By DENIS WALSH
City Councillor, Kamloops
AS A CITY COUNCILLOR, I have seen the extreme tensions, emotions and overt hostilities that have arisen in Kamloops in various ways because of COVID-19 issues.
I am writing this column with the hope we can come together as community members and make more of an effort to respect each other.
If there is one thing about COVID that we can all probably agree on, it is that it is going to be with us for quite some time, so we had better learn to live with it — and with each other — in the process.
It is absolutely critical that we keep conversational channels open at this time, reducing emotional hostilities at every opportunity.
I have some concerns about certain aspects of public health policies and believe hospitals should be sacred ground, as staff and patients deserve the right to safety and easy access.
I admit to having at times getting caught up in fixed positions being presented by one side or another in debate on government policies, which are radically changing life as we have known it, without much opportunity for anyone to question.
But I am now realizing that getting locked into a fixed position is not healthy for me or those around me, and how important it is to continue to pay close attention to the ever-changing realities of this COVID world and stay engaged in the community conversation as it evolves.
It is easy to label or dismiss people with opposing opinions, but when we paint all of them as hillbillies, tin foil hatters or uneducated, then we become part of the problem.
I’ve met many intelligent people on both sides: employees in the hospitality sector, educators and those working for Interior Health.
But if they find themselves in the minority, they fear speaking out and they fear losing employment or being ostracized in their profession or community.
Before COVID, they were us, our neighbours.
Dialogue, rather than debate, can be a communication tool that allows people to understand other viewpoints without pitting themselves against each others’ different perspectives.
With respectful dialogue, there is no defending opinions, no counterpoints; instead, you listen to their viewpoint.
I am promising myself to stay open-minded when hearing what my friends and fellow community members need to express and not attempt to force my own views on anyone else.
I am very concerned when seeing how community COVID dialogue seems to be gravitating toward loud and abrasive monologues that discourage further communication and I am fearful of the long-term consequences to our beautiful community.
I accept that there is a lot of uncertainty and fear that is helping create this unwholesome scenario, but I am encouraging people to nevertheless make an effort to honour inclusivity, civility and mutual respect without judgment in all words and actions as we go forward.
We are all in this together, but we are in many different boats. We all want our loved ones safe, able to work and for this pandemic to end as soon as possible.
On this journey, we need to take care of ourselves and each other. Eating well, sleeping well and taking care of our mental and physical health is crucial now, more than ever before.
We need healthy dialogue and healthy people to grow and thrive in our community.
Take good care of yourselves.
Denis Walsh is a Kamloops City councillor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.