By I. smiley G. Calderón
Americans are strong and caring people who will face a challenge and step up to the plate when their country needs them to and will do whatever it takes to help when the situation calls for it. Just don’t ask them to cover their face. Ever. Because that’s when all hell breaks loose.
You’ve seen it all over the news and probably in person too—people super irate over the notion of simply wearing a mask in public.
And it’s hard to understand. Honestly, there are plenty of Americans who should jump at the suggestion of covering their face; throwing a mask over their mug would immediately improve their appearance and make them look a whole lot better. This is not to call anyone ugly; it’s just that a mask might make some of us a lot easier to look at. (At least, studies have shown that). Hey, wearing a mask is a win-win for everyone.
Sure, everyone knows that Americans can be superficial at times. Maybe that’s why there’s so much fuss about being mandated by government officials or private businesses to wear a mask in public during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s crazy.
And the pushback is so polemic that it’s incredible. “It’s not a mask, it’s a muzzle!” they argue. And then they go on and on. You know the type. “It’s a hoax—a ‘PLANdemic.’”
And just like that, these anti-maskers refuse to put on a mask, even in the face of loads of evidence that wearing one can significantly help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus now infamously known as the coronavirus.
Suddenly, these mask naysayers have become “mask experts” and assert that wearing a mask is bad for your health because it increases carbon dioxide buildup underneath it and limits your oxygen intake. Then they turn around and say that masks are ineffective against the coronavirus because viruses are so small they’ll just simply pass right through the masks. (Nevermind that oxygen is a whole lot smaller than any virus.)
Wearing a mask is not going to suffocate you. Still, anti-maskers are afraid that wearing one will dangerously limit their breathing. How incredibly ironic that people who oppose wearing masks fear the very thing that, if infected and afflicted by Covid-19, would be affected: their ability to breathe. Why can’t they see that the whole reason to wear a mask in public is to be able to breathe in private?
Even dummies know that covering your mouth and nose limits the spread of microscopic airborne particles that leave the mouth and nose of someone infected. And everyone knows that the coronavirus is highly contagious and infectious.
In a matter of months, cases have skyrocketed. Today, we have well above 14 million confirmed cases worldwide and at least four million in the United States. In Fresno County alone, we have had more than 10,000 known cases.
As there is no known cure or treatment for Covid-19 yet, we clearly all need to take this pandemic much more seriously when we are out in public and among others.
It doesn’t help that we have a President who downplays the effectiveness of masks. When asked in a recent interview if he would support a mandate for wearing masks, President Trump said, “No, I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that.”
Some other leaders feel the same way. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared all mask mandates in his state unlawful and is even suing the mayor of Atlanta for trying to enforce one. All while the pandemic rages.
Do these anti-maskers even care a little about their constituents, friends and neighbors? If so, and even if they feel omnipotent and impervious to infection, fine, but don’t they also feel at least a little bit of empathy and concern about possibly unknowingly passing the coronavirus along to other unmasked people? Aren’t they concerned about getting someone else sick by not wearing a mask?
In case they haven’t yet heard, asymptomatic spread of the virus is not just hearsay or a myth; it’s reality. So, without feeling any symptoms, you could be a coronavirus carrier and, when unmasked, could spread it to anyone just by talking. It’s the reason why so many people are getting sick so quickly.
But maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe this whole American mask debacle has only revealed society’s personality types. Anti-maskers have emerged as a group of highly confident and defiant contenders who oppose both mainstream science and common sense. You know, the antisocial, psychopathic component of our society.
And it’s not too hard to see how anti-maskers are antisocial. Instead of caring about society’s weakest and most vulnerable, or anyone else for that matter, anti-maskers care more about how wearing a mask makes them feel or how it inconveniences them. It’s all about them.
This outlook was captured perfectly by a Kentucky bar owner recently who, in a Facebook Live video surrounded by his patrons, defiantly declared, “What we’re saying right now is, fuck you, we’re not wearing any masks. We are Americans. We’re going to do what we want and we want to have fun.” So much for brotherly love.
In Fresno, properly worn masks are legally required when in public around people. Isn’t it good to know that we have leaders and representatives who value public safety and health over frivolous personal liberties?
Yet, not everyone agrees. Fresno City Council Member Garry Bredefeld has been an outspoken voice against making mask-wearing mandatory. His office says that “Council Member Bredefeld has always believed masks should be voluntary and the government should not force people to wear them especially since the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] does not make them a requirement.”
Interesting response. The CDC does not issue public requirements, only recommendations. And it highly recommends the use of masks in public to fight against the spread of Covid-19.
Despite this CDC recommendation, Bredefeld still insists that wearing a mask in public to control the community spread of the coronavirus is a personal liberty issue. His office confirmed this in a follow-up e-mail: “The Council member is a big proponent of individual freedom.” Exactly; a more polished and polite version of the Kentucky bar owner’s defiant declaration that “my (micro) freedoms are more important than your life.”
But if we don’t change this type of myopic, egocentric and perniciously egomaniac social thinking soon and bond together as united Americans who put each other before oneself during trying times of need and crisis, this pandemic will surely worsen. We need to come together as one nation willing to sacrifice for one another for the greater cause if we want to end this Covid-19 nightmare and defeat this tenacious and deadly infinitesimal adversary.
Before the coronavirus claims many more casualties, we need to get our act together and change the paradigm. Instead of lamenting freedoms lost when mandated to wear a mask for the social good, we need to embrace the freedom that we have to help our common neighbor stay healthy and safe.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams summed this up well in a recent tweet: “Face coverings –> less asymptomatic viral spread –> more places open, and sooner!” But, here’s the best part: “Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a face-covering!”
This is the American way that is sorely needed now—promoting our freedoms while promoting our health—by promoting our masks. Together, we can do this. Let’s do our part: “Mask It Up, ’Merica!”
I. smiley G. Calderón is a Gen X Chicano and lifelong educator who spent a career in academia in Southern California but is most proud of being a father.