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We are in the same canoe

A friend who works for the county was using his cell phone to record some video of a rally in front of the Wailuku State Office Building recently when he found himself surrounded.

“Take off your mask,” shouted a woman. “This is a maskless demonstration, why are you wearing a mask?” demanded another.

Our friend explained that he had as much right to wear a mask as they did not to while protesting outside. In the course of his duties, he has since had other interactions with people against mask requirements and vaccine mandates. Wednesday, he said he received his first death threat.

These sorts of interactions are going to be studied by researchers for decades to come. We are living through a supersized experiment that will provide endless fodder for case studies in disciplines such as sociology, medicine, politics, economics and religion.

Will University of Hawaii Maui College students in the 2040s be tasked with discerning when and why the aloha spirit died on this island? Will they find it succumbed to a homegrown movement, a new my-way-or-the-highway attitude, or that outside influences played a guiding hand?

Maui has been a live and let live community for a long time. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. As long as nobody gets hurt, we can respect each other’s choices and get along.

Therein lies the rub. Science says vaccines and masks are the main tools for containing the pandemic. So far, 4.55 million people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, with 668,000 deaths in the United States and 80 in Maui County. The delta variant is fueling surges around the world, and new, perhaps even peskier, variants loom on the horizon. Worried health experts predict the pandemic may grind on for years to come.

A majority of folks hear that news and wonder what they can do to protect themselves, their family and their community. Get a jab? Sure. Wear a mask in the grocery store? OK.

And then there are those who see scientists and government leaders as misguided Chicken Littles running around screaming, “the sky is falling.” There is no denying the passion of their convictions or their right to express them.

Nobody likes to have privileges taken away. Suddenly vaccination status decides who can eat inside restaurants and who can play high school sports. It is understandable that those who reject vaccines feel picked on, because, in many ways, they are. The mandates are designed to induce them to conform.

It is all too easy to reject opinions that do not match our own, but this is an island. No matter how much we disagree, we are all in the canoe together. All sides need to keep that in mind before tossing threats around.

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