bookmark_borderOn death, grief, and loss

As everyone knows, dying is an inevitable part of life. I remember the moment I first realized this. I was five, and I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep and mulling over various topics. I knew intellectually that everyone eventually dies, but until that moment it hadn’t fully hit me exactly what that entailed. Somehow, at that moment, I came to the realization that one day, I would completely cease to exist. It would be like I was asleep, but permanent. I would not be conscious ever again. The events of the world would go on, but I would not be around to witness them. The entirety of what it meant to be me – seeing, feeling, thinking, perceiving – would come to an end.

That thought disturbed me tremendously. It caused a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. After a while, I fell asleep. Although I never again dedicated significant amounts of time to focusing on that realization, the knowledge of my mortality has been around ever since, an ominous presence lurking in the back of my mind.

Last October, my grandfather passed away. He was 91, had lived a full life, and suffered from various medical conditions that were gradually growing worse and reducing his quality of life. Over the past four months, my mom has struggled with this loss more than I have (not surprising since it is usually considered a bigger loss to lose a parent than a grandparent). One day she asked me how I was able to handle my grandfather’s death without getting sad. I thought this over for a while and then answered:

For me, Papa’s death is not truly a loss. First of all, because his medical conditions caused him so much discomfort and so many limitations, he is better off dead than continuing with that same quality of life. But more than that, the experiences that I’ve had with Papa are not gone. The memories of playing poker, watching football, and going to the racetrack with him, are still inside me. They always will be. Papa’s death means, of course, that no new experiences with Papa will take place. No more memories will be added to the collection. But that is okay. I am happy with the existing collection of experiences and memories, and that collection remains intact.

Papa dressed as Napoleon for my 13th birthday

My feelings about the loss of my grandfather stand in sharp contrast with my feelings about the destruction of historical statues and monuments that has taken place over the past two years. Although I love my grandfather very much, the latter has proven far more painful for me. I think often about the reasons why this might be the case. Why am I not able to view the deaths of the statues that I love in the same way that I view the death of Papa?

Perhaps it is because statues, unlike human beings, are supposed to last forever. They are not supposed to die. The loss of them was not a possibility that I ever considered I might one day have to deal with. Perhaps it is because, unlike my grandfather who died of natural causes, the statues were killed on purpose. Perhaps it is because, with the exception of the statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston, I had not actually seen these statues in person. The knowledge that they existed was enough to fill me with happiness. I intended to visit them eventually but hadn’t yet made specific travel plans. Now, because people decided to brutally and selfishly destroy them, I will never get to view these monuments, photograph them, take in the atmosphere surrounding them, or simply be in their presence. Now, I am robbed of the ability to ever have those experiences. I am robbed of exciting and interesting things to look forward to, robbed of any desire to explore the world around me, and robbed of hope for the future.

Maybe one day the anguish, grief, and rage that I feel will fade into the background and become bearable. Maybe there will be more days when I am able to go about my routine with lightness in my heart and images of beauty in my mind, and fewer days when I am completely beaten down by the leaden, sickening feeling of overwhelming injustice and loss. But more than one year and eight months after these disastrous events began, that has not yet happened. For now, the pain continues unabated.

bookmark_borderTo the person who hacked GiveSendGo

Recently, a despicable excuse for a human being (or group of despicable excuses for human beings) decided to attack and forcibly shut down the fundraising website GiveSendGo due to the fact that GiveSendGo is used to raise money for pro-individual-rights causes. If this sounds completely despicable, that’s because it is.

The normal GiveSendGo home page was temporarily replaced with a video that stated the following:

“Attention GiveSendGo grifters and hatriots: The Canadian government has informed you that the money you assholes raised to fund an insurrection is frozen. TD Bank has frozen several accounts. You helped fund the January 6th insurrection in the US. You helped fund an insurrection in Ottawa. In fact, you are committed to funding anything that keeps the raging fire of misinformation going until that it (sic) burns the world’s collective democracies down. On behalf of sane people worldwide who wish to continue living in a democracy, I am now telling you that GiveSendGo itself is frozen. A convoy of trucks to protest vaccine requirements?”

At this point, I was unable to stomach reading any more of this morally grotesque message, so I stopped. 

The fact that this incident was allowed to occur exemplifies the appalling state of our world, in which individual liberty is attacked and ridiculed, while compliance and conformity are worshipped and fetishized. Bigotry is called inclusion, uniformity is called diversity, freedom is called authoritarianism, racism is called anti-racism, and fascism is called anti-fascism. 

There are so many things wrong with this despicable message, not to mention the hacker’s despicable actions, that it is difficult to know where to begin.

First of all, people protesting against vaccine mandates are neither grifters, nor “hatriots,” nor assholes. 

Second, the hacker’s sentiments about “insurrection” demonstrate utter mindlessness and moral bankruptcy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is nothing intrinsically bad about an insurrection. An insurrection is a rebellion against authority. When authority is acting unjustly, which it currently is in almost every country in the world, an insurrection is a good thing, not a bad thing. An insurrection is brave, heroic, and honorable. Both the January 6th protesters and the Freedom Convoy truckers should be lauded and supported, not insulted and ridiculed, for they are fighting back against unjust authority. It may well be true that users of GiveSendGo have helped to fund insurrections. But the fact that someone would presume this to be a bad thing says more about that person than it does about the causes to which GiveSendGo users donate. Specifically, it says that the person is an authoritarian. It says that the person values compliance with authority, as opposed to individuality, justice, or thinking for oneself. Any person who uses the word “insurrection” as an insult is presuming that rebelling against authority is intrinsically bad, which means that said person is devoid of an independent mind, devoid of a moral compass, and devoid of a soul. 

In addition to this, I am incredibly disturbed by the sentiments about “sane people” who “wish to continue living in a democracy.” Why is living in a democracy considered to be a good thing, anyway? A democracy is simply a society in which people elect their leaders. Just as there is nothing intrinsically bad about an insurrection, there is nothing about this method of choosing leaders that makes it inherently superior to others. Going along with the all-too-common mindset that compliance is good and rebellion bad, the despicable excuse for a human being who hacked GiveSendGo clearly holds the (also all-too-common) mindset that democracy is what matters and not individual rights. This “person” ridicules the idea of a convoy of trucks protesting against vaccine requirements, something that every person should not only not ridicule, but actively support. This “person” considers living in a democracy – a neutral state – to be of paramount importance while dismissing the right to make medical decisions about one’s own body – a fundamental requirement for having a life that is worth living – as frivolous and unimportant. Wishing to live in a democracy where people are forced to undergo medical procedures against their will is not sane; it is morally repugnant. If the world’s collective democracies implement policies that require people to get a medical procedure as a condition of being allowed to participate in public life, then they deserve to burn down. Yet unfortunately, abhorrent views like those of the hacker(s) have become the majority, establishment, mainstream views of our society, and those who hold them control the narrative, the framing of the debate, and all of our major institutions. 

In conclusion, not only are the actions of the hacker(s) morally wrong because they demonstrate intolerance for the viewpoints of others; they are morally wrong on an even deeper level, because the viewpoint being held in such contempt is in reality the only morally acceptable viewpoint on the issue in question. The viewpoint being held in such contempt is the viewpoint that people should not be forced to undergo medical procedures against their will. That is a viewpoint with which everyone should be in unanimous agreement. Causes such as the Freedom Convoy should not even be considered controversial, let alone considered so unacceptable that hackers take it upon themselves to forcibly shut down any fundraising platforms that fail to discriminate against such causes. The actions of the hacker(s) are so morally reprehensible that they shock the conscience. I do not exaggerate when I say that these actions leave me sick to my stomach, shaking, struggling to breathe, and searching with mixed success for words strong enough to accurately convey my horror, rage, and disgust. It is difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that a human being (or worse, multiple human beings) would actually choose to act this way. 

The best I can do is to say that the person (or people) who decided to forcibly shut down a website for allowing money to be raised for causes with which said person disagrees is the true asshole. That person is the true grifter. That person is the one who is truly filled with hate. That person is the epitome of bigotry, intolerance, brutality, cruelty, nastiness, authoritarianism, and mindless conformity. That person is utter scum and deserves to be sentenced to death and to burn in hell for the rest of time. 

bookmark_borderThe immorality of the Canadian government

It shouldn’t even need to be stated that the actions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government in response to the Freedom Convoy are morally wrong. Trudeau recently requested, and the Canadian Parliament granted him, emergency powers, which give him the ability, among other things, to freeze citizens’ bank accounts and seize their funds.

I am on the email list of the Campaign for Liberty, and they (correctly) wrote in a recent email: “This has shocking implications for free speech. In an instant, Canada went from a nation that honors free speech to a nation where the government can seize citizens’ property, savings, and livelihood for even donating to an effort whose viewpoints fall outside the accepted norm… We are talking about the government taking everything from working-class families – just for supporting free speech. The chilling effect it will have is obvious – and that’s the point.”

The Canadian government’s actions do indeed violate the fundamental right to freedom of speech. For people to be punished with financial destruction for the “crime” of political dissent is despicable. But that is not the worst thing about these actions. The situation becomes even more morally problematic when one considers the fact that the protesters being targeted by these brutal measures are not just any protesters. They are particularly honorable and brave protesters, and their cause is as worthy and morally right as any cause that can be imagined. For these protesters are demonstrating against government policies that force people to undergo medical procedures against their will.

It is entirely correct to condemn the seizing of people’s money for expressing viewpoints that fall outside the accepted norm. But the even bigger problem is the fact that the viewpoints in question fall outside the accepted norm in the first place. In a morally decent society, everyone would be in agreement that the government should not force people to undergo medical procedures. In a morally decent society, the viewpoints of the Freedom Convoy and its supporters would be within the accepted norm, not outside it. In a morally decent society, support for vaccine mandates would be outside the accepted norm, and those who advocate for medical procedures to be forced on their fellow citizens would be the ones facing the possibility of having their bank accounts frozen and assets seized. 

The atrocities happening in Canada are immoral because of their chilling effect on free speech, but they are even more immoral because of the content of the speech that is being suppressed. The members of the Freedom Convoy are standing up for people’s rights to make their own medical decisions. Speech in support of this cause is exactly what the world desperately needs more of, and protests and demonstrations in support of this cause should be unanimously supported. Punishing people for expressing their views is unquestionably wrong, but punishing people for expressing these views is even more wrong. No viewpoint is less deserving of punishment, less deserving of suppression, and less deserving of being chilled, than opposition to vaccine mandates.

The fact that we live in a world where support for forced medical procedures is the accepted norm is beyond disturbing. The actions of Trudeau and the Canadian Parliament are horrific not only because they are an assault on freedom of speech in general, but also because they are an assault specifically on people who are standing up for bodily autonomy and medical freedom.

bookmark_borderIncreased vaccination rates are nothing to celebrate

Recently I saw a video of a press conference during which, about a week after Boston implemented a vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms, theaters, museums, and sporting events, city officials praised the resulting increase in the city’s vaccination rate. The mayor and public health officials used words such as “hopeful” and “encouraging” to describe this state of affairs.

“I would say there is quite a bit of reason to be ‘hopeful.’ For several weeks in December and into early January, our vaccination rates didn’t increase. More recently we have seen a significant increase in vaccination uptake. From the first or second week, we noticed a 36% increase…”

(source: Massachusetts Says No)

In my opinion, there is nothing to celebrate in this situation. Essentially, city leaders introduced a policy forcing people to do something, and then shortly after the policy went into effect, they brag about the fact that the policy succeeded in forcing people to do the thing. 

Forcing people to do something – or coercing people, or bullying people, or pressuring people – is not good. It is not something that anyone should be bragging about. It is not something that anyone should be celebrating. It is not hopeful. It is not encouraging.

Since May 2021, the Covid vaccine has been easily available to anyone who wishes to get it. It is highly likely that the people who received the vaccine in mid January did so not because they wanted to, but because of the mandate that went into effect on January 15.

Each and every instance of someone getting a medical procedure that they don’t really want is a tragedy. The fact that so many people seem to have gotten the Covid vaccine as a result of the city’s mandate makes my heart sick. The thought of people feeling reluctant to get the vaccine, but feeling that they have no choice but to get it, is depressing and demoralizing. No one should ever have to face a situation in which they have to get a medical procedure in order to keep their job, participate in an activity, or go about their everyday life. 

The fact that Mayor Wu and her administration consider this situation to be “hopeful” and “encouraging” is sickening, perverted, and grotesque.

bookmark_borderA protest is not a temper tantrum

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people refer to a protest with which they disagree as a “temper tantrum.”

An example of this is a recent opinion piece describing the Freedom Convoy as a “mass temper tantrum” (via Instagram).

First of all, I’m not sure why this columnist decided to point out that the convoy “won’t end the pandemic.” The goal of the protest isn’t to end the pandemic; it’s to end government policies that violate people’s rights. By pointing out that a pro-freedom protest won’t end the pandemic, this columnist is (falsely) presuming the truth of what they are trying to prove, namely that ending the pandemic is the only thing that matters, that no goals other than ending the pandemic might possibly exist, and that anything that does not contribute towards ending the pandemic is purposeless. 

Second and more importantly, how exactly is a protest a “mass temper tantrum”? The fact that a particular person does not agree with a protest does not make that protest a temper tantrum. A temper tantrum is a specific thing, not simply any protest with which someone disagrees. The fact that someone would use this term to characterize a protest against government policies that take away people’s rights to make their own medical decisions is absolutely despicable. It is also hypocritical, because somehow I doubt that any of those calling the Freedom Convoy a “temper tantrum” used the same words to describe the BLM riots during which people violently destroyed irreplaceable works of art because a police officer killed someone who happened to be black (a situation in which the phrase “temper tantrum” would be a lot more appropriate).

The practice of calling a protest with which one disagrees a “temper tantrum” needs to end yesterday. It is completely unacceptable, and anyone who does it should be immediately fired.

(By the way, with regards to the member of the Freedom Convoy who was photographed holding a Confederate flag, I agree with the Virginia Flaggers, who wrote that the flag is “a universal symbol of rebellion against tyranny.”)