Friday’s Amber Ruffin Show saw Ruffin’s staff work up a fancy display honoring those dedicated people of science and medicine whose revolutionary breakthroughs have traditionally and predictably been greeted with deadly, self-owning skepticism by the people of their time. Or, as Ruffin named her hall of fame more succinctly, “The Wall Of People Whose Shit We Were Not Trying To Hear.”
People like Onesimus, whose 300-years-ago-on-the-dot suggestion that the then-raging smallpox epidemic ravaging the United States might be mitigated by the judicious introduction of tiny amounts of the same smallpox contagion to healthy people in order to stimulate resistance was greeted with widespread derision. Yup, three centuries ago, an enslaved Black man came up with the concept of inoculation against a disease decimating the entire society dedicated to keeping him and people like him in slavery. And if there is no extant picture of Onesimus (whose slave owner was famous Bostonian Puritan preacher Cotton Mather), Ruffin’s people worked up a questionable but well-intentioned tribute portrait pulled from the cast of a semi-beloved sitcom, so that’s nice. Oh, and since Onesimus was Black and his revolutionary, life-saving treatment was derived from African folk medicine, white people mocked him, the self-righteously Christian Mather kept him enslaved, and many more sneering, white-ass Americans died as a result.
Going from a man all but forgotten to one adorning American currency, Ruffin then explained how Benjamin Franklin was, at first, one of those people mocking Onesimus’ inoculation inspiration—right up until Franklin’s 4-year-old son Francis died from smallpox. Turning his legendary gift for pithy pamphleteering toward the inoculation cause, Franklin himself got derided for (finally, and only after being personally affected) listening to the science he’d previously pooh-poohed, eventually advising other parents, “I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it.”
Next on the wall of people nobody was trying to hear at the time came Ignaz Semmelweis, the 19th-century physician whose kooky idea that fellow doctors shouldn’t rush from performing autopsies right to delivering babies without washing their damned hands was met with, let’s call it, “resistance.” In that Semmelweis was eventually committed to an insane asylum, where the guards broke his hands so grotesquely that he developed gangrene and died—all while pleading with his captors to let him wash his damned hands. Yeah, nobody was trying to hear that guy, and untold people died unnecessarily as a result, so, up on the wall.
Ruffin ran through such other brave and dedicated pioneers in keeping intransigent dumbasses alive despite their own mulish idiocy as Carl Flügge, who, back in 1897, realized that a simple cloth mask could prevent the transmission of infectious agents from doctor to patient (plus the concept of social distancing). Al Gore took his place on the wall, too, since the world is now facing the inconvenient and inescapable truth of the “existential threat” that is climate change. And good old present-day truth-teller Anthony Fauci, who’s been labeled the antichrist (not hyperbole) by those still jumping on the “vaccines are the devil—but now with secret microchips” bandwagon after three centuries of such mutating, anti-science horseshit. Speaking for Fauci and all his predecessors in scorned science and disdained sense, Ruffin explained, “All this guy is trying to do is save the human race.” At least they all get a nice plaque, while their detractors can only boast defiantly dead headstones for not trying to hear their shit.