I was buying nuts in Baba’s today when two thoughts intruded. The first was a bit of an aha moment. Is this why I’ve been gaining weight? I like to believe that Covid Belly Syndrome results from the Bug slipping past me, its sickly breath not landing directly but touching close enough to leave me with extra pounds. ‘Here’s some flab’ it whispers as it rushes by. I know this is a complete fabrication of my isolated ‘can’t take much more’ brain. But since I don’t want to claim responsibility, I think I’ll stick with it.
The second thought was a bit more worrisome. Am I becoming a nut hoarder? I still have a few cups left of slivered almonds and pecans. Why feel compelled to buy more? Again, I blame Covid. If the stores were to close suddenly, I would not worry about running out of toilet paper or boxes of macaroni. I would grieve the loss of such an efficient protein.
And then another thought occurred. Am I becoming a nut? Have I eaten so many that the analogy, ‘nuttier than a pecan’ has gained some truth? Probably. But if so, I’m not alone. As hostile and indifferent as the world could be before this pandemic descended, there’s never been a wider divide between people on the left and the right, politically. We are all, on both sides, feeling very misunderstood.
Sometimes a hostile thought will wake me in the middle of the night, gripping my brain until I shout, ‘Stop!’ (I highly recommend rebuking your more disturbing nighttime ideas in this fashion. In order to keep crazy in its place, you have to act a little…well. It’s easier if you sleep alone. Although one episode with a light sleeper lying beside you might be good for a laugh.)
We might not be as entrenched in our beliefs as our US counterparts. But the issue with masks and vaccinations is much the same. When I get together with vaccinated friends, we often descend into bitter conversations. ‘Why won’t they get the shot and help the world?’ I’m sure its the same with people who are unvaccinated. ‘Why can’t they leave us alone? Let us make our own decisions? And let us shop without masks and gather in large groups, because we know we’ll be okay?’
Most people who are not vaccinated are simply afraid. I’m not sure why, because they obviously have friends and family who’ve survived both shots, even those of us who felt a bit ill after our second one. But the unvaccinated all seem to know someone who didn’t survive. This might be a person they’ve only heard about through the anti-vaccine grapevine, but it obviously feels true to them.
I haven’t met an unvaccinated person who claimed to be as persecuted as Jews during WWII, or the Indigenous people dragged off to residential schools. But they’re out there. To those people, I say this. Unless you’ve been pulled from your mother’s arms, and starved and bullied for years, or lived in a concentration camp until your body resembled a walking skeleton, and had all your possessions taken by neighbors and the police, then no. You can’t make that comparison. I’m sure it feels unfair that there are things you can no longer do, especially in Manitoba. You can’t attend movies, most restaurants, sporting events held inside. This does not make you Rosa Parks, who courageously stood up to white people and insisted on her rights. You are simply too afraid to get vaccinated, and for that reason, I feel bad for you.
Covid is testing everyone. It’s not going to be over this month, or this year. New variants are making their way toward us and all we can do is protect ourselves the best we can. And protect you. I have unvaccinated people in my extended family, people I love. People I want to see grow old. And I understand why many of you are feeling hostile, because frankly, we all are.
Let’s practice a little forgiveness. Let’s draw on a small bit of common sense and be kind to one another. One of the reasons some of us are sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night, shouting ‘Stop!’ to our own thoughts, is because we miss people. I’m seeing more of them now, but it’s not the same. I want to walk down the street, mask-less, and wave to people. Smile at them. Know who they are. (That’s a tough one for me. It was hard for me to remember faces before everyone started wearing masks.) Let’s acknowledge that we’re not our best selves right now. And let’s acknowledge what we have together as a society, and pray we don’t destroy it. As my daughter Hilary likes to say, let’s not allow Covid to pull us under. Let’s be stronger than that. There will come a day when it will be over. My prayer is that you’ll all be alive and well for the celebrations.