Wearing a mask when leaving the house is recommended during this pandemic. The purpose is to make sure no one passes their germs to anyone else. It is meant to be all about health and caring about others. Somehow, it became a political statement.
Some people think there is no virus going around the world. It is a conspiracy for political and economic control. Others think wearing a mask is a sign that they are giving up their freedom.
When I take a walk or a drive and I see so many people not wearing masks and not keeping their distance, I get filled with anger and dread. I don’t usually say anything to them, but I go out of my way to stay as far from them as possible. If I’m out for a walk, I’m trying to take care of myself and create as peaceful an experience as possible. I choose routes where I can avoid crowds. I think most people who are not wearing masks and not distancing are doing it deliberately and I don’t have the power to change that behavior. I just make it obvious that I am steering clear.
One of the most important values in my life is community. Almost everything I do that I consider valuable is intended to help a community. Helping create The Acorn Theater and Outspoken (my storytelling show), all of my volunteer board work, and my charitable donations are meant to help community. A value of Judaism is to create a better world by helping your community. It takes a village. We are all in this together. I firmly believe in these principles.
I don’t think there has been any other sacrifice the government has asked of me in my lifetime. I never lived through rationing. Or war bonds. I lived through a gas shortage but that wasn’t a sacrifice for my country. I understand why people don’t want to sacrifice their freedom for security. And I understand not trusting the government. However, I believe in doing things for the greater good and I’m willing to sacrifice my privacy and freedom to a large extent toward this end. Staying mostly isolated, wearing a mask when around others, and washing my hands often until Covid is cured or preventable by vaccine is a minor sacrifice and it not only protects me and my family but everyone around me. My biggest fear would be to pass this disease on to my immunosuppressed mother.
I hate that wearing a mask seems to be a political statement to many when it is really a public health issue. There are so many emotions this elicits in me. I vacillate between angry, despondent, afraid, annoyed, and sad. Historically, having a common enemy brought people together. In this case, fighting the disease is more evidence how divided America has become.
When I was in high school, I had a job conducting phone surveys. At times this job was really depressing. When I gave a survey about cake mixes, people might be on the phone with me for an hour giving detailed and thoughtful reply to my questions. When I conducted surveys about politics or the economy, people often made me think that Americans are so ignorant. I would be talking to registered voters who planned on voting in the next election. These were people with phones in the days of landlines, so they were people with some financial resources. Many of these respondents could name the president and no other elected official. I remember asking someone whether they thought they would be better or worse financially the next year. Someone said that they will be much better off because they are on a fixed income and inflation was high. I repeated the question asking why they thought they would be better off, and they repeated with an annoyed tone that they were on a fixed income and inflation was high so they would be much better off.
I don’t think ignorance is an American trait. It is a human trait. One of my lessons from my travels is that humans often disappoint me. I guess I hope for the best in people, but I’m not surprised when I see the worst. I consider myself a hopeful realist. I am hopeful that people will be vigilant about wearing their masks and distancing until Covid is no longer a threat. So please, for the sake of yourself, your family and friends, you community and your country, and mankind, please suck it up and, when you go out in public, wear a mask.