It likely won’t shock you if I point out that we’re about to go into the 17th month of the COVID-19 pandemic. At one point, pointing out the latest new month of this pandemic would force us to snap our neck back and gawk at the thought. Yet we’re so far into this pandemic now that noting another month in this crisis doesn’t pack the same punch. It’s almost just a flip of the calendar, kinda unremarkable.

But I can’t help but still note these points because of the fact that we are still in this crisis and think of those who continue to deny simple reality, dragging this crisis on that much longer. Here in Canada we’re doing better when it comes to vaccinations and masking, but we still have work to do as certain provinces have apparently re-opened too early (hello Alberta), refuse to implement vaccine passports (hello Ontario and Alberta) or are stopping testing all together (Alberta, you’re back again). We’re seeing a fourth wave starting in various parts of the country and school for our young, unvaccinated kids is just around the corner.

Oh, and we’ve re-opened the land border to Americans, and you’re starting to hear stories of belligerent tourists from our south flaunting public health and masking rules. That’s something that our leaders should have seen coming, as things are much worse there on that front. You’re seeing states like Florida where the Governor is going so far as to stop mask mandates and even threaten public institutions who institute those mandates with taking their public funds. Sure when you look at the general antipathy to public health measures here in Canada, most of the opposition comes from a farther fringe on the right, but the numbers are just not that big when compared to the rest of the population. But stateside, those same positions have become policy for lots of Republican governments, trying to mimic the Trumpian formula.

The result has been more COVID, more outbreaks, more death, more loss and more that they don’t know about yet because we are still learning about the long-term impacts of COVID. It’s insane, as some of those Republicans are basically becoming pro-COVID, all for the sake of “their freedoms”. It was with that in mind that I came across this piece of video yesterday from none other than former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and folks, it’s worth watching:

“Screw your freedom.” Yes, so many of us have had that sentiment through out all of this crisis from those who bleat about their rights while ignoring their responsibilities to society. For over a year I’ve been talking about that fact that freedom and rights are not a one-way street, which Schwarzenegger points out here. As he correctly points out, “with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities”. Your rights don’t exist in a vacuum, which is why we have public health laws to begin with. You don’t have the right to infect others with a harmful disease. Your “right” to not wear a mask doesn’t supersede my right to health.

I never thought it would be required to point such things out yet here we are. We have political leaders out there who practically fetishize their “rights” in the most selfish of ways while ignoring the responsibilities that come with those rights. Society only works if we are holding up both ends of that bargain; respecting our responsibilities in concert with those rights. Sometimes that means we have to give a bit on our rights to uphold that responsibility to one another, like wearing a mask to help protect kids under 12 and the immunocompromised from getting COVID-19 and possibly dying. It’s not that complicated, but I have to admit it’s refreshing to hear that same thought coming from a voice from the other side.

Let’s be clear, I’d never vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I do respect the heck out of him for his willingness to take positions like these and attempting to lower the temperature on villainization of the other side. In a healthy democracy, we can disagree on policy while still being civil and respectful. Sadly in certain segments of certain movements, to do that is seen as heresy and akin to being a sellout. That’s how the likes of former Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Bill Davis, who we sadly lost this week, have been pushed out of political spheres and alienated.

We need more people like Davis in our political life, a point that’s driven home in this moment. You can clearly see a big part of the problem when you look at those who are leading these jurisdictions that are having the worst COVID problems. It’s leaders who are the anti-thesis of Davis (like Kenney in Alberta, Ford in Ontario, DeSantis in Florida and Abbott in Texas), who are showing an unwillingness to compromise their political approach to deal with the facts before them, that are taking the biggest beating. And what makes matters worse is the fact that it’s a beating that is preventable and is not only impacting those who are getting COVID, but others who are trying to survive with other health problems, like the family of this gentleman:

So yeah, maybe bluntly saying “screw your freedoms” may not be the kindest thing ever, but I’m here for it. I appreciate the blunt honest from Schwarzenegger because clearly other approaches haven’t worked. We are reaching a point in North America where we will have much greater control over the spread of COVID. And as more parts of the World get vaccinated, that will only get stronger. The fact is that what we’re seeing play out to our South (and maybe soon in certain parts of Canada) is a disease running rampant by choice. That is leading to people dying preventable deaths, and for what? Not for the benefit of society, that’s for sure. It’s clearly a failure of upholding the obligations and responsibilities that come with rights and freedom, so I won’t tut-tut Arnold for using a few bon mots while calling that fact out. That’s an honesty that we need right now, an honesty that can save lives.