The Mask War
It continues to be a social and political point of serious contention that has even led to lethal violence. It doesn’t help that our own government and its agencies have given us conflicting information from the start of the pandemic. Don’t buy masks. Masks don’t help. Masks do help. Masks should be mandated. No, mask wearing decisions should be entrusted to people as a matter of personal preference. (Even though we can’t trust people not to drink and drive, and we can’t trust people not to speed, and we really can’t trust college kids not to drink and throw wild packed parties.) Mask wearing is somehow an affront to American freedom. Mask wearing promotes more infections. (Where the hell did that one come from?) And so the mask war drags on.
So, we see lots of people wearing them and social distancing as our scientists and virologists and doctors like Fauci strongly recommend. And we see lots of people not wearing them, even in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds such as at some of the frequent political rallies.
And the death toll keeps climbing.
Why are we behaving this way? Well, there’s American historical precedent that may help explain the phenomenon. Anyone my age well remembers the widespread controversy over seat belts in the 1980s. None of my first four cars had belts. They also had hard metal dashes with various potentially harmful protuberances, no padded steering wheels, no designed-in crushable impact zones. Not even any turn signal lights on my first two cars. When I was a child seated beside my father as he drove his Chevy, I remember him holding out his strong arm in front of me as a safety barrier when he needed to come to quick stops or another car threatened a collision.
When seat belts were proposed, there was a furor. Car companies warned they would add a lot of cost to the sale prices and they demanded more time to make the transition. People rejected the belting idea outright. I had friends who seriously claimed you’d be better off being thrown clear in a crash. Some said government had no right to restrict our freedoms by mandating belts. (I also had motorcycling friends who claimed the same thing about helmet laws.)
Common sense and the best public interest prevailed and seat belts were mandated. Clearly they, along with air bags, have saved many lives.
Today people accept seat belts as merely a sensible part of driving and base their model selections in part on safety ratings. Nobody considers belts an affront to our freedoms. (Though I did have a friend a few years back who would hold the shoulder belt across his chest to make it look like he was wearing it but refused to hook it up.)
Here are the unarguable facts: Masks work. We can easily see that from the excellent results in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other nations where the people have been wearing them routinely. Those nations locked down quickly, the populations cooperated fully with masking and distancing, and they’ve been able to open up months ago in conjunction with rigorous resting and tracing. We’re told by the qualified experts it is within our power to prevent 100,000 more American deaths in the next 100 days if we will only widely adopt the simple, easy measures of masking, distancing, and personal hygiene.
So please, folks, buckle up and wear a mask to save yourself and our fellow Americans, and implore family and friends to do the same.
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