By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Last week I wrote about the fact that prejudice is a learned behavior. There are many kinds of learned prejudice.

I have a fondness for describing complex medical and psychological terms. There are two of them that are relevant to learned prejudicial behavior.

The first term is jingoism. The formal definition is an excessive bias that leads to one believing that their native country is superior to all other countries. The term comes from a music hall song that used the word jingo in the 1870s.

History is full of examples where jingoism led directly to war. The initial wave of jingoism in the late 1800s/early 1900s was a significant cause of World War I.

However, that is when the state is jingoistic. Individuals can have the same trait. They have an excessive degree of nationalism. Again they are not born that way. Parents teach prejudice. Jingoism comes more from society.

As human beings we start out as very egocentric. Infants only care about themselves. They want to be fed. They want to be changed. They want to be allowed to sleep.

They do not even recognize their parents until about six to eight weeks of age when they react with a social smile.

As we grow we lose some of this self centered behavior. We become part of a society. We then start to compare that society. We all know about the classic “My dad can beat up your dad” attitude that children have.

Those with poor self esteem need to have it supported by belonging to the best group. Some of them are social climbers.

Others find it easier to see themselves as a member of a nation. It then becomes a “my nation can beat up your nation” mentality. The underlying problem is their poor self esteem.

They can hide it by being overly nationalistic.

A somewhat related term is xenophobia. The word means fear of strangers in Greek. However, it is not a Greek term. It first started being used in about 1880. Thus the relationship to the term jingoism is a temporal one.

Xenophobia is a fear of individuals who are not from the same country as we are. The term itself is somewhat new. However, nations have had issues with strangers for centuries.

There are many examples of ethnic cleansings. The most obvious one was the Holocaust.

There are various forms of xenophobia. Many of them are cultural in nature. They can involve someone not speaking a language the same as yours. They can include someone not having the same religion as you.

However, the most common form is what is known as immigrant xenophobia. This is one where natural born individuals dislike anyone that they see as a foreigner. Again, this condition has psychological roots.

It is based on an individual with a delusional personality. They tend to believe conspiracy theories. They tend to see foreigners as a threat where there may not be one. They may react with hate crimes thinking it is justifiable.

Unfortunately, the problem is not outside of them. The problem is in a distorted reality in their minds.

The bottom line is that we often see jingoism and xenophobia. It is important to realize that both of them have deep abnormal psychological roots.

Because of that, you will never convince these individuals that their thoughts are based upon psychological fears. They will continue with their behavior and may never see things objectively.

COVID-19 Update

Nationally, the number of new cases had been running between 440,000 and 500,000 for weeks. Last week they dropped to 415,000. Then this week they dropped further to 356,000.

We have not had numbers that low since early October. It would appear that the vaccine is having the desired effects to this point. The number of new cases is dropping. The number of new deaths is dropping. It is still way too early to declare the vaccine a complete success.

However, it looks more and more like we are headed in the right direction.

Nationally, 44 percent of the population has had at least one dose of vaccine with 32 percent fully vaccinated. In Delaware 47 percent of the population has had at least one dose with 34 percent fully vaccinated.

In Sussex County the numbers have been relatively steady. They went from 343 to 345 last week. This week they were at 299. While that is a small drop, it continues to remain in the 200 – 400 range.

We have been in that range since February 11th. It was higher prior to that.

On April 19th President Trump appeared on the Hannity show on Fox News. They were discussing President Trump’s role in the development of the vaccines. He made it clear that he did not understand why some people were hesitant to get the vaccines that he helped get developed.

The big news last week was new guidance from the CDC for fully vaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated is defined as being two weeks past the last dose of the vaccine.

The biggest change was related to the removal of the mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals when they are outdoors. This is because outdoor spread of the virus appears low.

They should still wear masks and social distance if others are nearby. That is especially true in crowded situations like sporting events or concerts.

Fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated individuals indoors without masks or social distancing.

Fully vaccinated individuals can visit low risk people from a single household without masks or social distancing. This would apply to grandparents visiting grandchildren. Hugging is allowed.

There are still some situations where fully vaccinated people need to continue using masks and social distancing.

One of those is if they are going to be visiting a high-risk unvaccinated individual. Another one is when there are multiple individuals from different households present. Most celebratory parties would fit this definition.

Medium and large sized in person gatherings continue to be a poor idea. That is true for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

There is more detailed guidance available on the CDC web site. It includes info about quarantine. It includes info about testing. It includes info about travel.

The recommendations for unvaccinated people remains the same. They need to wear masks and socially distance when they are around other people. That is especially true if they are in a high risk category.

In a little over a year COVID-19 has accounted for 591,062 deaths. By comparison in 2018 heart disease caused 655,000 deaths. Cancer caused 599,274 deaths in 2018.

Thus overall COVID-19 will ultimately be responsible for more deaths than either heart disease or cancer in a single year.

There was a question online about whether air purifiers would help protect against COVID-19.

HEPA filters provide some protection. However, it should be part of the overall protection plan. It should not be expected to solve all the issues by itself.