Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently labelled unvaccinated people as racist misogynists who do not believe in science or progress. Speaking in French, he told a Quebec television station that Canadians need to make a choice as to whether they will tolerate ‘these people.’
“We are going to end this pandemic by proceeding with the vaccination,” said Trudeau. “We all know people who are deciding whether or not they are willing to get vaccinated, and we will do our very best to try to convince them. However, there is still a part of the population (that) is fiercely against it.
“They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist. It’s a very small group of people, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they take up some space.
“This leads us, as a leader and as a country, to make a choice: Do we tolerate these people?”
While more extreme than some of his previous comments, this is not new for Trudeau. He has long fostered division by blaming lockdowns, restrictions and postponed surgeries solely on unvaccinated people. He will often add that vaccinated people are very angry – and with good cause. This phenomenon is not particular to Canada. Other countries around the world, including our neighbours to the south, have a similar experience with their leaders.
If a person is discontented (who isn’t these days?) and the Prime Minister publicly puts a label on their discontent (anger) and then identifies a cause (the unvaccinated), this has serious implications for millions of people who are longing to “get back to normal” in society.
Suddenly, there is a reason for their discontent and, apparently, a solution: the unvaccinated must get vaccinated.
A free society is one where individuals choose and act of their own free will. Freedom is globally valued, with most country’s anthems crooning its merit – “True north strong and free,” “Land of the free”. Freedom is difficult to achieve on both a macro (world) or micro (family) level. Every parent knows the struggle between granting freedom and enforcing a standard of behaviour in the home. Sometimes children have to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes parents are wrong.
Between adults, the dynamics are different. A mature attitude is one in which every person is free to have their own opinion. This sounds like common sense, but the sticking point is when the matter of the opinion evokes strong emotions.
I remember a Freakonomics podcast in which a professor at a prominent US university encouraged listeners to make friends with those who disagree with them. The challenge of conversing with respect, as opposed to hotly debating, helps both parties to be more understanding and to get to know themselves better, he argued.
This kind of dialogue enriches communities and fosters unity. This in turn, fosters collaboration for the betterment of society.
In contrast, the behaviour of our current world leaders is reminiscent of political theories that advocate class war. Division and segregation are the inevitable outcome.
Understanding needs to become our byword. This does not mean agreement. It means looking at others with respect and compassion. It means recognizing that a person has the right to their own opinions regardless of how we feel. It means promoting dialogue.
This is a hard solution, but it is the only one that ultimately makes sense – to accept that others can freely choose to make decisions that are different from ours. The consequences that flow from this must be dealt with as they happen.
No country or health authority has been very good at predicting the outcome of any aspect of the pandemic. Science has both helped us and been proven wrong. The surest and only way forward is through unity which involves primarily accommodation of others’ decisions.
Otherwise, the global motto of “we’re all in this together” is a lie. As Justin Trudeau himself stated: inclusion is a choice.