Not your typical Christmas column - Denny Scott editorial
Up until the weekend, I was planning to write a nearly-sickeningly-sweet Christmas column about how we’ve all come so far this year and we just have to go a little bit further before a little prick makes it safe for the world to get back to normal.
Whether that little prick is the outgoing President of the United States or the vaccine we will get injected in our arms in the coming months is up to your imagination, however the nearly-sickeningly-sweet column will have to wait a little while.
I was ready to pen that happy-go-lucky column Sunday morning: I’d made the traditional Sunday breakfast feast, I was well rested and in just the right frame of mind to spew some sentimental stories about the past year. I sat down to my near-antique home computer, booted up my word processor and, before I had typed anything other than my file name, a news alert came across my desktop regarding a United States college student being jailed for flaunting COVID-19 restrictions in a foreign country. My mind switched gears because, for a long time, I’ve been looking for just this kind of story to illustrate that, in the offices of The Citizen, there are some differing opinions on things like taxes, law and order and personal rights.
We receive some feedback from people regarding the perceived leanings of the editorial department and, as the undisputed right-most-leaning member of said department, it’s a little frustrating.
We’re a good mix, between Publisher Deb Sholdice, Editor Shawn Loughlin and myself, representing some far left views, some middle-of-the-road views and some just-to-the-right views of the political spectrum. The only thing we’re missing is the far- and alt-right crowds and, trust me on this, they’re typically not the kind of people you look to get balanced journalism out of.
So, on to why this story is important:
Skylar Mack, an 18-year-old college student from Georgia, and her boyfriend Vanjae Ramgeet, a 24-year-old jet ski competitor from the Cayman Islands, have both been handed four-month jail sentences after they flaunted the islands’ rules around COVID-19. The Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory, has some very strict regulations regarding people travelling from other locations. Despite two negative COVID-19 tests, one before she left for the islands and one when she arrived, Mack was still directed to quarantine for 14 days upon her arrival. Those restrictions must be working because, per capita, they’re doing better than Huron-Perth. The Cayman Islands have a population of 64,177, over 30,000 fewer people than Huron Perth has, but we’ve had 10 times the COVID-19 deaths. Something must be working there.
Mack didn’t follow the rules. She wanted to attend a championship race featuring her boyfriend. She was reported and originally sentenced to 40 hours of community service and a $4,400 fine.
To me, it was a fairly light sentence given that the maximum was a $10,000 fine and two years imprisonment. Patrick Moran, the Islands’ Deputy-Director of Public Prosecutions, felt the same way. He appealed for a more stringent sentence. The revised sentence was delivered last Tuesday.
Mack is now in prison and rightfully so. She willingly broke the rules, so she must be ready for the punishment and, in my opinion, it’s not harsh. It fits.
So how does this relate to The Citizen’s office? Well we’ve debated these kinds of stories before. Every week, Deb, Shawn and I sit down for our editorial board meeting in which we discuss ideas for the editorials, which appear on the page opposite this one. We each tackle a different issue and the stance must be agreed on as we’re addressing these issues as a board, not as individuals (unlike this space, which is all mine, save some editing). It didn't take us long to realize we were going to have to find common ground and leave some of our more left-leaning or right-leaning ideas in place of some compromise.
I didn’t even suggest the Mack issue for this week’s board meeting because, after talking about how United States students were being heavily fined for breaking COVID-19 rules, I realized that my idea of law and order is a lot more stringent than Deb’s or Shawn’s.
This isn’t a complaint, more of addressing something that I’ve heard about us not giving conservative parties and politicians a fair shake. To be honest, those comments have usually been about U.S. President Donald Trump, who isn’t criticized in these pages because of his political affiliation but because he’s an objectively horrible human being.
The main issue is that, unlike many politicians who have represented Huron and Bruce counties in the past, none of us have imbibed any political party’s Kool-Aid. I won’t speak on behalf of anyone else, but I will say I’ve got ideas that would be more prevalent in liberal thinking and ideas that are definitely more conservative.
That’s why it’s frustrating when people say we’ve got a Liberal or a Conservative lean. We don’t. We’ve got voices from different backgrounds that offer different views on the world and we try to find the balance. As far as being a small-town Canadian newspaper, I’d say we represent a balanced view most days, even if it is because I’m the somewhat-conservative lodestone that pulls our debates to the right.