by Eirena Birkenfeld
I read with dismay the guest editorial from Robin Littlefield, her account, based on hearsay, of what happened on Monday, Jan. 31 with the protesters who came through Eastsound and entered certain businesses without masks. While personally I did not support those actions, and for that reason did not participate in the protest, I feel it is important to respond to this piece. In the blowback online that came directly after that event, there were accusations that someone among the protesters actually spit on an onlooker, but the person making that accusation was unable or unwilling to say who did the spitting and who was the target. Likewise, now we have Robin spreading rumors that protesters were “ripping the masks off people.”
This is absolutely not true. This kind of hyperbole is a result of the era of blame and hysteria that we are living in at the moment. As Robin admonishes us to “show respect and care for each other” she is spreading alarming, divisive and vilifying rumors about what really happened on that Monday. Even Rick Hughes admitted in his letter that the protesters’ presence in his store lasted only ten minutes. Some people say there were only four people in his store, others say twelve. Details aside, it is not helpful (in fact it is extremely harmful) to paint the protesters in such a light, instead of honestly calling for understanding and perhaps a discussion on these very important topics.
Robin accuses the protesters of making it “all about them” which is also SO not true. Most of the protesters were parents of school-age children and there are very good reasons, based on science, that they would be fearful of school mask and vax mandates for their children. Please JUST STOP framing this so that it is increasingly about ‘us and them’. What we are losing in this pandemic and in our new digital age is the actual ability to have civil discussions, in person, and with equanimity. I propose that there be a town meeting to address this, or a Zoom meeting if people are too fearful to be in the same room with the unvaccinated, even though the stats make it abundantly clear that the vaxxed are just as likely to pass on the virus to others.
One last point: the protesters are not “anti-vaxxers” — they are “pro-choice.” As I said before, and I have said to Rick Hughes, I regret that those actions were taken, but let’s not add fuel to the fire and cause more and more hatred and confusion between friends and families in this community. I am willing to help organize a Zoom meeting if there is anyone out there actually willing to consider a different point of view.