While this year has brought us all unforeseen challenges, what hasn’t been discussed enough is how unable we are to relate to the way others are perceiving and managing their concerns. It’s not a clear cut divide, but there are two general camps. One group’s paramount concern is about transmission of a virus, and they subscribe to the notion that we––and the government––must do everything possible to prevent it, control it, avoid it, apparently no matter the cost. The other group’s paramount concern is the level of restriction the government has imposed on us to control the virus.
All these folks express themselves and their beliefs in more or less extreme ways. Some demonstrate by example and conduct, and others shout loudly. And while differences in approach to all of life’s concerns are to be expected, most of us are startled by the difference between reactions to the COVID situation.
There’s no point in beating around the bush––in this piece or otherwise. I have been opposed to all the restrictions various governments have imposed to ostensibly control this virus since the beginning. I have already had plenty of experience with the government justifying measures and mandates under cover of the threat of infectious disease. The pharmaceutical industry has been funding legislative efforts in many US states and beyond to remove religious and personal belief exemptions from vaccine mandates for years, and I have been actively involved in opposing such measures. I am very familiar with their tactics and strategies.
I am also probably more knowledgeable than the average person about the history of infectious disease in the developed world, our immune system, the human microbiome, and human health in general. I am not afraid of germs in isolation, and I know that mask wearing, lack of human physical contact and not being allowed to earn a living are diametrically opposed to health and wellness. I also know that hiding from a virus is nonsense––as is much of the prevailing “medical” paradigm and approach to health and wellness. Just check out most of the crap food being served to sick patients in hospitals or children in schools––or all the remarkably fat, unhealthy “health practitioners” and “public health officials” telling the public how to stay “safe.” It would be laughable if it weren’t the reality.
That being said, and my position clearly established, I am writing this piece to and for the folks who see or suspect what I see. I am writing for the folks who thought these lockdowns and masks would be temporary, but who now realize it’s gone on for far too long. I am writing for the folks who understand that putting a mask on to enter a restaurant and walk to the table then removing it to eat is the purview of idiots. And I am writing it for folks who understand that we can’t stop living to prevent dying.
I recently came across this article: What it takes to preserve friendship amid deep divisions over politics and COVID-19. While I appreciate and respect its emphasis on unity and spirit of compassion and “affability” it describes, the piece minimizes the significance of the difference between such fundamental perspectives. Author Brandon McGinley writes, “But when friendship can only withstand the barest of differences, like favorite colors and pizza toppings, then something is wrong. Community isn’t possible when we only tolerate unanimity, when we only want to be friends with slightly altered versions of ourselves.”
When we subscribe to an entirely different model of health than another person––when one person regards another person’s very breath or touch as a bioweapon, while the other person would welcome a hug or maskless conversation with their friend––this is a significantly greater challenge to any sort of relationship between the two people than favoring different colors or pizza toppings. Moreover, when one person supports a government’s authority to shut the other person’s business down and criminalize them for not wearing a mask or getting “too close” to others, how––or why––would they consider themselves “friends?”
Anyone who would support restrictions which would destroy my family’s livelihood is no friend of mine. And anyone who subscribes to this paradigm that legally requires me and my children to perpetually breathe through a piece of cloth and stay 6 feet away from them or their playmates is no one I have any interest in spending time with.
These issues are fundamental, existential and core to who we are. Differences in our approach to health notwithstanding, anyone who would physically and materially impose their beliefs on me and my children has crossed a line. Everyone and anyone should have the freedom to restrict their own breathing and limit their ability to make a living or have their kids attend school––but the advocates of government lockdowns, mask mandates and legally enforced social distancing have demonstrated support for a form of government that the Constitution of the United States seems to have been written to prevent. Support for such broad and sweeping governmental authority offends much more than my political sensibilities. It threatens my and my family’s basic freedoms––and therefore our lives.
How can such fundamental differences co-exist in a friendship, much less a community or country?
In times of ease, differences in politics, spirituality and religious belief, existential understandings, even fundamental principles can be navigated much more easily. Our relationships can go very deep or stay light and superficial, depending on what’s required to maintain the status quo. The old adage, “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company” only applies to times of ease in order to avoid conflict at the dinner table/in social gatherings in order that you don’t alienate your kids’ best friend’s mom, so that you and your drinking buddies can have a laugh without it getting heavy, so that your sister-in-law’s sensibilities aren’t so offended that every Thanksgiving dinner going forward is super awkward.
But a world in crisis is not the time to just make polite small talk. When the cities are shuttered, when people’s livelihoods have been taken away from them, when everyone is waking up to each day in one crisis mode or another (many still terrified of a virus), polite small talk no longer gets us through. And that’s when the way we’ve operated all our lives becomes more starkly revealed.
Moreover, these differences in philosophy of government, principles of basic freedom and understanding of human rights have not recently developed. Nor have folks’ limits changed in terms of what they will and won’t comply with––and what they will and won’t compromise. Your friends and family who suddenly seem to have transformed into residents of Stepford are not different than they were last year. And folks you suddenly find yourselves more aligned with aren’t either.
They have just been revealed.