By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor
For days I’ve been trying to come up with the middle ground between convoy supporters and the rest of Canadians (a 30-70 split according to some surveys). Many times I came to the same conclusion: there is no middle ground. The two sides are too far apart, neither one acknowledging the other’s information to be the “true” information, both accusing the other side of spreading lies and falling for propaganda. It’s a merry-go-round of high rhetoric that feeds our tribal sense of belonging and kindles a good feeling, but does nothing to bring us together. Both sides are guilty, but the unvaccinated definitely feel like they have more to lose.
Whether you agree with the widespread vaccine mandates or not, they have created a second-class of citizens. This is not a judgment, simply a fact. There are some people who have less freedom than others. I’m not saying they have the least freedom, just that they’ve been restricted by the mandates in a way that vaccinated people haven’t been. And some of those mandates have taken away their jobs. I think we can all agree that regardless of the reason, someone taking away your job (livelihood, career, identity) cuts pretty close to the bone.
On the other side, those who have dutifully followed all the public health guidance are feeling a bit peeved that a segment of society is refusing to acknowledge basic data because they think there is a global conspiracy trying to enslave them. Meanwhile, people continue to fall ill and get hospitalized (disproportionately the unvaccinated who are only 7 per cent of B.C.’s 12+ population but make up 31 per cent of hospitalizations). And most Canadians are sickened by the disrespect shown towards health care workers (threats, name-calling) as well as business owners simply doing their jobs.
But if we focus only on how brainwashed we think the other side is, we will never find empathy. We will never be curious about the valid, human reasons someone feels differently than us.
Nearly all of us have become radicalized because the stakes are so high. There is so much to lose, we can’t give an inch.
There is no middle. But is there a centre?
A centre not between us but inside us? Can we challenge ourselves to find a reason we agree with the other side, not because someone is telling us to, but because we ourselves have found a reason?
Can the media find a reason to agree with protesters, not because they are yelling and honking, but because there are in fact valid concerns with the mandates?
The unvaccinated are right. The media does have a role to play and they’re not doing a good enough job representing the interests of one side. There’s a reason our court system appoints a lawyer to someone who can’t afford one. We don’t assume someone is guilty because we can’t understand their reasoning. We appoint a professional person to represent that person so that we can make a fair assessment. The media has a similar role to play. In the context of reporting on peaceful protests, there are many valid criticisms of the mandates that could be discussed, with a goal not of undermining public health, but improving it and preventing some of the collateral damage (opioid deaths, child abuse, mental health challenges to name a few).
That doesn’t mean the media shouldn’t report on some protesters’ bad behaviour. As of presstime, I don’t know what developments this week will bring in Ottawa or Coutts border crossing. But regardless of what goes down with protesters, we have a duty to continually assess what mandates we are living under and how they are affecting our neighbours.
If Canadians, especially journalists, can overcome this hurdle of empathy for our fellow citizens, we will have triumphed and moved this country forward. We may not agree with every facet of the other perspective, but we will find love, and together we can advocate for change.