I have had a number of causes in my life that I have been (and am) passionate about. I have protested, I have been an activist, and I have been a soldier. I have written articles in support of the causes I believe in and against those things that I oppose. I hope that I have done that well, and I know that in some cases I have changed some minds.
I hope I have never made my case to someone, and then, being told that it is not their fight, gotten angry with them that they would not take up my cause.
In case you are not paying attention, there are a number of protests going on in Canada, most specifically in Ottawa and at the Detroit-Windsor border crossing. The protests are around vaccine mandates and passports, and the terrible effects that the two years of pandemic have had, and how bad the government’s response has been. “IT’S ABOUT FREEDOM!” Maybe it is, maybe it is not. I am not taking a hardline position on this. I have told several of my friends that this is not a cause that I am willing to take on as my own. It is not that I oppose their position… I am just not going to be passionately supporting them.
I have three friends – none of whom are only Facebook friends – who are extremely passionate about the cause. Each of them has tried to convince me, in their way, that this cause is the most important thing in the world. Each of them has equated the Canadian government of 2022 to Nazi Germany, and each of them has told me that if I am not willing to stand up and fight for this then I am as bad as the people who stood idly by as Jewish businesses were being shut down, leading eventually to the deportation of the Jewish population to the death camps at Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec, Majdanek, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Each of them has told me that if I served in the Israeli Defense Forces and am not willing to stand up for their cause then it is obvious that the IDF does not stand for freedom.
Each one of them is infuriating.
Firstly, and I cannot stress this enough, I served 2.5 years in the IDF and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. While there is an official position and mission of the IDF, it is not set by Staff Sergeants… certainly not by one who did his conscription service and was discharged twenty-five years ago. On top of that, if you have ever tried to get ten Israelis to agree on anything, from the peace talks to the lunch order, then you will know that it is a futile task at which kings and deities have failed.
I have tried to tell each of them that I am not taking a strong position on this movement. Each of them has tried to guilt me into it. Each has tried to convince me that I am letting another Holocaust happen and standing by passively.
I respect that some people are against getting the Covid-19 vaccine. I do not agree with them, but hey, it is their choice. To equate them to Jews in Nazi Germany is absurd. Jews did not have a choice. It was not only Jews who wore the black hats and shtreimels and wore side locks who were sent to the gas chambers; if you had one Jewish grandparent, you were considers tiersch untermenschen and would be cleansed from the face of the earth. That was Nazi Germany. In Canada, if you want to be able to eat in restaurants, if you want to be able to travel to the United States (a mandate from the US, by the way), then get the vaccine. It’s as simple as that.
Two of these friends have told me that for the people not getting the vaccine it is like trying to tell a Jew to be Christian. I’m sorry, but for me that is a ridiculous comparison. We are dealing with a global pandemic, and the only way out is through a combination of science (by doctors and scientists), and the cooperation of the rest of the population. If you are unable to get the vaccine (and there are people who have legitimate medical reasons) then that is one thing. If you just do not believe in the vaccine and do not want to get it, well that is also legitimate… but it can be helped.
I have a friend whose son was laid off from Canada Post because he is unvaccinated, and he accepts that. When we take a stance and are willing to accept the consequences for that stance, then it is commendable. Mohammed Ali refused the draft; he was stripped of his title and went to jail for his principles. He did not flee the country or hide in some underground, he stood up and said ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.’ You may or may not agree with his position on the war (which is much easier to look at as black and white in 2022 than it was in the heat of 1966), but you have to respect his actions.
In the middle of a global pandemic, anyone who refuses to get vaccinated (simply because they do not believe in the science) but expects to be treated like everyone who did get vaccinated, is taking a stance but is unwilling to accept the consequences. ‘You must be vaccinated to cross the border.’ That is (a very simplistic wording of) the law right now. Will it change? Maybe yes, maybe no. If your job requires you to cross the border but you refuse to get the vaccine, then you cannot break the law. Can you protest the law? Absolutely. Is it a just and fair law? I don’t know. Do you have the right to require me to protest the law? No. Do you have the right to take over an entire city, or blockade international border crossings? To make your point, I suppose you do… but do it for a weekend and then go home. When protesting the government, you have a better chance of winning widespread public support if you do not inconvenience the people who you think you are fighting for… at least, not beyond the time it takes to make your point.
I am not saying that ‘I do not work in the auto industry, and so my livelihood does not rely on the Ambassador Bridge traffic, and so I am not protesting.’ I am not saying that ‘I do not live in Ottawa, therefore I have not been inconvenienced by the protests, and so I am not protesting.’ I am saying that while I understand why people are protesting, I am not going to get worked up about it, and I am certainly not taking a strong position either way. Trying to force me to do so will not change that, and that position does not make me ‘just like those who stood by and let the Holocaust happen.’ That, my friends, will raise my hackles, but not in favour of your cause, rather against you for having the nerve to equate pandemic measures to the worst crime in human history.