This week we celebrate a year since pretty much the whole world knew about the Coronavirus and just how serious it was. And during that time I watched it transform itself from a public health crisis to a political football to a huge social challenge to a weird combination of all three.
Granted a disease of this kind is a brand new thing and nobody really knew how to deal with it. But you have to ask yourself, when you have something wrong with you and you’re not sure what it is but you want to find out, who do you call? You certainly don’t call your local member of parliament or congressperson. You call your doctor. And if the doctor generally can tell you what’s wrong with you, they send you to another doctor, who is a specialist in figuring out what someone with your symptoms might have.
But when this disease started to assume epidemic proportions, the politicians took over. They got hold of the medical people and they got opinions from them, but then they spun it into something that would score them political points. In the case of the US, they went through a substantial period of denial. The net result of all this was that it slowed down the process of getting this disease under control. And people started dying. In the US alone more than half a million people have died. Here in Canada, we have had about 23,000 deaths.
And it didn’t have to be anywhere near as severe as that in either country if we had just made it mandatory to socially distance and wear masks. To wit, if we had only really and truly listened to the health care professionals and not the politicians.
But because it became a political football, it became a divided issue like anything else that’s political. Soon we had people who were complaining that wearing a mask was a violation of their rights. And later on, we have people complaining that vaccination is a violation of their rights.
What rights are we really talking about here? The right to endanger your fellow human beings by refusing to do a few simple things that would help prevent the spread of an airborne toxin?
A lot of this contrariness can be traced directly back to both Conservative and Republican governments. The Conservative governments opposed it because the Liberals were recommending it. The Republicans opposed it, because their fearless leader, one of the most willfully ignorant human beings on the planet, was telling everyone who would listen that it wasn’t so bad.
And that’s really the way of things, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what you care to name, the left and the right, the Republicans and the Democrats, the Liberals and the Conservatives, will be at loggerheads on every issue large or small.
I get politics. I know that we need leadership to basically make sure that we don’t descend into anarchy. But this Covid crisis has clearly demonstrated just how wrong it is to usurp responsibility from the health care professionals for the sake of scoring political points and making the opposition look foolish
The bottom line is that nobody really wins here, and the 500,000 dead Americans and the 23,000 dead Canadians are a grim testimony to the sheer folly of politics in our world today.
The gap between the right and the left in both Canada and the US has widened substantially over the past four decades. The right very much appears to be the tools of and slaves to large business interests, the left appears to still be the instruments of the people. But a gap this wide is proving, especially in the US, to be unbridgeable. And that does not bode well for the country’s fortunes going forward. In Canada, because we have a different system, our Liberal government, in an uneasy peace with our Labour party, the NDP, has been able to control the political narrative, mainly because the Conservative side does not have strong leadership at the moment.
Right now the vaccinations in both countries are moving forward, but only because of Democratic and Liberal control respectively.
Tomorrow will bring new political footballs for our countries to kick around. Let’s just hope that the casualty rate is nowhere near as high.