In this chapter of the pandemic, we’re all seasoned veterans of the ever-stringent rules to limit the spread of Covid-19. As things become more streamlined, policies lock-in to enforce these rules, like fines for breaking quarantine, or vaccine requirements to sit in enclosed spaces like restaurants. The argument given is that if we sacrifice enough, we can reduce infection rates and prevent unnecessary deaths. To protect our most vulnerable populations, we have all halted nearly two years of concerts, travel, weddings, school, and birthday parties.
But not everyone. Not the rich, and worst of all, not even the ones who made the laws.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for instance, was caught attending illegal parties throughout 2020 in what was dubbed “partygate” by U.K. Tories, leading some of his previous supporters to call for his resignation. U.K. Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer on BBC news said, sounding bewildered, “I think the prime minister broke the law. I think he then lied about what had happened.”
Or another example, Novak Djokovic, an unvaccinated tennis player who on January 16, 2022, was deported from Australia. He left the Australian Open and is now barred from entering the country for three years after omitting on his visa that he had traveled to multiple countries in the two weeks before arriving to Australia, much to his outrage.
Djokovic’s situation sparked anger from the Serbian government, which supported him ferociously, and equal outrage from the Australian public, who have a 90 per cent vaccination rate and are in the midst of huge wave of the highly transmittable Omicron variant. As Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said, denying Djokovic entry was done, “on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”
Should the rich and powerful be entitled to a different set of rules? Unless that power extends to some sort of super-powered immune system with zero transmissibility, no.
Johnson and Djokovic are symptoms of a long-standing cultural phenomenon of rich and powerful people treating law as an inconvenient suggestion. A fly you shoo away. A punishment isn’t a punishment for everyone if it’s a sum of money. Djokovic is not, I assure you, kicking rocks in a tiny flat back home in Serbia. It sucks that he missed the Australian Open, but it’s also his own fault.
Not only do I applaud the Australian government for choosing public health over a tennis championship, I also staunchly support the citizens who have suffered and lost family to this devastating virus, who surely want to rip their hair out in irritation at this self-important crybaby.
Money isn’t immunity. Power isn’t a vaccine. Hospital beds don’t open up any faster if people think they deserve exemptions left and right. I speak for us all when I say that no one cares if you miss a party if it means someone else won’t miss next week. Most of us haven’t been anywhere but Walmart in months. You’ll manage.
Whether this mentality arises from a sense of superiority over us puny peasants, or false invincibility from the fame and notoriety, I would like to ask the Johnson’s and Djokovic’s of the world whether they just assumed the virus would skip them over because they are special. What about the people they interacted with, and their mothers, fathers, children, grandparents? And what does my sacrifice, as an ordinary citizen, mean in the grand scheme of this ridiculousness, if people with more money in the bank get to run around swapping virus variants because they got bored?
Covid-19 has interconnected us all in uncomfortable, upsetting ways, but denial is not the way out. Empathy is. I pray I do not need to explain why you must care about other people even if it is inconvenient.
Bottom line, if you refuse vaccination, don’t expect special treatment, and if you flout the rules your own government put in place, don’t expect an apology to accomplish much for you. In such a bizarre time of life and death and guest capped funerals, international tennis competitions can wait.