On Forgiveness and “Amnesty”

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

– John 13:34

A few months back, I posted a meme on social media expressing the desire to welcome in, and treat with compassion, those who had been misled, bullied, and coerced into taking the experimental genetic Thing, and were now suffering the consequences. I was astonished by the degree of vitriol in the responses my post received.

In my mind, there has always been a pretty clear line between those who actively promoted vaccine mandates and discrimination against the unvaccinated, and those who were simply fooled into taking the vaccine. But for a great many people, it seems that that line is blurred – and based on the comments my post received, it is blurred for the simple reason that so many of the people who took the Thing were also quite happy to demand that everyone else do too.

I realized that I had been lucky. Everyone in my immediate family had long been aware of the corrupt nature of both government and the pharmaceutical industry. So this was an easy call for us, and it didn’t rip us apart. Yes, we lost things: Our son is no longer welcome at his beloved summer camp; I am no longer welcome at the blissfully perfect yoga retreat with the two teachers I adored; our daughter can no longer take swimming lessons at the swim school she attended for years, unless she wears a mask while in the water.

No, just stop there for a moment. Demanding that a non-verbal child who suffers from seizures put a mask over her mouth and nose while in the water. What kind of person can think this is a good idea? Some of what I’ve witnessed over the past few years still leaves me speechless.

There’s more: I had to stand down hospital staff on multiple occasions over the masks, the testing, the Thing, I had to threaten legal action. Ultimately, we had to leave the failed state of California – my family’s home since the late 1970s, and my home for the last fourteen years. And yes, I lost friends – although, to be honest, the ones I lost were ones I’m probably better off without.

I’m one of the lucky ones. This thing didn’t tear apart our family, none of us lost our jobs over it. Compared to some of the stories that appeared in the comments thread of my post, we had it easy. I realize that.

So maybe I’m in no position to tell other people that they need to welcome with open arms and compassion those who were fooled into taking the vaccine. I’m in no position to tell people who have been through much worse than I have that they should “love one another.”

I’m going to anyway though, because there’s just too much at stake.

This conflict we are in, the same one that has torn apart families and cost people their jobs and had them pack up and move across the country, it is, at its foundation, a conflict between light and dark, good and evil. In this war, the side of darkness has certain strengths, certain weapons, and the side of the light has strengths, weapons. They are not the same. The dark uses lies, fear, and brute force. The weapons of the light are the inverse: Truth, fearlessness, and love.

If we are going to have any chance against the darkness, then we need to keep our weapons clean, strong, and pure. And we need to put them to use. We need, especially, to take every opportunity we can find to love other human beings. Even, and maybe especially, those who are “on the other side.”

I know that’s not easy. And I know the past three years have made it a lot harder. But that’s what the darkness does. It finds ways to pit us against each other, to inspire us to hatred and violence, to snuff out love. If we are going to defeat the darkness, we cannot allow it to destroy our capacity for love.

The good news is that this is entirely within our own power. The darkness cannot, actually, kill love without our cooperation. So don’t cooperate. Don’t let it kill your love for humanity, or for the people in your life. Insist on cultivating it wherever you can.

For bonus points: Try seeing even the criminals as broken human beings, deserving of our love.

…But only if you genuinely can. Fake love, or fake forgiveness, counts for nothing on the spiritual balance sheet. And that brings me to Emily Oster.

Oster was rightly pilloried back in October, for her piece in the Atlantic calling for a “pandemic amnesty”, and pleading that “(w)e have to put these fights aside and declare a pandemic amnesty. We can leave out the willful purveyors of actual misinformation while forgiving the hard calls that people had no choice but to make with imperfect knowledge.”

Many others were quick to point out that there was no “we” in this equation, that there was one group of people bent on forcing their will on the rest of us, and on silencing any information or discussion that might hinder their efforts to do so; that the greatest purveyors of misinformation were in fact “public health” authorities, such as the WHO and the CDC; and that the only reason anyone was in the dark about Covid back then was this very campaign to silence dissent. So I won’t belabor all of that.

What Oster is asking for here is not “forgiveness.” It is something else. She is asking us to be complicit in her lies about what happened, and who was in the wrong. In fact, you can tell that she is not asking for forgiveness, because she doesn’t actually… ask for forgiveness. Nowhere does she say “please forgive me.” Which is what a person actually asking forgiveness would say.

What she is asking for is something we’ve all had quite enough of already, thank you. She is asking for a waiver of accountability for all who are responsible for what has been done to us these past three years: The mendacious mathematical models; the deliberate public fear-mongering; the rights violations, the forced closures of businesses, schools, churches; the forced isolation of some of society’s most vulnerable people; forcing masks on children; teaching children to fear other humans; the centralized suppression of effective treatment; the suppression of information about effective treatment… and of course, the coerced, experimental, medical interventions, and the suppression of information about the harm those interventions cause.

All of this is supposed to be “forgiven”, because “we didn’t know.” As if ignorance grants some sort of free pass for human-rights violations on a massive scale, because when you “don’t know” (they did know), the obvious response is raw, unbridled authoritarianism. As if people who have committed similar acts in the past have not faced criminal prosecution.

So here’s our dilemma: If society is to function at all, there needs to be accountability. We need to be able to hold people accountable for their actions, or we end up with a criminal class that can inflict harm on everyone else, free of consequence. Indeed, this is very much where we find ourselves at this moment in time, and if we cannot find ways to hold the perpetrators accountable, then we should only expect that things will continue to get worse.

So where does that leave our weapons of light? How do we reconcile our need to hold wrongdoers accountable, with our equally important (some would say more important) need to generate love and light in the world? To be a counterpoint to the darkness? Are the two goals mutually exclusive?

I don’t think so. I believe that if we are honest about our capacity for love, and for forgiveness, we can continue to generate both in the world, even if in small ways. Some of us are strong enough, or evolved enough, to genuinely “hate the sin but love the sinner.” Others may only be able to find limited opportunities for expressing their love of humanity. Wherever you may fall on this spectrum, it is of critical importance that this love is expressed, and our connections to humanity maintained.

But it has to be real. There are people, including former friends, who I will never be able to speak to again. There are other friendships that I would like to think could be repaired, someday. But it’s difficult to imagine how. The damage seems so complete, and in many cases, the people in question don’t even think they’ve done anything wrong.

So I just seek out – with an urgency – opportunities to stay connected to humanity. Whether it’s expressing appreciation for a shop assistant or call-center operator, or taking time to write up a review of the guys who delivered my washing machine, I recognize the urgency of maintaining the strength of those threads in our social fabric, those connections, however small they may seem.

When there are forces arrayed against human connection, forces that thrive and grow stronger the more we are divided against each other, the task of connecting, and of loving one another becomes all the more urgent. We don’t have to forgive the unforgivable – or anything at all, if we’re unable to. And we certainly don’t have to abandon the endeavor of holding criminals accountable for their crimes. But our capacity for love is what separates us from the darkness. It is one of the only weapons we have to fight against it. We need to take it seriously.

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