I'm a political junkie who has stayed far away from politics over the last few months in my social media. Politics, the one thing I love more in the world, literally drains me every time it is brought up.
18 months ago, Australia, alongside the rest of the world, was thrown into a war we did not see coming. A war against an invisible enemy - a virus.
We have had to learn to ration, only leave the house for essential reasons for our own safety and find ways to protect our most vulnerable population. We are seeing many 'injured' and many casualties.
My partner wanted to make breakfast for me during the first week in Canberra's most recent lockdown. "I'll just go down to the shops," he volunteered. I stared at him like he'd grown two heads.
"Are you insane?" I asked. "It's too dangerous."
I know our safety from other humans is fine - we're not in a war that is being perpetrated by people, and I am grateful for that. But I still put myself in that mindset to protect myself.
I am unvaccinated. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I have not been eligible in my age bracket. Secondly, clinical trials for people suffering from autoimmune disease were not published until recently, so even if I were eligible, I would have waited for those trials to be published.
My vaccination status makes me vulnerable. I will survive without a cooked breakfast for a week or two if it means I can keep myself alive.
We have been so lucky in Australia. Second to New Zealand, we have the lowest death rate per million out of any OECD country. This does not discount the pain almost 1,000 people and their families in Australia have experienced losing a life to this virus.
It is important to note that what we have done in Australia has meant we have seen less deaths from COVID-19 in an almost 18-month period than we typically see in a year from the regular influenza virus. This is not to say that COVID is not more dangerous and more contagious; we've just done a really good job at containing it. For that, as a nation, we should be proud.
Of course, there have been a number of things that have gone wrong along the way. People have lost their jobs over it. People have been investigated because of it. Do I think the Ruby Princess incident could have been handled differently? Yes. Do I think the hotel quarantine in Melbourne last year could have been handled differently? Yes. Do I think the borders could have been more tightly managed between ACT and NSW over the past several weeks? Yes.
But saying all that isn't going to do anything. I don't think any of our leaders have failed. They are doing the best they can with the limited information they have. 18 months ago, we didn't even know what COVID was. Our politicians weren't experts on the matter. Even our Chief Health staff didn't know anything much about the virus. The amount of information everyone has had to learn over the past 18 months is astounding.
The last time we saw something like COVID was 100 years ago with the Spanish Flu. No politicians currently serving today were alive back then. This is the first time they have had to handle something like this. We owe some level of patience. It is awful that our patience means lost lives in the meantime, but we don't have many alternatives. We were never going to come out of this with 0 deaths.
It angers me beyond belief when I see people jumping on social media and whinging about the government, whether it be federal or state, and their response to this pandemic. It hurts me even more when I see the Opposition do it.
We are currently at war and all our publicly elected officials should be standing together as a united front against our enemy - the virus. This is not a time for political mudslinging. This is a time to demonstrate cohesion and leadership. A time where every publicly elected official should be working with - not against - their opposition to ensure the safety of our nation, both medically and economically.
We are not in the middle of an election campaign, but it feels like one. I have enough anxiety and stress from the pandemic. This is only being made worse by reading all the negativity around the failures of the handling of this at a federal and a state and territory level. As elected representatives, the mental wellbeing of people should also be a priority right now. By calling out all the problems with the handling of the pandemic, those in opposition and the citizens who support them are making people feel worse. This isn't a party specific thing. It's happening from Labor and their supporters at a federal level and Liberal and their supporters in places like Victoria. It is across the board, and it is not OK.
As citizens, it is understandable we have grievances. I air mine at home to my partner or to my parents on FaceTime. I don't jump on social media and have a whinge. Firstly, it's not going to change anything. Secondly, it doesn't actually help those who are going through mental health distress.
The Government is doing everything it can to ensure vaccines are rolled out to as many as possible before the end of the year. Could they be doing a better job? Maybe. I don't know. I'm not in the offices. I don't know where the inefficiencies lie. I've never handled something like this before. I'm not a infectious disease expert with an in-depth working knowledge of the government's current human and financial resources. It would be my guess that 99% of people who post on social media are also not experts in either or both of these fields.
For those who are genuinely concerned, I encourage you to write to your elected representative. I will be doing that this week after the evidence has been released that those with autoimmune diseases need a third vaccine. I'm not going to yell at the government for not having organised this already (as I know a few people have) because the study was only published a few days ago. But I will be asking the question nicely as I would like to have my needs and the needs of one million immunocompromised Australians considered.
We expect more from our politicians. We expect them to be mature. We expect them to be empathetic. We expect them to be informed. I encourage us to expect more from ourselves. I encourage you to reflect - am I being mature? Am I being empathetic? Am I ensuring I am informed? For many posting on social media at the moment, the answer to at least one of these questions will be 'no'.
It's time to raise the standard for ourselves. We want better, and we deserve better. But first, we have to be better.
The middle of wartime is not the occasion for political mudslinging.