“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Anyone familiar with Charles Dickens who has ventured beyond Ebenezer Scrooge and A Christmas Carol will recognize the opening quote as the first words of “A Tale of Two Cities” and as an accurate description of the world as it was as it shivered in the dark ferocity of the French Revolution – and of the world we live in today.
As we stumble toward the end of 2020, we realize those opening words sound like a nervous echo from the 1700s. History books would describe the brutally violent re-birth of France as a Republic as “The Terror.”
True, we don’t have murderous mobs ranging through neighbouring city streets seeking to replace a government by force, but we have been made aware in recent months how close we have come; and how close we remain to an armed revolt by factions who believe it the best way to solve problems.
If concern about a peaceful resolution of our neighbour’s recent presidential election was all we had to worry about, it would be enough. Unfortunately, it is just an addition to a list that has as its number-one threat a monster named COVID-19 that so clearly indicates where Canada and the world stand with 2021 just around the corner. A few days ago, it was estimated COVID-19 had claimed the lives of thousands of Canadians but hard on its heels came the promise of a new vaccine. The news filled us with cautious hope, but not for long. As Dickens wrote about other troubled times, dark clouds often obscure the sun.
So, a vaccine is on the way – but it may take some time before it gets down to plain folks like you and me. There can be no complaint about the decision to provide the first protective shields to frontline workers who have stayed at their dangerous posts to provide care to the stricken and extended protection to the rest of us.
News of vaccines fill those of us who believe in science with hope, but we must have the courage to accept that, in the immediate future, the vaccine’s promise comes with days of waiting, each one a little harder to bear than the last.
What about those who oppose vaccinations of any kind? A tough question. Conscientious objection should certainly be tolerated in a truly free democracy. But, do we tolerate the objector when a proven defence against this deadly pandemic is rejected, and the denier provides lethal transmission to others?
I think I shall opt gratefully for vaccination if/when the choice is offered, although I suffer qualms about its protection being offered to 90-year-olds before much younger parents. At 97 two days after Christmas I’m not yet anxious to end my run, but if it ever comes to a triage choice we old guys should be more than willing to give way to those young enough to survive Covid 19 and lead the world to happier times.