The pandemic upturned our world. Initially people around the globe experienced cascading states of panic as the virus fingered outward from its birthplace in Wuhan, China. We looked on with grim awe as the numbers of critically ill and dead grew in China, then in Italy, and then exploded like an ingloriously potent firework around the planet. Little was known about how the virus spreads and precisely how it attacks the human body. Quarantines and lock-downs were the first lines of defense against a mysterious enemy that silently stalked its prey.
Scientists, spurred by horrific death tolls, worked round the clock for six months trying to get a bead on this disease. Initially, the greatest tool they had was containment. Quarantines and lockdowns slowed the progression. Infection statistics seemed to decrease in direct proportion to the plunging worldwide economy.
Some countries fared better than others. The reasons for this disparity are difficult to pin down and are still the subject of scientific study and social media frenzy. The United States has not fared well. Fingers point blame in every direction. But rather than seeking to blame anyone or group, we should consider how we could do better in the future. Global pandemics have always existed, will always exist, and—if science is to be believed—pandemics will increase as our planet shrinks under the coming heat wave that forces humans to congregate more densely.
Leadership is woefully lacking. Our Jack-in-the-box leader contradicts not only the scientific community, but his own rhetoric. Whatever he spouts at 04:00, he reverses at 16:00 hours.
During prior national emergencies, leadership worked to unite the people, to fire them with motivation, to demonstrate how their personal sacrifices bolster the survival of the nation as a whole. Our present lack of leadership has produced an appalling lack of national responsibility. We have devolved into rogue groups, all out for themselves and impervious to the cries of others. As the economic pain increases, one group has skillfully been pitted against another. Predictably, those at the lowest rungs of agency—the poor, the disenfranchised, the ones who stand out amidst a sea of white faces—feel the deepest pain and will have the longest climb out of their pit of unemployment and misery.
With frustration mounting, people’s only sense of agency becomes the battle line over whether to follow the CDC and WHO guidelines or to defy them as does our brave leader. Rather than arguing with science, which requires effort to understand, the brave prefer to follow the man who tells them what they want to hear, which is that this is just the flu, nothing to worry about, science is a hoax devised to steal your personal rights. Brave patriots walk about mask-free, hugging and cuddling anyone like-minded enough to let them near enough. Carry a flag but don’t be caught alive wearing a mask. And like all things in this time and in this country, battle lines have been drawn: maskers versus never-maskers. People verbally and physically attack each other over their perceived rights. Social media comments explode in vitriol over whether to mask or whether not to mask. Some believe that their right to contradict scientific guidelines supersedes the needs of senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals and healthcare workers who end up exposed to COVID-19 while in the line of duty. These individuals, drunk on the notion that “mankind” has ultimate control, do not understand the nature of an unchecked virus. They presume that measures designed to minimize death and forever diminished health, are based upon frivolous, perhaps intentionally harmful decisions of a dictatorial government. There is no way to argue with people who live under this conviction.
Instead of fussing over who is or is not wearing a mask, those of us who want to do our best to curb the spread of the pandemic should just mind our own business. Learn which businesses honor the safety guidelines and which businesses do not. Then follow through by taking your business to the ones who care enough about you to make difficult choices. Let your money do the talking.
Wear a mask when you go into a building. Don’t fuss about who is not wearing a mask. The mask is collecting your own droplets and does very little to keep you safe from others anyway. It is your high road. Wash your hands often and long. Take care of yourself. Stop worrying about the anti-science, Kung Fluers. And support your local, state, and national politicians who embrace science and who are capable of true leadership.
And if you don’t want to wear a mask, fine. Don’t. You are more than free to become a national statistic.