Matthew Reddin

Hello America, From Australia: Freedom From COVID

(City Beach, Australia; Photo by Bella Foster on Unsplash)

In his latest column, Matthew Reddin compares current COVID realities between Australia versus America and the different notions of freedom.

 

Melbourne’s known for many things; sunny, sandy beaches isn’t among them. My family is in Perth, 3,405 km (2,116 miles) away, and because in Perth they’ve gone through the past 18 months basically with COVID cases in no more than double digits at any time, they quite reasonably want no part of our everlasting infectious hoo-ha. And it’s been going on two years since I’ve seen my family and friends over there as a result.

You know what Perth has in legion? Beaches. White, sandy beaches. Blue water. Heat. I’d rather like a bit of that. And, yes, a quiet tipple with my parents. That goes without saying.

But much of this comes down to what people are calling “freedom.”

I’ve often tried to get my head around the more, um, “traditional” American way of viewing things. Life, specifically. (We’re going deep here, huh?) And the seemingly inarguable value and importance of one’s “freedom.” You folks seem to hold it in the highest regard: be it regarding your “freedom” to possess firearms; your “freedom” to say what you want, when you want; or your “freedom” to worship the deity of your choice in the manner of your choosing.

More to the point of late is the “freedom” y’all have latched onto in terms of your collective ability to do what you want, when you want, and not be impinged by big government telling you that you can’t do thing A or attend venue B, without at least having had vaccine C beforehand. Makes some measure of sense, in that you need to be inoculated against tuberculosis to get into a vast array of places, and one cannot even be gay and donate blood (in Australia at least, although that seems to be changing at a snail’s pace). But the government asking you to get a vaccine against a virus is one step too far. Many of you don’t trust big pharma—Pfizer, at least. Merck, the manufacturer of livestock dewormer ivermectin? They’re fine, apparently. Let’s smear that gunk on our toast. To freedom!

It’s been increasingly frustrating here in the Antipodes of late, as our federal leadership didn’t do a good enough deal when it comes to vaccines, and their messaging about who needs what vaccine and when, in order for the numbers of inoculated Australians to be enough for lockdowns to end, has been all over the place. But for the fact that the Delta variant is out there, contagious, and reaping havoc left, right, and center. In the US, it looks as though close to everyone it’s felling are those who have actively chosen to not get vaccinated (“freedom”). Here, it’s a different thing—not enough people have been able to be vaccinated, so we’re locking down. Again.

 

In the US, it looks as though close to everyone [the Delta variant is] felling are those who have actively chosen to not get vaccinated (“freedom”). Here, it’s a different thing—not enough people have been able to be vaccinated, so we’re locking down. Again.

 

I was considering this idea recently, as my home city of Melbourne passed some milestone of days in lockdown (it was 200 or so, but time seems to have no meaning any longer). Should the rate of vaccination improve to the point where anyone who can get one, will get one, that’d be great. Everyone goes back to the pub. If you get sick from COVID from that point, it’s likely that you’ve embraced the notion of “personal freedom” and don’t believe the science, the facts, the stats, the mass graves, or the fact that we’ve spoken of little else since just after the Oscars in 2020 (Parasite, for the record—great film).

We’re still in lockdown here because not enough people are vaccinated, and we don’t want the hospitals to become overrun. But once enough people have the jab, then what? Have at it? Back to normal? I was, for a spell, thinking, Yes. I’d say, “Let ’er rip and let the chips fall where they may.” That those who choose to ignore the science and facts and would think that the whole thing, lock, stock, and AstraZeneca, is a giant international Illuminati conspiracy to have us all brainwashed by 5G nanobots … should these non-believers get sick with COVID—which they seem to be doing at an alarming rate in some of your more Trump-y states—and then demand medical attention on the public purse, should they get it above the needs of a vaccinated person who arrives at the ER with a fish hook in their eyelid?

I’d have said, “No. Fuck ’em,” essentially. But then you must realize that a doctor would be bound by their very profession to treat the car accident victim presenting at the ER, even if said victim ignored the law, the stats, and the science and chose not to wear a seatbelt. It matters not one iota what scientific understanding they possess, the attending doctor’s going to do her/his utmost to bring them back. 200 CCs of whatever George Clooney used to administer on ER. Stat!

Same thing for COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers, sadly. Personally, I have little empathy for such draconian, recalcitrant obstinance. Good thing I’m not a doctor, otherwise I’d just give them a handful of Gwyneth Paltrow’s activated almonds and tell them to make themselves scarce.

The process of not being able to really do much of anything, really, is and has been a long, frustrating, and drawn-out journey. I thankfully live quite comfortably, so I have relatively little to complain about (well-stocked wine rack; a large number of Blu-rays on the shelf; seething contempt for 80% of humanity). There are those I know who live in two-bedroom apartments the size of a shot glass with piss-weak views of fuck all. Imagine 200 days locked in one of those? No, sir.

But it’s not easy. It hasn’t been. We all have our own stories, and the things we long for. I long for the white sandy beaches. The ability to get on an aircraft and go somewhere because you need time off. (I do.) The ability to not have to worry if the plans I made for next week will be canceled at the last minute because someone thought the vaccine was going to give them autism, and then got a cough, ignored it for a week, and thought they’d suck on some horse dewormer instead of seeking medical attention because some hippy idiot on Facebook thought it prudent to share the truth the government doesn’t want you to hear.

Because freedom.

 

Matthew Reddin

Matt Reddin has been writing nonsense about film, TV, books, music, and live theatre for a touch over 20 years. He’s gone from the halcyon days of street press in Perth, to regional dailies, national magazines, and major metropolitan newspapers. Now, in between bouts of sporadically yelling at clouds, he vents his creative spleen at www.lessercolumn.com.au

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