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For or against Covid Mandates?

We are being asked – no – we are being interrogated into choosing sides with impossible options, insufficient information, and hidden agendas.

If you’ve been following the historic “truckers protest” in Ottawa, you have seen how a teeny but determined group of truckers have been protesting the current government’s Covid mandates. It would have been just a small group with large trucks that punched above their weight class were it not for how the whole protest had been mishandled.

It might have remained a ripple in the pond of discontent had the government not overreached into their legislative tool box for the bludgeoning instrument known as the “Emergencies Act” to suspend due process and human rights of the entire nation. Some think the protesters overstepped the legitimacy of their complaints, but it is at least equally (if not more) true that the government has overextended its authority.

I would’ve watched from my safe perch thousands of kilometres away and wonder at how this would all affect me… until sides were drawn up for a fight, and then the fight became about something more. Forget listening to someone with whom you disagree; forget negotiations; this is identity politics at its worst: “Those guys are bad – and everyone who agrees with us is good” makes no room for nuance or enlightenment. This kind of dualistic thinking will usually let down all of us in the end.

Divided families, destroyed livelihoods

Irrespective of which side you might’ve taken (or if you have managed to stay neutral or confused), or what you think of the embattled Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenny’s observation rings true:

“The restrictions have divided families and friends and inflamed tensions in communities and neighbourhoods, while livelihoods have been disrupted and destroyed.”

“We’ll never be able to do a full accounting of the extent of the pain and hardship that restrictions have caused,” Kenney said.

“We cannot remain at a heightened state of emergency forever. We have to begin to heal.”

The worst thing about the worldwide pandemic has been the division of family and friends over everything about Covid: its existence, its severity, its treatment, its mandates in response, and what it means to live with in a “free society” (a loaded term to be sure).

Whose side are you on?

It’s a problem of the wrong question.

The better question?

How will you become an agent of healing your wounded and divided family and friends – and a wounded and divided nation… or are you only interested in believing you are right?

For or Against Russia?

Meanwhile on another world stage we watch the spread of another virus – a virus for which there is no vaccine – the virus of violence Russia has incubated as it readied itself to invade the Ukraine (in fact Russia has entered the two Ukrainian provinces that President Vladimir Putin claimed to be “independent”). I’ve been listening to different news sources (including Russian), trying to understand the impetus to invade; listening to competing narratives and failed negotiations. Listening, and none of it makes sense outside the playground of Putin’s own mind.

Well – not quite – since some western thinkers have attempted to answer the question “Why is the Ukraine the West’s Fault.” There is always more to the story, isn’t there? Meanwhile the U.N. Security Council provided no support for Putin, despite Russia currently holding the rotating presidency of the Council:

Ukraine called for the rare evening session along with the U.S., five European countries and Mexico to condemn Putin’s actions earlier Monday to recognize the independence of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, scenes of an eight-year war, and order his military to ‘maintain peace’ there.

The point is: it makes sense to Putin as he watches his communist cousin China gobble up territories (Tibet, Taiwan, islands in the ever growing dimensions of the South China Sea) under the justification that they “historically belong”. Putin borrows the logic and announces the Ukraine is really a Russian “republic” – the very republic that had endured the Soviet Holodomor (genocide of some 5 million Ukrainians by intentional starvation, 1931-1934). You might get a glimpse of Putin’s perspective in “Putin’s angry speech rewriting Ukraine’s history“.

Russia fears – or rather – Putin is paranoid of western military intervention by way of NATO – and who can blame him since NATO has steadily built up forces in its response to its own fear (or paranoia) that Russia would do the very thing it is threatening to do to the Ukraine. But as the quip goes,

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.

What if it isn’t about which side you’re on?

The incomprehensible dilemmas before us demand more than either “taking a side”, or “trying to avoid the options”. I grappled with this last year in “Take a Stand” – quoting Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:

…morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.

I wrote this thinking about when we must take responsibilitynot ignore injustice, and not stand aloof or be neutral in a time of distress. Thus I wrestled with the provocative assertion by Elie Wiesel, Romanian born Jewish Holocaust survivor:

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

So which is it? Take a side – or – Not?

As I said earlier, we are in a very uncomfortable space where we are being forced to chose between false dichotomies as we live with impossible options, insufficient information, and hidden agendas.

Whose side are you on is exposed as the problem of the wrong question.

Taking a Stand is different than Taking a Side. There is a time to take a stand against clear injustice, despite how incomplete we may understand justice. Taking a side, on the other hand, threatens thereafter your acquiescence to all injustices by the side you take. Taking a side potentially blinds you to giving a partisan blank cheque to “the side” – rather than involving yourself in the robust clear-sighted participation of real justice.

May I encourage you to pray; in this you will find yourself by God’s side, and stand with His heart for restoration.

Consider the paradox: A Time to Sit Down and Rise Up