Saturday, May 21, 2022

We Have Entered the Spring of Discontent

Spring has sprung, the birds are chirping, and nearly all of the pandemic restrictions under which we’ve been living for more than two years have been lifted. And while we might expect to be collectively chuffed with all of these positive developments, instead, no matter where we turn, we are seeing and hearing division amongst us.

While we should be rejoicing in our newly returned freedoms, we are instead seeing a continuation of the friction that has been with us throughout this pandemic. We have clearly become a community divided, a nation fractured on ideological lines.

Over the past weeks I have listened in on radio discussions, I have watched and read news articles, and it seems very clear that as a society we have some healing to do.

This pandemic has turned out to be more than just a virus, it has become a battleground of ideology, and in the process friendships have been strained or fractured, and even family relationships have suffered. While we were boasting of ‘being in this together’, we were in fact more divided than I can ever recall in our society. In fact, the recent months have resulted in a polarization in our Canadian society that we are more accustomed to seeing south of our border. As I have previously written, when in the beginning days of a pandemic you divide your population into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ workers, you have kicked off an exercise in division, and you have let folks know that some are considered more important than others. And while that certainly would not have been the intent, human nature is human nature, and many found themselves disrespected from the outset.

I fear that the road to repairing our collective relations will be lengthy, and it will no doubt include many twists and turns, but we must work toward bringing us back together for the greater good of our society.

As I reflect upon the seeming disconnect between what should be the good news of releasing the shackles of the pandemic, and the clear discord that exists in our communities, I think there are some key factors that we should be focused upon.

Firstly, for many the two years of this pandemic have served to erode trust in governments, in media, in friendships. For those who had already carried with them a higher than average mistrust of government, this experience has amplified that mistrust, and there are also many who previously trusted their governments and other institutions, but that trust has been fractured during this pandemic.

How that trust can be regained is a question for experts, which I certainly am not, but I would suggest that like many issues, the road to repair will be found in dialogue. We need to hash things out, so to speak. We need to have some discussions, many of them uncomfortable, because I think that many simply don’t understand the ‘other side’, and we should be taking the time to try to gain that understanding. If you have been supportive of the pandemic measures that have been undertaken, you would be well served to take some time to understand those who have been vigorously pushing back against those measures. And if you have been anti-mask, anti-restrictions, anti-vaccination throughout this ordeal, it would be well worth your time to try to understand those ‘sheep’ who have done their best to abide by pandemic restrictions. Until we can understand each other, we have no hope of solving our issues.

Which leads me to respect. Many of the most vocal during this pandemic have felt disrespected; they have felt ostracized from society, excluded from participating in society due to refusal to wear a mask, or to accept a vaccine. At the same time, those on the other side of the issue have felt disrespected largely because they have felt that the opponents of pandemic measures could have put their health and possibly their lives in danger by thumbing their nose at pandemic measures.

We need to move beyond the ‘my side is right, and your side is wrong’ mindset, and begin some real dialogue that will help us gain an understanding of those around us.

It is no secret that we humans are sensitive creatures, and we can be easily and quickly offended yet we can take ages to forgive, and even longer to forget, so we certainly have our work cut out for us. But we owe ourselves the effort of trying to bridge some of the gaps that have widened over the past two years.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not suggesting that we need to bring everyone in line and on the same page. I am not suggesting that anyone on any side of the issues need to change their mindset, but we desperately need to develop a greater understanding of and a respect for the views of others. We don’t need to accept views other than our own, but we should understand them because understanding leads to respect, which leads to trust.

There was a time when honourable people could honourably disagree with one another and still be friends, but we are currently living in an age when those who disagree with us are somehow the enemy to be shunned.

We all need to set our egos aside, and engage with one another, and we need to seriously consider the negative impact on our society should we remain as polarized as we seem to be today.

Spring has arrived, a time of rebirth, a time of growth – let’s participate in the season of spring, and plant the seeds of reparation, and grow the trust and respect that we need in order to function as a society.

Be safe everyone, and be kind.

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