I never remember equating what someone wears with what they think. Sure, there might be a message on that t-shirt that lets you know what’s on their mind. Other than that kind of explicit statement, though, the simple act of wearing a piece of clothing doesn’t automatically project a political position.
We live in strange times. Scary times, too. Different people react in different ways. Some adjust to slight inconveniences because they understand, and are deadly serious about, the consequences if they don’t adjust.
Others laugh at the consequences. It’s a nervous laugh. It’s how they rationalize not having the endurance to be the least bit inconvenienced, because wearing a flimsy mask is such a hardship for them.
I have to admit that I laugh as well—at the flimsy excuse that it is a “freedom-of-speech” issue not to wear a mask. People who hide behind that misreading of the First Amendment as a reason for not wanting to hide behind a mask may just need to find a better mask, because I’ve never had any problem speaking freely with mine on.
As someone pointed out in a clever and true analogy, would the same deniers who are mask-erading as freedom fighters argue that refusal to wear a seat-belt also is protected by “freedom of speech”?
After all, just like a mask, a seat belt also is personal gear we are required to wear to protect us from harm. One seat belt protects but one person, while one mask protects at least two people—the wearer and anyone else within a few feet.
As I write this, official statistics claim there are more than 4 million cases of Covid-19 in America. That’s what the government data tells us, based on available information that is reported to them.
DEFLATED CASE COUNT
However, with a shortage of adequate testing, there’s ample evidence—not to mention common sense—that suggests the actual number of cases is several times that figure in a country of 328 million.
The American death count attributed to coronavirus is headed toward 150,000. As late as the end of July, six months into the persistent pandemic, the daily national death toll was eclipsing 1,000. The number of new infections being reported in a single day reached as high as 74,000.
I always wrap a mask around my face when I go out, but I can’t wrap my mind around surveys that say there still are people who don’t take mask-wearing seriously.
The initial response in one recent survey* is very encouraging. When asked by the pollster if they had used a mask in the previous seven days, nearly 9 in 10 people said yes.
The response to further questions is both less encouraging and mind-bogglingly mystifying.
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
Less than half of people surveyed (44%) said they always wear a mask when away from home. More than one-fourth (28%) said they wear one very often, and close to one-third (29%) said they wear a mask outside the home sometimes (11%), rarely (4%), or never (14%).
If that’s not concerning enough, where is the logic in what the same poll revealed about the opposing attitudes that govern mask-wearing?
Get this: among those who identified themselves as Democrat, 61% said they always use a mask. Among Republican respondents to the survey, 54% said they sometimes, rarely, or never wear a mask.
I’m not going to wade into the virus-infested swamp of commenting on the politics of that, mostly because I don’t think correlating COVID-19 masks with politics is worth wasting words or time on. There’s nothing rational going on there to discuss.
Did anyone ever think a doctor’s mask means anything politically? Yet, their mask serves the same purpose as the mask we’re supposed to be wearing: prevent, or at least minimize, the spread of airborne germs that could seriously infect people.
From my mentoring perch (check out my ForbesBook, Fisch Tales, at MillennialBabyBoomer.com), I’m glad to see so many Millennials getting with the mask program. They have the right attitude about it. For one, masks are highly Instagrammable, and Millennials love anything they can posterize. They are taking advantage of this opportunity to have some fun showing off their mask wardrobe, as more than 2 million posts attest to.
Masks have become a cool fashion statement for people of all ages, “a symbol of identity and self-expression,” as livemint.com put it. As a Millennial Baby Boomer, I am the proud owner myself of more than 20 masks.
What’s also cool among Millennial mask sellers is that they donate a portion of their proceeds to charitable causes, Feeding America is one of the more popular beneficiaries.
A Millennial writing in a British newspaper even turned the tables on Boomers who are whining about wearing a mask, accusing them of “entitled selfishness,” and ironically asking them, “Who’s the snowflake now?”
MASKS UNCOOL? TOUGH!
Not that all Millennials are so enlightened. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh minced no words in addressing the Beantown Millennials who apparently didn’t get the Snapchat message about masks, by telling them, “If you’re a Millennial and you don’t want to wear a mask because it doesn’t look cool, well I really don’t care about that. What I want you to do is make sure that you take care of the people around you, and put a mask on.”
That’s my kind of leader, especially in a crisis that has killed so many, sickened so many more, and has disrupted our way of living as never before.
Unlike paper tiger leaders who talk tough but act weak because they’re afraid of offending the wrong people, Mayor Walsh is not afraid to offend, for the right reason.
We need more people leading us like him and other successful elected officials who have effectively managed the spread of the virus by flattening the curve through strict measures that are for the good of all, even if the measures hurt for a while.
We all know — whether Millennials, Boomers, or any generation — that whenever you’re sick, there’s no avoiding pain on the road to recovery.
In the meantime, to quote a great meme I came across, for reasons of humility, kindness and community, just “wear your freaking mask!”
*Gallup Panel Poll, conducted June 29-July 5,