Commentary: The future? Different pathways but let’s head there with respect

Commentary: The future? Different pathways but let's head there with respect
Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Several golf courses that voluntarily shut down for March and April, including Vancouver's Fraserview Golf Course, have either reopened or are planning to in the coming days. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she’ll just say the words rather than writing them, to save on paper. Occasionally words fail her, but when that happens she just rounds them up and forces them into sentences to keep them in line.

Here we are, standing on the edge of a slow return to a new normal. What we do now – or more specifically, how we behave now – will decide, in large part, what sort of people we are, what sort of society we will have in the future.

Yet within this new anticipation and hope of moving forward, there has been a growing polarization in direct response to it. This time it isn’t political, it’s social, and is more personal and dangerous than the “I hate you because you are the political opposite of me” stance that has raged for too long.

Today, it’s “I hate you because you don’t care about the economy” vs “I hate you because you don’t care about the lives of people.”

Here’s the thing, though. Both sides are wrong.

If you are ranting that people are idiots because they want to get the economy going again, you’re wrong.

If you’re ranting that people are idiots because they want to shelter in place until there is zero danger, you’re wrong.

What is “wrong” isn’t the choice among the diverse range of paths being considered for going forward, since any path we take will be an educated guess by whatever experts our respective government chooses. It won’t be “right” or “wrong”, it will be “maybe, let’s see.” We should hold our experts in the highest regard, as they are the only ones among us qualified to lead us out of our isolation wilderness, but it pays to remember that even they do not know for sure how it will go, what will work, what will fail, and what the remedy for any failure might be.

No, the wrong here is the growing barely suppressed rage seen on each side of this new division, unthinking anger coming from a point of intolerance, hate, and fear.

You are not wrong to have strong feelings about it, though. That is not the problem. If you believe sheltering in place is needed for a longer period of time, you are simply feeling an understandable concern about danger to the at-risk. If you believe that we have to move forward now to save the economy, you are simply feeling an understandable concern for those suffering undue hardships. Such feelings only become problematic when they turn from caring and concern to outrage and hostility.

The path we take is important but is not what will define us as a society. it is how we treat each other while we take it. If we move forward with hatred, fear and intolerance, we will destroy the tentative resurgence of kind civility and decency that emerged at the start of the pandemic.

Every province, every state, every country will proceed a little bit differently, and each path will be chosen by heads of state acting on the advice of heath experts who will be acting on the best information they have at hand. It is as human as humanity itself in its grand imperfection, and perhaps it is that very imperfection that makes us so afraid.

Can we put aside our fears? Can we draw on the strength of a new commonality found during this strange sheltered time? Will we step forward with kindness and trust and put aside fear and loathing as we enter into a new reality? To do so is, after all, the ideal way. It is the one path that will allow us to retain our sense of community. But can we rise to the occasion?

Ask yourself, what do you want society in the new normal to look like?

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Jo SladeJo Slade

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