On Monday morning a young man came in to our office demanding to speak to me.
He was asked to put on a mask as per our pandemic protocols, he said he didn’t have one, so he was told to go outside.
Despite the fact that he was someone I would later learn was seen intentionally refusing to wear a mask around a local store, in the case of our office, he agreed and went outside waiting for me.
He was angry, claimed I was mocking some of “his friends” calling them COVIDiots and “children.” His reference was to my column in the April 9 edition of The Progress about the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers who marched through Chilliwack on April 3.
I told him it would be great if he wrote a letter to the editor, which I would run, and civil discourse could continue. He refused and then said: “Some of my friends are gong to come down here and take care of you.” (I admit I got mad right back at him after this threat.)
I’m not sure he had any actual angry friends to speak of, but it was a threat just the same. But to give him the benefit of the doubt in this whole situation, after our publisher went out to talk to him, he actually apologized to me.
I was shocked. I told him that I understood his frustration, nerves are frayed. People want “normal.”
But after parting ways (and locking our door the rest of this week given the threat of violence) it occurred to me that while he calmed down, he didn’t accept that there is no conspiracy to ruin businesses or kill people with vaccines or suppress freedoms.
Organizers of the march in Chilliwack on April 3 called it the “Fraser Valley Freedom Rally.” Similar rallies have been held elsewhere in B.C. and across North America, usually mentioning “freedom” because, well, who could be against freedom?
As frontline healthcare workers do their best to protect us from this global pandemic day after day after day, this notion of suppression of freedom comes from those who refuse to wear masks, refuse to accept public health measures, and think scientists and epidemiologists have it all wrong.
Freedom is important, agreed, but freedom can not be unlimited as long as we want to live in societies.
This is an important philosophical issue in political and social thought, and is being rammed to the forefront as we balance individual rights and the collective good.
What are our personal freedoms as human beings? In a democracy? And specifically in Canada’s democracy?
And what are our responsibilities as citizens?
American activist and former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted on this subject: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”
Earlier in the same day the angry anti-masker visited me, I had a phone message about a different story. This was about Fraser Health declaring the third outbreak at Sunset Manor, a 30-bed assisted living facility owned and operated by the Netherlands Reformed Congregation, a church which has a history with low vaccinations rates for religious reasons.
A relative of one resident was upset that staff were refusing vaccinations, and we covered this situation.
The phone message directed to me started calm enough but the male became enraged that we would report on this, ending with “My body, my choice.” and then “Go f— yourself!”
Your body, your choice, I agree. But with that freedom comes the responsibility of living among others.
There are those who refuse to listen to public health measures because they supposedly infringe on their personal freedoms.
But as Roosevelt put it, for those unwilling to grow up, it’s a frightening prospect for the rest of us.
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