Gary Horton | Conquer 2 Plagues for Best ‘Normal’

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It’s a funny thing that yesterday’s Signal opinion page featured a column discussing the differences and similarities between the US and Canada – and how neither country will be returning to either of their respective “normals” ever again, post-COVID-19.  

No, we won’t be returning back to the “Happy Days” of pre-COVID. Forgot it. 2019 might as well be a 19-inch black and white TV with five stations that tune in. From work practices to trust in government – everything has changed.  

And interesting about “returning.” It so happens that Carrie and I just returned from Canada ourselves. We’ve boated in the U.S. San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands for decades now. To boaters, this world-renowned archipelago is Mecca – it’s boating heaven on Earth.  

Like the U.S., Canada has its liberal east and west coasts, with a giant, conservative middle section full of cowboys and oilmen…  

We were hanging out on the liberal West Coast in British Columbia, home of super-multicultural Vancouver and its little sister, Victoria. COVID-19 response was everywhere, pervasive, and – enforced. And obeyed, willingly. There, they pretty much have science followers. There, they enforce the science. 

Here, we’re different than Canada. America has politicized a deadly virus, now killing stubborn non-vaccinated, mostly Republicans at nearly 5-1 rate compared to more science-compliant, mostly Democrats. Here, we have one party that’s partially turned crazed death cult, with Donald Trump as cult leader. 

There, science rules. 

We had to be tested within 72 hours of arriving at the border. We had to show our test results and our two vaccination records to get past Canadian Customs. Once inside, it was masks-on – virtually everywhere indoors. Airplanes (of course), airports, transport, stores, restaurants, marinas – you name it. Have a mask on and show the vaccination cards at the door threshold — or turn around and leave. For real. And it wasn’t that darn arduous. 

There, the attitude overwhelmingly is, “Get vaccinated and wear your mask,” to protect the whole of us. Not doing these things is viewed as social irresponsibility during a common crisis. Here, California does much better than most states, Still, we have all our “rugged individuals,” standing up for our “personal freedoms” yet filling our hospital beds… And far worse in “conservative states. Up to five times worse… 

Funny, we’re OK with no smoking in restaurants and public places, yet 30% of us still can’t wrap our compassionate better selves around the idea of helping to keep our neighbors safe from a virus far, far more dangerous today than secondhand smoke. 

We would never think to blow cigarette smoke into a neighbor’s face, but we’re OK breathing, coughing, sneezing, a worldwide, known deadly virus at our neighbors with our bodies outfitted as COVID-19 suicide bombers? God forgive our “rugged individualism protecting our freedoms.” 

Well, in Canada we kept our vaccination cards close at hand and found that compliance with mask rules turns out to be easy stuff. Not that we like masks or “the all of 10-second pause” to show a vaccine card. But all this is a small personal sacrifice for a much greater common good. 

There’s so very much we love about California and the USA. I do wish, however, we could gin up more of Canada’s sense of collective good will. From COVID response, to caring for the vulnerable, we can learn from our northern neighbor, our smaller brother. It’s not hard. Let’s just all do our part to make COVID go away as much as nature and science will allow.  

To tell the truth, the far greatest personal intrusion and bother of our entire trip was getting a darn shuttle bus out of LAX at midnight! 

And returning to L.A., we also returned to L.A.’s biggest single problem: Homelessness.  

Canada just went through a snap election and Justin Trudeau remains and not much changed with their national government. And we just went through a gubernatorial recall election. Gavin Newsom remains and not much changed with state government. But both elections laser focused respective electorates on their respective problems. 

COVID-weary Californians, now long cooped up, are fed-up righteously pissed at the inept statewide and local homeless response. Billions of taxes fully wasted, while the problem grows and politicians talk and hold meetings and set up “Blue Ribbon Commissions.” Blah, blah. 

Tuesday’s Signal columnist is right that everything has changed due to COVID-19. Here in California, our collective patience has changed. We’re over and done with our persistent homelessness plague. We want real, observable action, eliminating homelessness and human degradation in our state. From Newsom down, every politician is on notice that homeless inaction is a one-way ticket back to having to work a real job, requiring real results. 

There’s little homelessness in Victoria, a city nearing 450,000. Folks didn’t take well to “public camping” and political pressure pressed actual, real action to first curb the camping and then cure the cause. It’s not perfect, but it’s improving. 

With California’s Democrat supermajority status, one would think we could unite to get our homeless challenge solved. Our younger brother is making measurable progress. Here, we can, too. Or, Newsom will be packing bags, looking more like a failed Trump than a recall-victorious, successful COVID warrior. 

California is in many ways like B.C., Canada. And with collaboration and focus and community mindedness, we both can and will conquer our two vexations: COVID-19 and homelessness.  

We must, to preserve and enhance the best of what our future’s “normal” can be.  

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board. 



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