The Great Divide That Shatters Relationships

James St. John, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This past weekend and the subsequent days since have literally been a roller coaster of emotions. It has ended up resulting in not only the single worst vacation to date, but also created such a blast radius of mis communication, mis interpretation, and collateral damage that it’s no better than a car bomb going off. At the end of the day, sadly what’s done is done. Anger, apologies, and flurries of profanity rained down for days. Truly there are bells you ring in anger than cannot be un-rung. Sleep was the least of which that was lost and over what? There in lies the tangled ball of yarn that there is almost no way to unpack, but I can try to sum it up. It comes down to differing value and belief systems.

Now you may be thinking, everyone has different values and beliefs and that is very true. Where this fell completely apart is when differing values not only clash, but they are pointed out to be “wrong”. I learned, or I thought I did, long ago you can never argue a person’s opinion. It’s based on their value and their belief system, so it can’t be wrong. Except that is not always how it works sometimes.

When the Pandemic started I was right out there with many. I refused to get on a plane until there was a vaccine, I wore a mask, we isolated ourselves. I would not even let my wife go to the market for fear of people going crazy assaulting her over toilet paper. We did the things that for us at the time made sense until “something” came along that might change my belief system.

Fast forward to 2023, I fully admit even as things continue to change my belief system has changed. What I still cannot understand is why people can’t have separate belief systems and not say the opposite is “wrong”. Let me explain with a simple example, masks and specifically to me in the post vaccine era.

To me regardless of the debate if they work or don’t work, I believe simply that wearing a mask at this point is a personal preference. I think if it remains people’s personal choice and not “mandated” that more people may, or may not, make the decision to wear one. I personally have not and would never make fun of or ridicule someone wearing one. It’s their choice, like their clothes or their choice of shoes. I also couple this belief with the belief that I am fine getting the original vaccine and any yearly after that. I have gotten the flu shot every year I see this as no different. So what’s the issue?

It’s complicated. In this one example, my choice to not wear a mask while I have been vaccinated can be viewed as “reckless” or “inconsiderate to others”. What that means is the opposite belief system is telling me my system is wrong, even though my system is that it’s a choice. The opposing facts on the science aside, it’s a choice. When it becomes a massive issue is when the choice is deemed “wrong” by one standard or the other. See at this stage I can’t ignore the availability of a vaccine and boosters though as a variable in my belief system. That’s what makes it complicated. I said early on I did all the “right” things…until a new variable was introduced.

Another part of my belief system which becomes VERY unpopular in the post vaccine era, is that it’s not really my responsibility to protect anyone other than me. What I mean by this is if you chose not to be vaccinated, all good, no issue with me. If I chose to you should have no issue with me either. Now if one of us gets sick, we shouldn’t point the finger or blame. See, we both made our choices, now we live with the outcome regardless.

Additionally, if you’re wearing a mask by choice in my system that is to protect you, not me. I don’t need your help nor did I ask for it to protect me, and see that is deemed “selfish” or “careless”. But really it’s my choice on how I want to be protected or not, and we can walk down the street together with our separate belief systems. It breaks down for me when the “I can’t believe you won’t protect others!” accusations are thrown my way. In this post vaccine era in my system we have options to protect ourselves with either vaccine or mask or both, but I get to choose my options to protect me and not worry about how you’ve chosen to protect yourself. That belief system is a big problem for some, because it’s viewed as selfish and wrong in their system.

Pre Vaccine, yes my belief system was that we should all do our part, simply because there was no other option at the time. As things have advanced, my views changed to more of a “watch our for me first” point of view. It’s my belief system so I can’t be told I am wrong, and I have never actually told anyone theirs is wrong. I have always had a “you do you, and I’ll do me” approach but that’s not good enough for everyone. The impasse happens when folks can’t simply agree to disagree and move on.

Today, I feel I am better protected to be out in the world and my choice is I’m vaccinated, and I am fine without the mask option. If I come in contact with someone who’s belief systems are different then mine, why do I have to adopt their belief system? We continue to have a double standard, whereas I actually don’t. Like I said, you do you, no judgement from me, until you pass judgement on my system. We should still be able to maintain the separate belief systems, and simply avoid the conflict. Conflict arrises when one side is forced to try and adopt the others system in order to co-exist. That is the car bomb that eventually goes off.

Look this is a thousand times more complicated than this one example. There’s the beliefs around testing yourself with every symptom or asking friends to test themselves. Add those into the mix and it’s just more fuel to both sides fire. The point is when someone feels like they are being forced into anything….a mask mandate, mandatory vaccines, showing a negative test of something, that is a fuse that once lit, is nearly impossible to put out. It will only be a matter of time before the bomb explodes and multiple people are caught in the aftermath, and trust me on this one. It’s not like I didn’t see that coming when I realized the fuse was lit. I pretty much knew it was going to end in a blood bath of sorts.

So what’s next? Honestly, like after any disaster you do your best to pickup the pieces you can, and push forward, less some dignity on all sides. Your world gets a little smaller, and you try to ignore and override. The older we get the faster memories fade, so maybe that’s in my favor. This is not the first time in my life something has blown up and I walked away from the blast and never looked back. It’s a little like deciding to leave a company. Once you decide, you can’t go back, it will never be the same, you will hate yourself. Relationships to me are similar. Maybe some can forgive and forget over time and even that is a low probability, but others with the scars from the collateral damage may never. Those scars leave pieces of the event as smoldering embers just waiting to ignite again. It may be a sad, but realistic view, at least today that some things you may never come back from.

About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.