Comparisons are indeed odious. That much can be said when we see historical events, political figures and pretty much anything else of a political or historical nature being lumped with one another. These comparisons can be applied to any other field quite frankly, be it culture, socio-economics or any other field for that matter. At face value, these comparisons may very seem valid, but digging deeper shows that they are in fact riddled with simplifications and historical illiteracy.
Specifically, this entails boiling down complex issues or events for them to appear as if they can be easily explained and attempting to hold up historical events alongside one another when the context in which they occurred and the individuals who participated in them are completely different.
What I’m coming to now is what has been dominating the airwaves for quite a while, this being the sight of people protesting against the public health measures which have been introduced in relation to combatting and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. These measures include the presentation of vaccine certificates (otherwise also known as vaccine passports) to gain entry to private or public establishments, mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces, and the need to be administered the vaccine against COVID-19 against others.
It’s important to note that the last of these measures hasn’t been made mandatory in Malta but is necessary as a means of preventing and reducing the transmission of COVID-19 within the community and to serve as a means of protection against infection and bolster one’s immunity against COVID-19. At a surface level, all these measures sound like pragmatic and ideal incentives designed to defeat the pandemic. However, as I stated before, these measures haven’t gone unopposed and have also been met with public demonstrations.
As has been the case across the world, Malta has been no exception seeing individuals protesting vaccine passports and mandatory vaccinations opting to wear a yellow star whilst protesting. The yellow star, officially known as a yellow badge in the form of the ‘Star of David’, has historically been used as a mark of shame aimed at singling out and identifying Jewish people, with this symbol gaining notoriety during the Nazi occupation of Europe, and when Nazi Germany forced the Jewish population of the countries which it invaded and annexed to wear it as a mark of shame.
This time, however, it’s not Jewish people who we see walking through the street wearing yellow stars. Instead, it’s what we’ve popularly come to refer to as ‘Anti-vaxxers’, whom we’re seeing marching in the streets of Valletta and dawning the yellow badge on their jackets. To do so is suggesting that unvaccinated people are a persecuted and stigmatised group, with them facing discrimination and bigotry on a constant basis. I tend to disagree, and what follows is my view on the matter, which naturally anyone is free to agree or disagree with, just as much as anti-Vaxxers are perfectly entitled to their own views at the end of the day as well.
To start off with, it’s a prime example of backward minded thinking to voluntarily choose to wear a mark of shame to claim that you’re being persecuted, when the members of the religious denomination associated with that symbol had no other choice but to wear it since the Nazis had forced them to do so. It must really take a lot of audacity to describe yourself as being a victim of persecution when the people who wore the yellow badge eventually faced a far worse fate in the form of the Holocaust. The mere comparison of the public health measures currently being introduced to the genocidal atrocity which was the Holocaust, is not only mired in historical illiteracy but is also a grave insult towards the victims of the Nazi regime.
The same can be said in relation to the claim that the introduction of these public health measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing, lockdowns, quarantine and self-isolation periods, and the vaccine rollout itself, are all slippery slopes towards an authoritarian dictatorship and are gradually stripping us of our rights and freedoms as citizens.
I for one don’t think these measures, which are truly a necessary inconvenience in order to safeguard public health and the common good, can ever be equated to being a form of fascism, authoritarianism or oppression. Additionally, the nature of a pandemic is that it is something that will come and go. Someone’s identity and immutable traits don’t. I’m not referring to those who have chosen to remain unvaccinated, as they have every right to do so. I’m referring to minorities who have throughout history have faced incessant bigotry simply because of who they are. You can’t control your race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, or ethnicity, as it is an immutable part of your identity, and ought to be treated with the dignity and respect which it deserves. However, you can control choosing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or refusing to do so.
Since I’ve gone through all the differences which I think are of pivotal importance in tackling this phenomenon, I can confirm that comparisons would indeed be odious if I ever had to believe in the ones which I laid out myself. What is different from what I discussed though, is that being a Maltese unvaccinated person won’t get you transported to a concentration camp. On the other hand, being a Jewish person living in Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1940s did.
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