It would be convenient to blame covid-19 or Donald Trump, but the problem started long before either became a national blight. Back in 2013, studies were warning that “civility in America continues to disintegrate and rude behavior is becoming the ‘new normal.’” The report “Civility in America 2019” found that 93 percent of Americans identified incivility as a problem; 68 percent considered it a “major” one, and 74 percent thought it was getting worse.
“Incivility,” which one associates with minor social infractions or foul language, doesn’t really capture the enormity of the crisis, though. Airline passengers assaulting flight attendants, parents threatening school board members, customers haranguing store clerks or fellow shoppers — these have all become common occurrences. Scholarly studies document increased hostility in the workplace, too.
Author and columnist Tom Nichols has been writing for years about “a long trend of rising narcissism and a sense of entitlement that was enabled by peace, prosperity, and rapidly improving living standards.” We’ve become impatient, selfish, self-absorbed and increasingly violent — all before the pandemic. The coronavirus merely worsened the problem by fueling a surge in mental and stress-related illness.
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Our expectations (instant, perfect service, no matter how unreasonable the demand) are out of whack not only with pandemic-stricken America but really any society under the best of conditions. Flights get canceled. Stores run out of merchandise. Obscure items take time to get delivered. Our capacity for inconvenience is as small as our national attention span — and both have been shrunk by social media that prods us to anger. For every Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene banned from Twitter, there’s an army of equally offensive users.
Understandably, parents have been frustrated by school shutdowns. But fury at schools is disproportionate and entirely unfair. Imagine if schools had continued in person pre-vaccine and children had died.
Monday-morning quarterbacking and I-told-you-so invective are practically national pastimes. Solutions to unprecedented and complicated problems are somehow supposed to be self-evident and come without adverse consequences of their own. And sure enough, the media and public will become incensed when political leaders turn out to lack clairvoyance.
Elected officials should set a better of example on the civility, tolerance and decency front. But keep in mind that craven politicians more often than not follow the herd. They race to catch up to the unhinged mob, aping the public’s vulgarity, rudeness and proclivity for violence. (Hence, Ivy League-educated senators sound like angry country bumpkins and campaign ads depicting candidates shooting something become commonplace.)
Blame the decline in religious faith or the proliferation of cringe-worthy entertainment. Blame Mark Zuckerberg. Blame parents for not parenting, teachers for not teaching and ministers for not ministering. But ultimately, adults are responsible for their own conduct. And if we can no longer muster enough self-restraint, empathy, civic-mindedness, self-discipline and rationality to navigate ordinary interactions, responsible self-governance will remain out of reach.
Unless we all shape up, demand better of ourselves and others, and reassert basic social norms, democracy and social cohesion will continue to unravel.
New documents show census officials concerned about political interference from Trump's Commerce Department – CNN
(CNN)Newly released documents appear to show top career officials at the Census Bureau had drafted a memo of concerns during the Trump administration’s attempts to exert political pressure on the bureau during the 2020 population count.
Perspective | Religious opposition to vaccines is rooted in politics, not tradition – The Washington Post
The court questioned President Biden’s legal authority to impose a mandate, placing decisions in the hands of businesses, individuals and state governments rather than the federal government. But the court notably avoided adjudicating the claim that vaccine mandates violate religious liberty — an assertion passionately deployed by religious opponents of vaccines.
Religious exemptions to vaccinations, however, have generally lacked a coherent basis, and those seeking them for coronavirus vaccination face an uphill battle. Religious beliefs have not historically been used as a justification to avoid vaccination, and the recent emergence of religious-based exemptions — animated by partisan politics, fear and debunked scientific studies — is an anomaly. This is not surprising, given that getting vaccinated (to protect yourself and others, especially the most vulnerable) fits neatly into the moral logic of the world’s major religions. This is one reason Pope Francis has called getting vaccinated against the coronavirus an “act of love.”
Mandated public health measures date to the beginning of American history. During the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington required his troops to be inoculated against smallpox, a process that involved exposing people to the smallpox virus itself. The goal was to produce a mild infection to build immunity, but it carried a non-trivial risk of serious illness or death. Where people objected to inoculation, their concerns were rooted in the potential physical risks.
The first official vaccine mandate in the United States was an 1809 Massachusetts law that granted local health officials the authority to require vaccination against smallpox. Vaccination was safer than inoculation — it consisted of cowpox, a related but less dangerous virus that conferred cross-immunity for smallpox — but it was not without risk, either, and again this inspired some wariness toward it.
Early vaccine hesitancy was thus largely animated by fear of immunization itself. Opposition centered on the claim that the state was forcing individuals to undertake a treatment that was potentially dangerous or, at least, ineffective. And though there were early and small pockets of religious hostility to vaccines, the concept of a “religious exemption” effectively did not exist, and it wouldn’t for some time.
Religious support for vaccinations began to build in the 20th century. After Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1955, many religious believers viewed vaccinations as a gift from God. John Fea, a historian at Messiah University, recently marveled over how newspapers from the 1950s and 1960s chronicled religious leaders of all faiths and denominations, “including evangelical Christians,” talking about the polio vaccine “as a special gift” from God to fight disease.
And this made sense. Before the development of the vaccine, polio ravaged the United States, killing 3,000 children and paralyzing thousands more in 1952 alone. If you were a parent living in the 1950s who viewed the world through a religious prism, it was hard to interpret Salk’s medical innovation in any other way.
But by the 1990s, widespread vaccine hesitancy grounded in religious reasons emerged, growing out of popular anti-vaccine movements that were not religious in nature. Spearheaded by disgraced former physician Andrew Wakefield and endorsed by B-list celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, these movements emphasized the supposed “impurity” of vaccines and the imagined (and sometimes fabricated) risks they posed to children.
The message resonated with some religious communities. Among these groups, vaccine ingredients were objects of particular scrutiny, and anything “unnatural” was seen as a threat to the sacredness of the human body: If your “body is a temple,” everything that enters it needs to be aboveboard.
In the face of this worrying trend, religious authorities of various faiths continue to encourage vaccination, but evidently to limited effect. Today, as we struggle through the worst pandemic in a hundred years, the reality we face is as grim as ever. The people who are vaccine-hesitant no longer constitute a small minority, and more and more are claiming religious exemptions.
As soon as coronavirus vaccine mandates were announced this past summer, affected people petitioned their employers for religious exemptions in droves. A recent survey suggests that as many as 3 in 10 unvaccinated Americans have sought a religious exemption from the coronavirus vaccines. White evangelicals have proved particularly resistant. A Pew Research Center survey from September indicated that up to 40 percent had declined the shot, the highest of any religious group surveyed.
White evangelicals also exemplify the growing politicization of religious identity. They are among the most steadfast supporters of the Republican Party, and around 80 percent voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. This makes it difficult to discern whether individuals are seeking a coronavirus vaccine exemption for a “sincerely held” religious or philosophical belief or oppose vaccination for political or ideological reasons. There is already emerging evidence that flu vaccine uptake has become a partisan issue, indicating that the blending of religious and political beliefs could create serious public health problems in the future.
The trend may be reversible if religious conservatives begin to dissociate their views on vaccines from their political identity. If they look to the moral reasoning and sources of authority within their traditions, they will hear a message on vaccines that differs considerably from those on offer by many Republican leaders. Building on a long history of religious support for vaccination, the message might go something like this: “For the love of God, don’t seek religious exemptions from vaccines.”
Trailblazer for Women in Canadian Politics, Alexa McDonough, Passes Away at Age 77 – VOCM
A trailblazer for women in Canadian politics has passed away.
Alexa McDonough died this morning at the age of 77 after battling Alzheimer’s Disease.
McDonough made history in 1980, becoming the first female to lead a major political party when she became the leader of the Nova Scotia New Democrat Party, a position she would hold for 14 years.
She would go on to lead the Federal New Democrats in 1995, helping the NDP grow to 21 seats in the House of Commons during her tenure.
She was the recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia.
McDonough will be remembered as a champion for gender equality and social development and programs, as well as a relentless optimist, earning her the nickname, “Iron Angel”.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a celebration of life will occur at a later date.
The passing of Alexa McDonough is an extraordinary loss for our country. The impact she had, history she made, and barriers she broke for women cannot be overstated. My thoughts are with her family, friends, colleagues, and all who were inspired by her lifetime of public service.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 15, 2022
Today is a sad day for Canada.
Alexa Mcdonough was the first woman to lead a major political party in Canada.
She dedicated her life to social justice, championed women in politics, and never backed down from a challenge.
We’ll miss her dearly.
Rest in power Alexa. pic.twitter.com/kcybh7DuoU
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) January 15, 2022
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