the 80-20 rule all over again. Twenty percent of the population reads 80% of the blogs.



  1. When the only qualification needed for a position of public responsibility is loyalty to the Great Leader, then there is no doubt that Ms. Mizelle (Isn’t there a TV show about a stand up comedienne with a very similar name? Hmmmm.) was perfectly sure she was qualified for whatever she might be nominated to. The larger moral injury is having a Majority Leader of the Senate going along with it.

    As for personal moral injuries, mine that has left the biggest scar has to be having participated in a war I knew and believed was unnecessary, stupid, horribly mismanaged, and doomed. Granted, I had a desk job there and never fired a shot but on the range, but I was there in Vietnam knowing the whole damned thing was wrong. And, I know I’m far from the only one, from that war and every one since. Just look at the stats on depression, substance abuse and addiction, homelessness, and suicide among our active military and veterans, and the politicians who want to penny pinch on taking care of them, or “privatize” it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      One of the most fascinating things about living in Viet Nam for six years was the relationship that the Vietnamese have to the American War as they call it. There were incredibly emotional TV shows on about veterans visiting old battlefields searching for the remains of fallen comrades so they could give them a proper burial. There have been amazing visits between Vietnamese and American veterans of the war, too. While there significant damage and scarring remain, the Vietnamese are recovering from the war.

      Of course, the government still treats the South Vietnamese soldiers and government officials and their families terribly, blocking them from full participation in society and the economy.

      The Viet Nam War is a prime example of being betrayed and let down by those in positions of authority and trust. That betrayal reflects the role of personality disorder traits in society. You don’t have to be a psychopath to send young men off to fight a war, but to continue the war — I know Johnson struggled mightily with the issue, Nixon, less so — long after it was painfully obvious that it was immoral and pointless takes someone who can resist the influence of shame and guilt. Cognitive dissonance helps it all along. The same can be said of Afghanistan and starting the Iraq War.

      In that sense, Biden should be commended for resisting sending our military into Ukraine and having managed the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

      As I’ve been thinking more about moral injury, the more I realize that the mere existence of the MAGA-based authoritarian movement inflicts a moral injury on us all because of its betrayal of our national values of democracy. Racism inflicts a moral injury on anyone who strongly believes in the equality of all people, which I guess, explains the incredibly rigid cognitive dissonance that keeps white people responding to racist dog whistles.

      I hope after so many years, you’ve found ways to salve those old wounds. Our morality and ethics evolve, but I think it can only make participation in Viet Nam a greater moral injury and not a lesser one. I think many of the returning vets found themselves in greater and greater pain as they realized the immorality of how the war was fought and the role they were asked to play in it.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Moral injury is a lot like grief, indeed, the realization of it is cause for grief, for something lost, some measure of innocence or illusion.

        Of grief, Elizabeth 1st said: “Grief never ends, but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith: it is the price of love.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          That’s a great point. Moral injury, especially that resulting from betrayal or disillusionment, is a lot like grief. You certainly have lost something when you realize the betrayal or however your moral code was violated.

          I’ve often expressed that sentiment as you grieve in proportion to your love. You can’t have grief without love. It makes it bittersweet.

          It strikes me that there is a relationship to racism here, too. You sometimes hear Black Americans say, I love America, but America doesn’t love me back. The realization of racism must be a moral injury. It must also be what drives white Americans’ denial of racism. The depth of that injury determines the damage to those being discriminated against and the strength of that denial.


          Liked by 1 person

          • As a moral injury, racism operates in American life with particular intensity. It is truly our original sin in the form of both genocide and slavery. For a white person to fully accept that truth with no excuses. no “It wasn’t me or my great grandfather.”, and contemplate the damage done, is traumatic. And the result is both grief and fear. But even in the denial, there is the fear that whether it is the formerly discriminated against or some other actor, perhaps even God, the judgement will be rendered and the retribution exacted. So, when “conservatives’ complain about what they call CRT in the schools it is not the children they are protecting, but themselves from ever seeing that judgement of them in their children’s eyes.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              I think that is exactly right. White people are just avoiding any responsibility for racism and it is just much easier to passively participate in the racist system than it is to do the hard emotional work of producing the necessary changes.

              Unfortunately, there is no escaping the judgment unless you count death as an escape. Eventually, we will be judged for the way we operated our society.

              I think in some ways indulging our racism has caused us to avoid other hard truths like climate change and the degree to which the wealthy control our government and our lives.


              Liked by 1 person

              • I think you’re right. Avoiding dealing with that moral injury at the foundation of the system does make it harder to question any other morally fraught part. As I write this, Hidden Brain is on the radio talking about situations in which two core moral values come into conflict. How appropriate.

                Liked by 1 person

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