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OPINION: Here’s hoping the awkwardness is behind us

Poll finds only one in four Canadians have not had an awkward moment in the past two years
COVID-19 mandatory mask sign in the office of The Chilliwack Progress before the mask mandate was lifted on March 11, 2022. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

As pandemic masks are shed and a degree of normalization returns to our lives, there seems to be a temptation to almost pretend the whole thing never happened.

But COVID-19 isn’t over, and many of us will never forget those among us who spent the last two years spreading lies, intentionally sharing disinformation, and creating division.

Many people have ended relationships with acquaintances, friends and even family members over vaccinations or masks or mandates.

Have you?

Those indoctrinated by the pathological libertarians demanding “freedom” and the anti-science fringe have extended this pandemic for months more than necessary. For what seems like ages ago, but was just months, public health officials stated this became a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

I don’t have any close friends nor any family members who believe in flat Earth or who don’t accept the science of climate change or vaccinations, but I know many people who do. Given my public role at The Progress and my social media presence, I’m connected to all kinds of folks. And almost all of us have had awkward moments dealing with the science deniers among us.

A recent Angus Reid poll found that only 25 per cent of Canadians, or one in four, have not had an awkward moment in the past two years.

“More than half (56 per cent ) say that they have had a conflict with someone in their close friend circle or family about vaccination since the pandemic began, while 45 per cent have had awkward moments after they turned down invitations to events because of restrictions.”

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I’ve had a few of these myself, but usually, and I guess luckily, with people I’m not that close to. One acquaintance started to take a deep dive into conspiracy theories more than a year ago, I called her on it and she simply said it was what she believed. We parted ways, and that’s the last I heard from her.

Since then, I’ve heard she went so deep into the anti-vaccination conspiracies that a once-thoughtful person seems to have become unhinged. A recent social media post of hers, shared with me by someone else, expressed outrage at the attention on Ukraine while Trudeau was doing, well, whatever it is they say he is doing. Yet, she said, Putin is just “taking out the trash in Ukraine.”

It’s apparently a short trip on the logical fallacy highway from “COVID is a hoax” to rejecting every single thing the mainstream media reports on.

Another old colleague, not a journalist but someone who worked on social media for the company that owned the Chilliwack Times were I worked, was expressing support for Joe Rogan and his conspiracy theories. On Twitter he pushed for the discredited use of horse de-wormer to treat COVID, and is on the anti-Trudeau bandwagon. He recently contacted me directly to say he was “launching a media project about the pandemic, with a focus on healing the divide among humanity, though it will not be devoid of criticism.”

He asked: “Paul, would you be interested in a Zoom chat regarding COVID? I’m not interested in picking a fight, but to have an open discussion about our contrasting views.”

I told him that I might be happy to discuss how and why we get over this last hump of Omicron but, frankly, I didn’t think there was much of a point because I’m not an expert. I’m not an epidemiologist or a doctor, so who cares what I think? Politicians and pundits can debate policy but it’s inane for us to “debate” the science.

We are almost at the point of COVID being endemic as we live with a more mild respiratory version of the disease. Those who are neck-deep in the anti-science, anti-media, anti-everything disinformation and are so blinded by confirmation bias, they are not worth wasting hot air on.

“Incidentally,” I told him, as politely as I could muster, “I also don’t debate sunrises with flat-earthers, glacier retreats with climate change deniers, or webbed feet with creationists.”

And that ended our relationship, awkward moments and all.

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