We’re into the beginning of May and it’s amazing to think that we’re closing in on two-months of the measures we’ve had to take to fight Covid-19. It’s been a hard time for many with some major sacrifice made by many, for the betterment of public health and to do our best deal with this disease that we still don’t know much about. One of the heartwarming things about the response to this whole situation has been the vast amount of people who are taking this seriously and doing their part. It’s the kind of self-sacrifice that we haven’t seen in generations and has spoken to our better angels.

But despite the fact that the vast majority of folks has stepped up in this hard moment, there’s a small group of people who have decided to do the same. Here at this blog we’ve highlighted in the past examples of people who have decided to not help the team for various reasons, from ignorance, to conspiracy theories and downright denial of the problem. And in the past couple of weeks we’ve seen ugly protests in the United States, with heavily armed “protestors” storming state houses and public parks demanding that social distancing measures be stopped. It’s all made for ugly images of selfishness and for many here in Canada, it’s allowed us to point our fights in ridicule of our southern neighbour as if we have nothing to worry about here. But while we don’t have people with automatic weapons trying to intimidate politicians in the name of harming public health here, as it is with Covid-19 we’re not immune to this kind of selfish stupidity. In the past week we’ve seen some examples of this here at home, a few which I will highlight. Let’s start at Queen’s Park, where this happened on Saturday:

For the second weekend in a row we saw a small group of protestors spend their time in front of Ontario Legislature demanding that all measures to stop Covid-19 be shunted aside. And just as last weekend when Premier Doug Ford called them “a bunch of yahoos”, he didn’t have kind words for them again this weekend. Included in the group were anti-vaccine protestors, as that one video above shows, which is mind-blowing given that the thing that we need the most to ensure a return to close to normal is a vaccine for this disease. But that gives you an idea of the kinds of people who are trying to use this global pandemic to advance their own goals, no matter how sick & disconnected they are from the reality that we are living in.

Ford also made a point of calling out those in the crowd who were holding the Canadian flag upside down, a disrespectful gesture towards those front-line workers who are putting themselves at risk to save the lives of others. Actions like those aren’t helping at all, but I would argue if you’re out there protesting the idea of trying to save the lives of your fellow citizens, that you’re already not helping anyone. And that group in Toronto is not the only one, as we saw another group in front of another legislature in this country, this time in Alberta:

Yep, another example of folks flaunting the measures in place to save lives, all in the name of some misguided view of “freedom”, one that ignores the responsibilities that we have to one another that comes with our freedom. You see signs there saying that the “healthy should not be quarantined”, ignoring the fact that we’ve seen so many examples of people having Covid-19 but being asymptomatic and feeling great, but infecting others who fell ill or worse. Also, you see the “Trump” flag front and centre, which says a lot about the views of many folks there, but also shows the impact the words of the American President, however irresponsible or misinformed, can hurt us here at home.

Again you see another group of people crammed into a public square, ignoring the measures that have been put in place to try to save lives. It wouldn’t surprise me if we eventually hear in a few weeks of new cases coming from those protests, just as we’ve seen time and time again in the United States. But that piece of karma is something we’ll deal with another time. In the meantime, I wanted to highlight one final example, one that’s been sticking in my crawl since I saw it for the first time. While we’re seeing these irresponsible protests in major centres, we’re all seeing examples pop up in smaller communities all over. This is an example that I saw in my own community just this week, one that speaks to our worst angels:

That picture I took in Brockville, Ontario where we live, while I was out running an errand for the family. That picture is one I took after seeing that same car with the stickers in the window a few times now, which speaks to how long it has been there. Normally in using such a picture I would block out the license plate, but when you see what it says I felt that to not share it would rob this picture of much needed context. For the record, that also has an old 80’s van that parks in that spot sometimes, with the words “Free Candy” taped to the windows as well, so this is not an isolated incident.

But in a global pandemic, you’d think that malignant behaviour like that would stop, even if only for a bit. Yet here is another example of a person selfishly driving around town, sending a message to the community to basically ignore the public health measures that are keeping many safe. He’s doing that in a county that in the middle of April had the distinction of having the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Ontario. According to CTV News at that time, this region had an infection rate of 143.2 cases per 100,000 people while the next highest (Peel Region) had a rate of 74.4 cases per 100,000 people. It’s in that environment that this person decides to run around flaunting crap about being “against lockdown”. It’s irresponsible, ugly and this person should be ashamed. But given that context I mentioned above, I doubt this individual feels anything close to shame.

As we continue to move ahead and fight against this disease, the vast majority are doing their part. But as with anything, we’re only as strong as our weakest links and while these examples of that weakness are ugly & exasperating, they are not going to stop us. In calling these people out and making them responsible for their malignance, we are going to help make our communities safer. Also in doing so we help to keep perspective on the challenges before us. While it can be satisfying to point to other places where we see over-the-top protests against public health measures, we cannot allow that satisfaction to move us to ignore the same influences here at home. They may be smaller in numbers, but their voices are all over. It may feel like a game of “whack a mole”, but we need to point them out & call out their crap when they try to spread it. Misinformation & calls to ignore public health measures are dangerous in this moment and because of that, we cannot let them go unanswered.