Gerry ChidiacStephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells us, “Trust is the glue of life. … It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Yet trust seems to be in short supply today. Many people don’t trust the mainstream media, the government, large corporations or the medical profession. Their trust is so low that they’re adamantly refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

COVID is certainly revealing that our society is broken on many levels. But if we look honestly at the lessons in front of us, perhaps we can move through this crisis and become better than we were.

Why are so many people turning to alternate sources for information rather than tuning in to mainstream media?

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One reason is that we can. We’ve come to realize that when advertisers give large amounts of money to media outlets, they tend to influence what’s being said.

As well, major news outlets, which should prioritize truth in an effort to allow citizens to make informed and rational decisions, have become entertainment and have opted to focus on our more primal emotions like anger and fear to keep us tuned into their programs. They try to convince us that they’re rational and good while the news on the other side of the imaginary political spectrum is sensationalist.

Compassionate social commentators are drawing attention away from mainstream media outlets. Comedian Russell Brand, for example, will talk respectfully to people on all sides of an issue. He has been praised by both Rebel News and Breaking Points, two alternate news sources that represent opposite sides of any spectrum. Brand seems to understand that none of us has a monopoly on the truth and the only way we’re going to draw closer to it is to listen to one another in an open-minded manner.

Along with the mainstream media, trust in government is waning in many parts of the world. A healthy suspicion of leaders in a democracy is a good thing because it helps us hold them accountable. But as we progressed through this pandemic, we’ve seen growing signs of defiance. Many leaders seem to have forgotten the Quebecois expression “Les bottines doivent suivre les babines,” essentially ‘Boots have to follow lips,’ that our actions need to be consistent with our words.

While I chose to get a vaccine and supported loved ones in doing the same, I realize this is a calculated risk. I understand that a vaccine can have side effects, but the danger of getting COVID-19 is far greater and the potential consequences are more severe if one is unvaccinated.

I’m also aware that some companies that developed these vaccines not only have sordid histories, they’re making it very clear that, even in a global pandemic, they put their profits ahead of the needs of humanity. If nothing else, these corporations are showing us that we need to find more just, credible and cost-effective ways to develop and produce our pharmaceuticals.

COVID-19 has exposed many deep cracks in our society and we still have a long way to go to overcome this crisis. I would be disingenuous if I said I understood the mind of a person who consciously chooses not to get vaccinated, but I do see the source of their mistrust.

Perhaps this is where we can begin our dialogue. We’re not as different as the mainstream media tells us we are. We all want the same thing: a world where human rights are respected and truth is sacred.

Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students.

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