Letter from the assistant editor— Learning to agree to disagree again

By Mike Renzella

This week, Ontario’s vaccine passport program kicked off, bringing with it an inordinate amount of sound and thunder from the throngs of Ontarians on both sides of the divisive issue.

Among those sides are those who have been fully immunized, many becoming less and less patient with the anti-vaccination crowd, and that portion of the population who believe the passport program is a gateway into communism and segregation.

As evidenced by the discourse surrounding the topic, it appears many people have forgotten the old saying, ‘Agree to Disagree’.

I’m no stranger to this, as I am guilty of arguing over similar issues on several occasions. I have struggled to understand why a medical emergency was being treated like a partisan political issue and I’m not lying when I say these issues have kept me up at night. Where is this anger coming from? Why does it seem to be disproportionately coming from the working class?

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in a few technical and installation jobs. Work sites have often been a hotbed for diverging opinions, and I’ve had many long-winded arguments with co-workers. The thing is, despite the disagreements, and the wildly varying viewpoints of those expressing them, we would all have a smoke, laugh it off, and return to work.

That ability to disagree and yet co-exist seems to be a forgotten art when it comes to anything pandemic-related. As a fully immunized individual, I’ve been told that I’m a sheep and a communist. I’ve been told to wake up. There is a sense that these issues might cause permanent damages to many friendships out there.

I’ve heard these arguments from people I respect deeply. People who have shown up to look under my hood when my check engine light comes on. People who have given up a Saturday afternoon to help me install laminate flooring for nothing more than a cold beer and some sesame chicken.

In the year-and-a-half since the pandemic began, my personal stance has not changed. I am not a medical expert, and I look to those professionals for guidance. I am fully immunized, and I will dutifully head back in for a booster shot if called upon to do so.

What I have stopped doing is arguing about it. As much as anti-vaccine logic befuddles me, I can accept that the frustration, anger, and fear behind a refusal to comply are very real.

Hearing cries of ‘communism’, ‘fascism’, and ‘segregation’ are tough. In my opinion, not being allowed to go to a Boston Pizza without being immunized in the middle of a pandemic is a far cry from being taken from your family and placed in a prison camp. The truth is many of those atrocities do indeed take place in our world, and there are plenty more examples of them throughout history.

Many in our community have relatives who have lived through real oppression, real violence, and true segregation. It does not require a huge leap in logic to see why those people refuse to comply to a passport system or get vaccinated, frustrating as that may be.

So, while I would love to see every eligible man, woman, and child lining up to get their shots so we can end this pandemic and return to normal life, I am trying to expand my perspective and not automatically hate those who feel differently than I do. It’s not easy, and I’ve backslid into arguing on occasion, but it is work worth doing.

After all, when this is all said and done, we will still need to live together as a society. Maybe we all just need to take a collective smoke break and come back at it with a fresh perspective.

Works on a construction site, why not in life?