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An olive branch for team apocalypse
The new "fringe minority" appears to be those who refuse to go back to normal. Can we afford them the kindness that they never offered to the unvaccinated, and those critical of mandates?
Consider the burgeoning hypochondriac of 2020.
Their nightmare scenario came calling. When it hit — and hit hard, it most surely did — they sought comfort in a different kind of feedback loop, a confirmation bias fueled by fear and the assurances that the anxieties they felt were not just valid, but proof of their character and moral standing. Yes, we’ll hit the great cosmic pause button (just don’t think too much about the ramifications for those less fortunate than you), but the likes, comments, and shares will more than tide you over until the day we tell you it’s safe to come out again.
Suddenly, your fear is a superpower. And every single day of your rearranged life, you are rewarded and treated as such. Meaning has been birthed from meaninglessness.
Then the day comes where you’re being told by some of the same trusted experts that it’s time to get back out there, that, mercifully, we were spared ‘the big one,’ but now the cheque has come due.
People other than yourself are hurting, and dying, and retreating into themselves. They can no longer shoulder the burden of what’s been asked. But why can’t they? Surely this hasn’t been *that* bad for them. So they missed a wedding, a Christmas, a funeral, or their annual check-up. They’re alive, aren’t they? They can’t catch up next year? “This University of Toronto professor on the news said that…”
And then next year comes.
In that time, instead of making the choice to seek refuge in another form of community, they’ve turned further inwards. If the mandates worked this far — for my experts tell me so — they should continue longer still. “This one-time high school teacher turned ‘biostatistician’ keeps arguing that the schools should be closed, surely they’re not leading me astray now?”
All the while, your fears of this new existential threat known as ‘Long Covid’ have grown. Forget the lessons of the Red Scare, or the reprehensible AIDS hysteria of the 1980s, “that Harvard nutritionist-turned-epidemiologist who coincidentally moved his family to Austria where schools remained open, while relentlessly advocating for the shuttering of American classrooms believes that this is a slow-moving zombie virus that will incapacitate us all, no matter what. I have to keep masking, and soon, boosting, and expecting nothing to change, for this is the new norm-”
And then you’re rudely interrupted by the honk of a horn. Here come the truckers, your greatest challenge yet.
The official party line is that they’re selfish, and holding unacceptable views, and you’re pretty sure that you even saw a Confederate flag in there, held by a man who was never identified, even though the rest of the participants were practically tagged and bagged, and even had their bank accounts frozen.
One particularly haughty liberal pundit, snug in the friendly confines of a multi-million-dollar Rosedale home even called them “anti-social yobs.” You aren’t sure what ‘yob’ means, but you know that it sounds bad. You pride yourself on being the opposite of a yob. You Stayed Home and Stayed Safe.
But something has changed now. In the wake of the Great Unwashed descending upon Ottawa, you’re seeing a flippancy in the news, on social media, and out your window that troubles you deeply.
These people can’t possibly be left alone to make their own choices and risk assessments — Covid *is* the ultimate risk. “Isn’t that what they’ve been telling me all these years?”
Forget the mounting evidence that the vaccines are leaky, and don’t do much to block transmission. The always-trustworthy shareholders at Pfizer assured us otherwise, and there’s still a chance that the unvaccinated and the trucker hordes are killing grandma. They certainly look a little rough around the edges. Like insurrectionists, even. “And this new model from that same University of Toronto professor said that the mandates actually do work, so…”
Then all the mandates are gone. Your experts are apoplectic, and why wouldn’t they be? “Surely they’re letting the virus win…”
The booster program goes over like a lead balloon…
Even ArriveCan suffers the indignity of being merely ‘optional’…
And, perhaps worst of all, they won’t put the Paw Patrol masks back on the kids. You’re struggling to put your fears and frustrations into words, but this one doctor running in an election for schoolboard trustee has always shared your concerns, so you adopt her rhetoric, and dig in your heels.
And so we come to now; that fleeting, impossible to capture present.
Fall will soon give way to winter, and that has always meant Graph Goes Up. Only now, there are fewer graphs to be found. You choose to view that as a sign that things must be worse than ever.
‘You’ are worried, because of course ‘you’ would be. Choices were made, a path was taken, and that decision was calcified along the way. ‘You’ are human. ‘You’ make mistakes.
But what comes next is up to, well, ‘you’ get the point.
I think about this person often.
I think of two paths diverging in the woods, and how we can be led astray, no matter our best of intentions. The inverse of this column can of course also be applied to the extremes on the other side.
I think about the thinning ranks of ‘team apocalypse,’ and all those who have been harmed — and who have been taught to harm — along the way.
We may struggle to forgive and forget the very worst of those indiscretions. I, for one, hold no sympathy in my heart for the profiteers and arsonists who continue to dismiss the mountains of evidence that mandates, school closures, and the attempted reordering of society as a means to fulfill a political and sociological need wrought real harm upon the truly vulnerable.
I will, however, remain empathetic for those who were rolled up along the way. A different coping mechanism here, a trauma response there, and perhaps any one of us could still be gazing upon our neighbours out the window, or dodging their unventilated faces in the grocery store, trapped in a cycle of wondering why everyone else is so selfish, unable to see that this brief mortal life passes us all by, no matter the dances we perform for the rain.
What we’re left with is a chance — a glimmer of a window of opportunity — to afford those deserving of empathy the choice and the kindness that they never offered to others.
“I promise to leave you alone. You do what makes you feel comfortable. But if or when you’re ready, I’ll be right here waiting.”
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