By Pauline Kerr
It has been a long, hot, boring summer.
Push-back against orders for people to wear masks was inevitable, at least in countries where low-level civil disobedience will not get a person shot or imprisoned.
While most of us don our masks with little fuss to visit the grocery store or enter a business office, there are those who refuse to do so. Some deny the existence of COVID-19, believing it to be a great conspiracy. Others regard masks as an infringement on their rights. Yes, masks are a bit awkward, although not nearly as much as being put on a respirator because you have COVID-19.
Some of us suspect that in a summer of no concerts, few sports and a lot of travel bans, quite a few anti-maskers are holding protests out of sheer boredom.
The same was true in the heady protest days of the 1960s. Not everyone wore tie-dyed T-shirts, head bands and peace symbols, and risked arrest for smoking marijuana in public, because they really cared about the cause.
Some who participated in demonstrations, protests, sit-ins and marches back then were truly dedicated to ending the war, discrimination and anti-marijuana laws. Some just got caught up in the excitement. And some did it to relieve the ennui of being young and restless in small-town Ontario.
Did the protesters from the ‘60s make any real difference? We can now smoke the evil weed legally, as long as we follow certain rules, although other drugs are illegal. Every now and then, some expert boldly suggests drug abuse is a public health problem, and should not be a legal one. No one anticipates dramatic change anytime soon.
The Vietnam War ended in 1973, but there have been other, equally bloody wars in other parts of the world since then, that involved North American military personnel. Inevitably, there will be more. So much for the peace symbols.
The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, although it took two more years to physically demolish it. Germany is now unified, but there are other walls. More to the point, tensions between Russia and western countries are as icy as ever. In incidents reminiscent of the dirtiest days of the Cold War, there have been assassinations by suspected Russian operatives. There have been reports of tampering with elections including here in Canada, and messing with social media to spread misinformation. It sounds like a plot for a James Bond novel.
And all those marches to protest racial discrimination? Some of us remember them. Some of us remember being part of them. And now, sadly, our grandchildren will be able to say the same thing.
COVID-19 has revealed issues that must be resolved if our society can truly call itself egalitarian. Warehousing fragile, elderly people, in some cases three or four to a room, tops the list. Underpaying those who care for them, and denying these workers proper training and basic personal protective equipment is an outrage that cannot continue.
People living in tents because homeless shelters are unsafe due to the pandemic is another issue that should not exist in any caring society. We know what the fix is – affordable housing, plus enhanced mental health and addiction support systems. All that is needed? Action!
Where are the crowds of people holding up signs, chanting slogans and beheading statues to get justice for the most vulnerable members of our society?
Ending racial discrimination, saving the planet from pollution, stopping wars, protesting against threats to our democratic processes, ensuring everyone has decent housing and proper care, speaking up long and loud against injustice – these are causes worth standing up for, or even risking a criminal conviction for.
Being asked to wear a mask during a pandemic, to protect one’s own health and that of others, is not.
Surely people can find better things to do with their time than pick fights with grocery store clerks who ask them to put on a mask, and organize anti-mask rallies for no more scientific reason than someone got riled up over a nutty conspiracy theory.