Were we too hopeful?
“Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness, of captivity, would, without this comfort, be insupportable.” Samuel Johnson
Adults everywhere, no matter their age, often find themselves still longing to hear their mother say: “It’s okay, everything is going to be all right.”
It was that kind of reassurance, vague though it might be, that Roger Varley was looking for when he posed a question to the four candidates in attendance at last week’s all candidates meeting at the Uxbridge arena. Instead of asking the usual questions one hears at such meetings, he opted for something a little different. Noting that the 18-month-long coronavirus pandemic has left many Canadians feeling angry, frustrated, dispirited and depressed, he asked the candidates to give constituents, and himself, a message of hope. He said he supposed he was looking for a gentle pat on the shoulder, a reassuring hug. He said he was disappointed.
Only Conservative Jacob Mantle came close, saying: “We will get through this.” The others merely talked about the importance of vaccinations and how their leaders are best positioned to govern the country. Varley wanted someone to say something like “we’re beating this thing, the end is not far off,” even if it meant they had to lie. Sometimes, when someone needs some nurturing, a little lie can be more helpful than the truth.
During the Second World War, it was songs of hope offered by Dame Vera Lynn, it was Winston Churchill’s “we will never surrender” speech, that helped kept spirits up and enabled the people to survive those dark days. They didn’t make promises, but there was promise in their words.
History teaches us that all the dark periods, be it bubonic plague, world wars, totalitarian regimes or devastating depressions, eventually come to a close. This current crisis also will also come to an end one day. But it helps us to weather the storm a great deal when we receive some words of comfort and hope. How many parents have cuddled a frightened or injured child and uttered the soothing words: “It’s okay, dear, it’s okay.”? And how many of us still need those soothing words, even though we are adults?
But we didn’t receive that reassurance. It was, obviously, political business as usual. And we gain no reassurance as we read the news every day. While the political parties prance around the country in an election held during a pandemic, mass anti-vax rallies are planned this week for hospital locations across the country. This at the same time that the Alberta Health Service is teetering on the brink of total collapse because of COVID-19. Hardly a hopeful sign that we’re making progress.
Hope is good, but it requires two things to work: resilience and fortitude. However, too many times in the past 18 months have we been offered hope only to have it snatched away again. We went through strict lockdowns, then the provincial government came up with messages of hope by easing restrictions slightly, only to reinstate the restrictions. Do that too many times and people stop believing the messages. They lose resilience and fortitude – and hope.
All through this campaign, the various parties have been trumpeting about how they can deal with COVID-19 better than their opponents. But this shouldn’t be a political issue. This affects every Canadian in every part of this vast land. So, if the political parties really are concerned about Canadians’ health, why don’t they get together in some form of all-party committee, consult with recognized and independent medical experts, exchange ideas and come up with a co-ordinated plan to end this vile disease. They can worry about who gets the credit later.
Let us end by offering an attempt at a message of hope. As the leaves begin to turn colour and fall, we are reminded that the cruel winds of winter are on their way. But if we all make sure we stay warm and avoid falls on icy sidewalks, we will all welcome the sweet breath of Spring once again.