Recently, the word coerced seems to weave through many conversations. As in, “I don’t want to be coerced.” People say they don’t want to be coerced to get a vaccine. They don’t want to be coerced to wear a mask when inside public spaces. They don’t want to be coerced to take a test to see if they are ill. I try to put this in context as I travel. While in the tourist mode, I read an article about the alarming escalation of violence on planes, people’s response to not wanting to be coerced to wear masks. The Atlantic recently did an article, “What’s Really Behind Global Vaccine Hesitancy.” It was disheartening to realize the vaccination rate in my northwest Montana county is equivalent to the rate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I want people in both places to be healthy. Is this really too much to ask?
All sorts of reasons are given for refusals, or to explain what coercion means in the time of Covid. Distrust of medical science, distrust of governments. Someone posted on social media, “The letter ‘i’ is not in the word team, but is in the word independence.” It is a challenge to understand individuals making choices for themselves, when they don’t see the need to make choices within the context of their community.
It feels like an onion with more layers than I can possibly manage (I so admire Heather Cox Richardson), because there is also the political context. I noticed myself breathing easier in Berlin where Covid testing was available and free in many places, and proof of vaccines as well as negative test results were required to go into theaters and museums. Visiting friends in the Czech Republic, I hear that yes, restaurants ask to see proof but it is easy to provide false proof that allows you in. And reading the news, I follow the controversy where a legislator in the US proposed unvaccinated patients pay their own hospital bills – which is a rabbit hole we don’t need to go down. At the same time, I want hospital beds to be available for people with heart attacks or appendicitis, broken hips or C-sections. I don’t want healthcare providers to be exhausted.
It isn’t easy. Not for me (traveling with valid proof of vaccine), nor for those deciding not to get vaccinated, and certainly not for those who don’t have access to vaccines. The other day I saw an exhibit at the Moravian Gallery in Brno. The installation, “Demon of Growth” by Kristof Kintera , captures this time. All sorts of balls from golf balls to beach balls, Christmas balls to children’s balls, some beat up, some shiny. All connected. If only.
“Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place” Naomi Shulman (2019)
“Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued” Petr Sis (2021)
“The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries” Topher Payne (2020)