I’ve felt this way before.
In a cozy coffee shop on the border of Tibet, I was sipping my latte with some new friends, when they started asking me about Christianity. My mind started reeling, as I was well aware of the cost of proselytizing to Chinese people. I tried to remember everything from our orientation by long-term missionaries- what was and wasn’t okay to share with them? I casually peered over their shoulders to see who was in proximity. Aware of the volume of my voice and the words I was about to say. Carefully selecting vernacular, wanting to be honest with the faith that led me to a closed country, but also being acutely aware that there were literally ears everywhere in China, monitoring the spread of Christianity among its people.
I remember standing in line to depart from a long train ride when a man asked to look at the bible in my hand, probably curious what book would be so worn it needed duct tape to hold it together. My heart skipped a beat but I obliged and he flipped it open to read it, landing on a funny inscription from a friend rather than scripture itself. I was relieved when he handed it back without asking any questions.
Emails home were filled with generalities, coded messages our parents understood. Facebook was illegal, accessible only through the use of a VPN. Global news available online was curated, selected to propagate the belief that China indeed is supreme above all.
And then there was Valentine’s Day, spent touring the streets of Lhasa, enthralled by the majesty of the Potala Palace and the devotion of the Tibetan people to Buddhism. These are a beautiful nomadic people, rosy-cheeked and hospitable beyond compare. Contrast that with the armed military patrolling the streets, ensuring that all the Tibetan people are simply in the city to worship and not to start any sort of uprising against the government. And then there are the policemen standing in their bulletproof glass boxes every few blocks down main street, standing alert facing out every direction, so nothing can pass by unseen. Our tour guide reminds me not to take any pictures of these safety measures, as this is prohibited.
That was eleven years ago. But lately, I have found myself looking over my shoulder much too often. Canada is beginning to feel like China, with its brown grass spray-painted green to appear lush and alive, while a hunched man in coveralls with his green spray paint strapped to his side reveals the facade. I once believed that all green grass was a result of healthy soil and sufficient sunlight, but China taught me to know better. To think critically. To have my eyes open to the ways the news can be portrayed. To the effects of propaganda, and the incredible power of media. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved visiting China, but I had the luxury of seeing it from the outside in, and recognizing the depths of control contrasted with my democratically raised upbringing.
Indeed communism is alive and well today, and I thought when I got on the plane for home that I had left the clutches of it behind. But, as it turns out, such control no longer feels foreign, and I feel its blood seeping into the veins of our country under the guise of safety and the broad-stroke message of “We’re all in this together”.
Perhaps you find my comparison unfair. I speak in feelings, not facts. You are welcome to argue that this muzzle I now feel over my mouth isn’t actually real, but only a construct of my own doing. I don’t blame you, because if you’ve never had to be in a situation where your words could bring imprisonment, it would be hard to understand. For months now I have watched our country only hold space for one narrative and one narrative alone- vaccine or bust. Vaccine or no non-essential services. Vaccine or no job (here’s looking at you medical care workers in Canada and large business employees in America). There seems to be no space for questions because apparently safety only takes one form, and “loving thy neighbour” only looks one way. Mental health is sacrificed at the altar of physical health. Personal liberty at the altar of community “safety”.
My spidey senses (for lack of a better term) first kicked in over a year ago when I learned that a news outlet had asked nurses to come outside and drive their cars through the Covid testing station set up in their hospital’s parking lot in order to make these stations appear busier than they were. Naturally, I thought- Why does the media want to make this pandemic look worse than it is? Why would they want to cause alarm?
This would only be the beginning of my questions…
Why are they focusing on only losses and not wins?
Where are the stories of the 90-year-olds fighting Covid at home with no medical intervention?
Why do the goalposts keep moving? Is the goal to not overload the ICU or to eliminate every single case of Covid?
Why does every statistic seem to hold a bias? Can I decide for myself whether the stat is alarming or not, without being told how to feel about it?
Why is anyone who brings perspective to these statistics (say by comparing CDC data of Covid stats with CDC data of other viral infection stats) being called a conspiracy theorist?
Where did Moderna, Pfizer, J&J, and AstraZeneca come from? Do they have any history in making vaccines? Have their products ever had adverse effects before? Have they ever been sued before?
What are their relationships with the CDC, the WHO? Is there cause for concern? Cause for trust?
Why can’t these companies be held responsible for vaccine injuries linked to their products?
Who gains from the World Health Organisations’ stances on Covid? Who loses?
What do top epidemiologists have to gain from perpetuating vaccines as our only saviour and why are fringe epidemiologists willing to lose their jobs and credibility in order to simply ask questions to the contrary?
Why aren’t we rejoicing when doctors submit new information on alternative measures they have taken to combat Covid sans vaccine that have proven effective? Shouldn’t ALL medicine be welcome at the table of consideration when we are trying to understand a new virus?
Why is Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter removing content by doctors with opposing views?
Why aren’t citizens encouraged to think for themselves and weigh pros and cons for themselves?
Who is behind the fact-checking websites? Who pays their bills?
If there is still a fear of Covid overloading hospitals then why is our gov willing to have doctors and nurses leave their jobs by enforcing the vax upon them? Shouldn’t they be holding onto these workers for dear life and allowing their PPE to do the job it is designed to do?
Why did the WHO change their definition of herd immunity from being a combination of vaccine and natural immunity to just vaccine back in November 2020?
Why is vaccine-propelled herd immunity being cited as the only viable option to get out of this pandemic when virology studies show that natural immunity is stronger?
If the vaccine doesn’t prevent transmission of the virus, and vaccinated people can continue to spread it to each other and the unvaccinated, shouldn’t we be more concerned about our own health and safety than you are for us?
Why are businesses encouraging patrons to get vaccinated “in order to avoid lockdowns” rather than “in order to save lives”?
At this point are we crying “get vaxed!” in order to move on with our lives and have government restrictions removed or because we are still afraid of overloaded hospitals and deaths?
If we are doing all this to avoid lockdowns more than to save lives, then somewhere along the way we have become more fearful of governmental control than this disease itself. And that is a very dangerous position to find ourselves in.
And so, I remain unvaccinated. Not because I don’t believe that Covid is real (it is!). Not because I hate your grandma (I’m sure she is lovely, but the truth is the vax does not stop transmission, so she is more than welcome to protect herself via the vax if she so wishes). Not because I don’t think the vaccine can reduce hospitalizations and death (it can!).
But simply because vaccines are not the only way out of this mess. Herd immunity can be achieved by natural immunity and vaccine intervention, and for me personally, I would much rather face the (mainly) known effects of Covid than the growing list of adverse reactions and side effects of these experimental vaccines. I know the chances of experiencing said side effects are slim, but they are a real possibility. I personally know more people who have been hospitalized due to adverse reactions than I do people who have been hospitalized due to Covid.
Not to mention the fact that although the government is claiming the vax is safe for pregnant women, the effects on pregnancy as well as fertility is still widely unknown, hence the 1.67 million dollars being poured out by The National Institutes of Health to Harvard and 4 other universities to research why so many women are claiming their periods are out of whack after getting vaccinated. With my own government’s lack of care of the unborn in general, I do not trust them to have my best interests in mind when it comes to fertility. So for me, there is absolutely no benefit in getting vaccinated, other than the obvious comfort it would bring socially and economically. I would love to not be called “selfish”, I would love to go eat at a restaurant with you, I would love to travel, I would love to have job security. So if I ask one thing of my unvaxed friends, please know that the decision we have made is not one we have made flippantly or lightly. We wouldn’t be willing to be ostracized by our communities if we hadn’t done our research and counted the cost of becoming the minority. Please trust that we have wrestled with the stats, we have considered every angle, and we haven’t reached our positions without much prayer and trepidation.
When I say no to the vax, I am saying NO to allowing the government governance of my body, NO to censorship of ideas, NO to coercion. So whether you agree or not, when I say no, it is in no way intended as an assault on your physical safety but rather a yes to your democratic liberty and personal freedom.
Vaxed friends, I love you! Unvaxed friends, I love you!
When the world feels like it’s doing everything in its power to make it “us” vs ‘them”, we must overcome propagated division with a new level of kindness. This pandemic has already taken enough lives, we cannot afford to let it take our relationships too. I pray that my little tirade came across less as a judgment towards those who are vaccinated and more as an invitation to helping you understand those of us who have chosen not to be. Let’s ask good questions and accept each other’s decisions for what they are- personal.
“And when memory failed and written records were falsified-when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.”
-1984 (George Orwell)