Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Summer of Discontent Has Come to an End

And just like that, the summer of discontent has come to an end, a summer most of us will look back upon as a frustrating and uncertain time, a summer of increasing anger and conflict, but with any luck our final summer in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After more than a year and a half of enduring mask mandates, gathering limits, and a host of other measures implemented in hopes of slowing the pace of the spread of the virus, once vaccines were ready the majority of us booked our appointments and dutifully received our first and second doses. The virus has continued to mutate and evolve and its march around the globe has slowed but it has not ground to a halt as most of us would have liked.

If we thought that the months of bickering about mask requirements was bad enough, the vaccine helped to highlight the polarization in our society. But don’t let the loudest voices fool you; they may be heard above the rest of us, but the anti-vaxxers are actually a relatively small portion of our society as is proven in the data. More than 80 percent of eligible Ontarians have received the first dose of the vaccine, and we are fast approaching 70 percent of eligible Ontarians having received the second dose.

A small percentage of our society has always had issues with vaccines, and while I’m not one for telling anyone what to do with their own bodies, the consensus of experts is clear – vaccines are our best hope of bringing an end to this dastardly ordeal.

On the one hand, this has been a summer of an impressive mass vaccination of our population, and the campaign has largely been a success, but the push for the unvaccinated to become vaccinated has increased, and we’ve seen moves toward vaccine mandates from employers big and small. We’ve also seen vaccine requirements in order to attend sporting events and other large gatherings.

On the flip side of this success has been the loud voices crying foul over these mandates, and I suspect most of us have heard the suggestion that people shouldn’t be forced to receive a vaccine.

As I have told some of my unvaccinated friends, however, while I support everyone’s right to choose in most any situation, choices have consequences. Nobody is being forced, I have yet to see anyone strapped down to a table and injected with the vaccine. ‘But my employer says I have to get it so I am being forced.’ Well no, not exactly, you are still free to choose, but the consequence could be to lose your job. In such a situation one might choose to get a job elsewhere, but nobody is being forced to receive the vaccine, nobody.

Choices can indeed bring consequences. I can choose to not wear a seat belt when I drive, and I might get away with it for a long while, but then I might also be pulled over by the police and issued a costly ticket, or worse I could end up in a collision and find myself flying through the front windshield to my death. Free to choose, but never free from consequences.

So while I feel for those who have fundamental issues with vaccines, we also live in a democracy where the majority rules, and by the vaccination numbers to date, the majority has spoken by getting the vaccine.

And now, as vacations come to an end and our children return to school, though the virus is still on the rampage, and though we have had plenty of friction in our society for many months now, we also have a federal election fast approaching. I have heard many express that they simply aren’t in the mood for politics at the moment, and I certainly share that sentiment.

It has been a rough summer in a rough year for many. I suspect that none of us would have imagined in early 2020 that as 2022 is fast approaching, we would still be in the grip of this virus, none of us would have believed that we would still, after all these months, be bickering about masks and vaccines. But here we are with autumn soon upon us, still battling the virus and each other.

I would like to think that next summer will be much better, that next summer we will be free from all of the restrictions we have endured, and that the virus will be simply a bitter-tasting memory. But last summer I thought that this would be the fresh start, free of the virus, so I have given up predicting anything when it comes to this pandemic.

With summer behind us, if I had one wish for autumn and winter it would be that we find a way to come together as a community rather than being content with division. Unlikely, perhaps, but then the past year and a half would have seemed unlikely also.

Be kind, and be safe everyone.

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