Terry Lamphier: Masks, unmasked – it’s not personal
Social resistance to wearing masks to fight the coronavirus reminds me of an old joke: “Someone told me Americans are ignorant and apathetic. I told him I don’t know about that and frankly, I don’t care.”
Social compliance would be a lot easier if people were bleeding from their eyeballs and dropping dead in the streets, but the nature of the virus — mostly mild or no symptoms for the vast majority — makes it easy to think, “What’s the big deal?”
As a high risk person most of my life (rafting class 5 river rapids, tackling black diamond ski runs, free climbing modest cliffs, getting arrested for political causes, traveling remote desert back roads as a senior and, yes, a proclivity toward speeding on our highways), I am a natural candidate for fighting “masking up.”
Indeed at first I did not, choosing as many have in the belief of choosing one’s own destiny.
After all, when out in public, no one in our community seemed to show even the mild symptoms of a cold. All media reports citing medical data showed a relatively small percentage of infections and an even smaller percentage of deaths.
Now I almost always wear a mask whenever around people. What changed? I first starting masking up due to a combination of my girlfriend’s concerned urging (“You want to be a bachelor again, buddy? You are not going to make me sick!”) and the gradual realization that going maskless was making me uncomfortable because I was making others uncomfortable. I’m not one who believes in intentionally upsetting others.
As numbers mounted and the waves of infection waxed and waned in close association with pandemic restrictions and community compliance, it became clear that the virus was going to be around for awhile and a casual attitude towards safety just seems to make things worse.
Further, those who do get seriously ill face a horrible, even life-threatening experience, and who wants to be responsible for someone else’s death? Despite anti-mask rhetoric about “constitutional freedoms,” anti-maskers don’t seem concerned about the constitutional rights of others (remember that it’s “LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”).
Or what about our overworked and vulnerable medical personnel? Even if they don’t get sick or infect others, is it fair to vastly increase their stress due to our selfishness?
As pro-Trumpers took up the anti-mask call, deriding science with paranoiac social media conspiracy “facts” while driving to demonstrations in big, noisy, smelly pick-up trucks belligerently waving huge banners and desecrated flags in some fractured idea of patriotism, images of a machine gun-equipped trucks filled with beds of mid-east terrorists cresting a dune came to mind. Wearing or not wearing a mask became a political statement.
And are we really choosing business over health? I was raised by small business-owning parents and I have my own small business, so I am sympathetic to those who face losing everything after years of hard work. That said, I can’t help questioning those who push business over health – their actions extend beyond those customers who voluntarily choose risk over caution and extend to the community at large. The term “acceptable loss” has yet to be defined.
To be clear, I support responsible and reasoned protest and I recognize that small business is the backbone of our local economy. So what’s the way forward?
Call it socialism, devaluing the dollar, Mitch McConnell’s Senate Republicans ceasing to politicizing the virus by approving aid to Democrat-led state and local governments, or whatever, having Washington step up with real economic aid (a second shot vaccine for the economy if you will), along with a few weeks or months of robust — responsible — citizen and business health compliance will get us through this. The economy can be fixed later. Death is permanent.
Terry Lamphier lives in Grass Valley.
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