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This week we marked the third anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. The inevitable flurry of articles and media interviews included a degree of what is known as revisionism, an attempt, to a certain extent, to rewrite the events of those Spring days : was the lockdown too severe? Did it go on too long? Was it an unwarranted intrusion on our freedoms as citizens? The fact that these questions can be asked openly is a sign of a healthy civil society and to that extent the questions are to be welcomed. I think, though, that there are (at least) two problems with such revisionism.
The first is that it necessarily operates in retrospect: if only we had known then what we know now would we have been as acquiescent in our adherence to the rules imposed by the government? Perhaps; perhaps not. But the fact is we didn’t know then what we know now. The decisions taken by the government at the time were based on the best evidence then available. Nobody (to coin an expression) had a crystal ball. The second problem with taking a revisionist approach is that it runs the real risk of diminishing the experience of those for whom Covid-19 brought devastating consequences: the death of loved ones unaccompanied by the comfort of human touch or voice; the funerals with only a handful of mourners; the weeks and months of isolation because of underlying vulnerabilities. Many people still live with the after-effects of these human tragedies, and we do them no service if we engage in the (ultimately futile) rewriting of history.
The years since the bitter Brexit debates of 2016 have brought a coarseness to our public discourse that demeans us all. If the Covid-19 pandemic taught us anything, it is that human kindness and mutual respect is a more powerful way of ordering our common life than petty point-scoring or mudslinging. It would do none of us any good if such behaviour were to infect our conversations about the pandemic itself. Better by far to heed St Paul’s advice to the young church at Colossae: clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, meekness, humility and patience. May it be so.
With love and prayers.
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