As this editorial is being crafted, Russia has invaded Ukraine and we are into year 2 of a global pandemic. People are discouraged and tired. Public patience is being tried, as demonstrated by recent freedom convoys and the occupation of Ottawa (as an aside, it wouldn’t be possible to have such demonstrations in a country that wasn’t free).
Public health guidance would seem to be apolitical, but lines have been drawn between right-leaning conservatives/republicans and left-of-centre liberals/democrats. It amazes me how polarizing mask and vaccine mandates have become. Vitriol often spread by social media is divisive and inflammatory. A crisis that many would think should unite us has become a lightning rod for vehement disagreements even among family members.
The current state of the world is discouraging and brings up questions about the humanity of humankind and its future.
One month after 9/11, partly in defiance of terrorism, I went to Europe on a long-planned vacation. I distinctly remember strolling into a small Tuscan village and noticing a war memorial in the central square with fresh flowers on it. It was erected in honor of the day that part of Italy was liberated from the Germans in World War II. It was as if this event had happened recently and was fresh in the minds of the local townspeople. I wonder how they felt about the world during the worst of that global conflict.
There are certainly other times in history when the future seemed dark and uncertain. Coming out of the Great War (World War I) and being struck by the deadly Spanish flu pandemic would have caused many to despair. Living through the bubonic plague during the 14th century, when 100 million souls perished, would have been dark days indeed. I was born in 1963, shortly before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My parents likely questioned their decision to bring a new life into this troubled world.
Disease, violence, and war have been a part of the human condition since time began. Charles Dickens started his novel A Tale of Two Cities with the line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” While true that humans are capable of the despicable, they can also be kind, caring, and generous. Focusing on people’s potential for goodness can help us deal with the uncertainty and negativity found in the world today.
By the time this editorial is in print, the pandemic may have subsided and the war in Ukraine will likely have been decided. As troubling as these events have been, a great deal of goodness has also been demonstrated. There has been an outpouring of well-wishes and support for the people of Ukraine from millions of regular citizens around the world. So many health care workers, neighbors, family, and friends have lifted those around them during this tiresome pandemic. For a local example of decency, look no further than to the people of British Columbia, who mobilized to support the farmers affected by flooding and the residents devastated by fires in the recent past.
Good and evil exist in each of us, but in the end, I have faith that our basic humanity will triumph.
—David R. Richardson, MD
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