wear a mask

Wear a Mask, Not a Blindfold

Wear a Mask, Not a Blindfold – Thoughts on Coronavirus

When I finished my Master’s in Public Health, I never imagined a world where fact and opinion were so easily interchangeable. I never could have predicted that public health efforts would become so arbitrarily intertwined with the political agenda of a nation–a nation that appears to be on the brink of civil war. The shift in our definition of humane and the perpetually fading practice of empathy has become terrifyingly pervasive.

I am unsettled. I’ve gone through the phase of feeling scattered and struggling to adjust to new protocol – don’t wear masks, wear masks, stay at home, stay six feet apart, don’t shake anyone’s hand, etc. But I adjusted.

I’ve gone through the phase of fighting the subconscious tendency to throw in the towel—forgetting my mask at home because it’s just not convenient. The urgency of it all starts to slip through the cracks along with my gym membership (remember the days of going to the gym?). But I adjusted.

wear a mask not a blindfold

I’ve gone through the phase of mourning for lives lost—not just to Coronavirus but to normalcy. Doctors, outside of their specialty, forfeiting time with their families to care for others. Hundreds of healthcare workers have died while working to save someone else. And thousands have lost a loved one much too soon. My heart still breaks for those continuing to experience loss. But psychologically speaking, I adjusted.

I’ve even gone through the phase of being exhaustively enraged at the people who choose to ignore the incontestable statistic of 140,000 US citizens who no longer exist; and the 140,000 families who have had to figure out how to go on having lost someone to a viral pandemic. The people who don’t think COVID-19 is real—who don’t believe the loss of life is real. Who, in the same vein of logic, might as well say they don’t believe the Vietnam War was real; or that Advil is real. Somehow, God help me, I adjusted.

I’ve accepted that in situations of acute stress, human behavior can be sporadic, selfish, and capricious. People are entitled to their opinions and emotions—and that within these entities—fact and science will not always be the foundation upon which words and actions are manifested. And wholly accepting these words and actions is, alas, the definition of being a well-adjusted human.

What I cannot adjust to—what I can’t understand—is acting selfishly for no reason at all. I can’t understand the relentless reinforcement from Americans everywhere, that human decency is either red or blue. That kindness, respect, and emotional aptitude is not a bipartisan agenda. That people can fight so ruthlessly to defend their right not to wear a face mask that they can’t see the very definition of their own words – “we’re all in this together”.

This world is hard. Existing is hard. Coexisting is even harder. Working nine to five is hard. Pretending not to be tired is hard. Finding your tribe is hard. Losing family and loved ones is beyond hard. If nothing else, we must have respect for one another based on this fact. That life is hard. And that person who voted for Trump (or Biden; or no one at all)—they’ve gone through something hard, too. We must look beyond their ballot. We must look beyond someone’s Facebook profile and see his or her actual human face. We must.

We must resist the urge to lash out and wound someone else just because we are wounded. Or just because someone disagrees with our own philosophies. The satisfaction is miniscule at best, but the consequences are dire and boundless.

A therapist recently told me a four word quote by Mr. Rogers and I’m not sure I’ve ever understood anything more clearly in my life:

“What’s mentionable is manageable”.

Oh, wow. Do you feel the magic? I feel better just having typed it. Why? Because it means that we can do anything. Whatever interpersonal (or societal, given the current circumstances) struggle you’re having—it can be fixed. As long as you have the guts, some communicative patience, and some human humility, you’ve just won at life. 

So now I will mention something. Face coverings and the existence of COVID-19 is not a political choice. It is a human one. And we all belong to that party. Even if you think this whole thing is a spoof. Even if you have actively chosen to ignore all the grieving people that have lost someone to COVID-19 (in spite of the science-based facts disseminated by the CDC—a completely non-political and respectable institution). Don’t you think we owe it to others—to the integrity of our societal and governmental systems to trust the advice of the professionals and authorities we ourselves have put in place?

Isn’t it agreeably unwise to ignore the logical notion that science (and the sacred Hippocratic oath sworn by healthcare workers everywhere) cannot be bought by a political party?

I trust Dr. Anthony Fauci, not because I lean left or right, but because I think he’s pretty darn smart. He’s served under six US presidents—starting with Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 “for his determined and aggressive efforts to help others live longer and healthier lives.” Dr. Fauci has no agenda other than human lives. To deny his expertise is to deny the competency of several US presidents – both Democratic and Republican incumbents.

If you don’t believe in COVID-19 (or vaccines for that matter—but let’s save that for another day), then you are actively declining germ theory—and you must therefore also believe that tiny microorganisms aren’t the basis for human disease. Following this line of logic, you must also deny the existence of AIDS, or even the common cold. So essentially, you believe your health won’t be affected by walking outside and licking the middle of the street. Heck, why even wash your hands?

Don’t we owe it to the millions of Americans that have come before us and worked so hard to set ethical checks and balances? Don’t we owe it to other humans, to respect their concern and wear a face covering—a trivial request with absolutely no legitimate consequences? Isn’t that the American, decent thing to do?

Like I said, I have adjusted to those who have differing opinions. If logic cannot persuade someone, then I certainly cannot change what he or she believes. But what I will do is surround myself with people capable of empathy; delete social media comments intended only to provoke; and smile kindly at my neighbor—through my mask, of course.

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