You live, you learn - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Since much of the world and now, finally, Ontario seems ready to fly George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner on their own, personal version of the USS Abraham Lincoln, it seems like as good a time as any to take a bit of a look back. (Editor’s Note: Scholars will recall that that mission was most definitely not accomplished.)
This is a column I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but I couldn’t quite get it right. It’s really about my naiveté in regards to the early days of the pandemic. What brought it on was seeing a commercial on T.V., paid for by one of our governments (I can’t remember it was federal or provincial) telling us that if we all did our part, we could defeat COVID-19.
If memory serves (I know - a lot of maybes and ifs, but the point remains, even if the details are fuzzy), it depicted two people at a bus stop, dutifully wearing their masks. One, however, was letting it all hang out (it all, here, means his nose), so the second person kindly reminded him to hike it up. After making a face that showed he clearly meant to wear his mask properly, appreciated this person setting him straight and asked how could he be so silly as to not cover his nose in the first place, he affixed his mask properly to his face.
If you want evidence that governments live in a kind of dream world, look no further. Out to lunch? Maybe. But maybe this T.V. spot was trying to be idealistic. I used to be like that.
In the early days of the pandemic, I had a pregnant wife at home and I was sure everyone thought the way I did. During those first few months, if I saw pictures of groups getting together, I was sure it was Throwback Thursday and isolated folks yearning for the good old days. When I heard about people gathering in dangerously high numbers, I was sure there was some misunderstanding. That a legal and responsible attempt to safely gather had spun out of control before organizers and attendees had a chance to pull it together.
When out on the street, I felt like the second person at the bus stop. If I saw someone not wearing a mask indoors, I would think that this poor, well-meaning person had forgotten their mask at home or in the car.
Now, two years later, I feel rather dumb for thinking that way. No-way-around-it dumb.
Back then I thought that only the tin-foil-hattiest of tin foil hat-wearers were attending rallies featuring Henry Hildebrandt and Randy Hillier, the No More Lockdowns Batman and Robin, or buying Chris Sky’s idiotic t-shirts. I thought you’d have to be incomprehensibly selfish not to wear a mask when every doctor and scientist was telling you they saved lives. I thought you’d have to be a sociopath to push a plan like The Great Barrington Declaration, allowing millions to die so you could go to the movies or the gym in peace.
We’d get the odd letter or website message here at The Citizen, but that’s life in the world of local media. You always hear from the kooks. I’ve learned so very much since then.
First there was the Ottawa hot tub party and subsequent local parades. Then came the increasingly aggressive and personal letters and phone calls here at The Citizen as hate for the media has grown, even at the local level.
It’s hard for me not to think back to that T.V. spot, featuring a reasonable exchange between two well-meaning people, and think of it as a pipe dream or a relic of a bygone era.
I won’t try to be overly profound with all of this, I just often think back to how wrong I was about some of these things and how little I apparently knew about some of my friends, neighbours and fellow Canadians.