Anti-Mask Rally TO 03 Sept 2021 KJW
News & Political Observations

“Our Rights,” versus your responsibilities in a global pandemic.

September 6, 2021


Covid Mask Protest 03 Sept 2021There is a lot swirling in my head today. I am a week away from classes starting and I am still busily prepping away—I am sure making some folks nervous. Today, also marks the day my dad passed thirty-four years ago. We are still amid a pandemic a year and half later. And today is Labor Day, the official end to summer.

I was at a physiotherapy appointment for some problems with my elbows. I still love some of the subtle adjustments I am learning between the culture of Canada and the United States, such as physio as opposed to PT. As I ran into the Farm Boy store for dinner and other groceries for the next couple of days, I heard some yelling and shouting outside the building. But I would be leaving momentarily and intended on being a little nosey while masked up and ready to walk home to find out who was yelling and what about.

Sure enough, it was a protest, which is surprisingly not all that uncommon in Toronto. And I knew I was going to take a picture and post it to social media. I recognized it as an anti-mask and likely an anti-vax rally—as soon as I saw the “Don’t tread on my me” flag. I did not stick around. But I heard the speaker yelling about “their rights.” And that became my post on social media.

I have long been a news junkie, reading across the spectrum-from right to left politically. That a global pandemic now even has sides other than science, facts, and how do we move past this catastrophe is truly beyond my comprehension these days. Until you begin to critically look at the news, media, and technology—such as social media it is easy to become lost.

One can now choose news that fits into your worldview politically, culturally, and socially—and news should not be like that in reality. Because there are details and views that can then be discussed by the majority of the people with actual information and facts if delivered properly without sides.  Yet, in some aspects news is now about “balanced views,” equal air time (where false statements are touted as “alternative facts”) and advertisements—not allowing full ideas to be completely articulated and then discussed at the water cooler or kitchen table.

Right now, even a pandemic, a vaccination (that works), and masks are now part of the culture wars. We seem to as a society in North America be debating rights and freedoms—but not asking the deeper question. What are our responsibilities to others? There is truth in pop culture too. But even that has become politically fraught, and you can find a song, a meme, or anything that fits your opinion and then pass it off as fact or truth. The other side must now be viewed as the enemy of your side/view-not just a difference of opinion or perspective. Compromise is a dirty word.

For example, a couple of years ago, Childish Gambino went viral—was embraced by some and shocked others with the song “This is America.” A recent Tom MacDonald song “Brainwashed,” ends with “This is a Situational Divide,” has gone somewhat viral too. My favorite television moment came in 2012 from an analysis in the fictional show “The Newsroom” with Jeff Daniels—as a series opener that seems even more relevant today “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

This growing division has become centered not only in economic, religious, cultural, political, or health and welfare differences but in viewing the other side as somehow not fully human or intelligent. But in fact, this has grown because we champion the “rights of an individual” over that of the welfare of the community/others.

My first thoughts of those individuals hooting and hollering about their “rights” is how often they forget conveniently that they have responsibilities with those inalienable rights. That was to care for their fellow countryman and community. And historically, their “rights” often came at the cost and detriment to those deemed the “other,” mostly disenfranchised people of color and marginalized groups such as: Indigenous Nations, Slaves, and Gendered groups rejected too.

Take Indigenous peoples for example, their land taken through force, violence, and fraud historically. Our cultures, languages, and ceremonies were outlawed until well into the twentieth century. Yet, Indigenous Culture is still here and renewing.  But most Canadians and Americans know nothing about this—because it is not taught outside of college-level courses like mine. This in turn has produced frustration and anger in some cases among the younger generations because they see the unfairness of it so easily. And then it creates conflicting ideas and questions of identity regarding their pride and celebration in their claimed national identities.

So, before your protest, scream, and yell about your rights being trampled. Or about how you’re being censored, oppressed, and whatever regarding vaccinations and a mask—ask yourself if you have been responsible to others in your community, city, and country as we all try to put an end to a global pandemic. Ask yourself if you feel you’ve been responsible, how do others see you demanding your “rights” at the cost of their health and welfare—in other words—their right to simply live in a perilous time.

If you are uncomfortable, ask yourself what you can do differently and better tomorrow to be more responsible to others?



Kevin J. White
Toronto, CA