This Should Not Divide Us

Quarantine restrictions are being lifted to varying degrees across America. In some places, you can now sit down and eat in restaurants. In other places, you still have to rely on delivery or curbside orders. A lot of places recommend masks and others require them. We’re all still figuring this out. We’re all in this together. So I’d like to make a plea for depoliticizing masks. Our country is painfully divided about almost everything, but there is no need to be divided about this.

If you are someone who can’t or won’t wear a mask, fine. But don’t try to make some point by forcing your way into places where masks are required. If a business owner can require you to wear shoes to enter an establishment, they can absolutely require you to wear a mask. Don’t throw a fit about it. Take your business elsewhere. Certainly do not pull out a gun and shoot the messenger or start a fist fight with some employee just trying to do his job. And even if you have the absolute right to shout and cuss about it, you shouldn’t. These sorts of thing don’t make you a rebel or a patriot. They make you a criminal at worst and an asshole at best.

Our masks are cheerful and neutral.

But it isn’t only the unmasked who are behaving badly these days. If you’re a person who always wears a mask, you don’t need to spend your time and limited breath trying to shame the mask-less. This is counterproductive to the extreme. Instead, focus on putting a little more distance between yourself and the unmasked person. Picking a fight is the opposite of social distancing. Plus, it is helpful to remember that there are a number of legitimate reasons why someone might not be able to wear a mask. Show some compassion. Show some common sense.

As I’ve said before, I think our leaders need to do a better job of modeling mask protocol in order to encourage greater use, but that’s not happening. The people in charge right now seem less interested in promoting public health and more interested in creating artificial dividing lines. We don’t have to accept the divide.

Americans should not be killing each other over a strip of fabric. Let’s try to get through the rest of the year with a bit of civility and common sense. If you’re never going to wear a mask, then stay out of places where masks are required. If you do wear a mask, you still need to practice social distancing, avoid touching your face, wash your hands frequently, and steer clear of places where masks are not required.

If you’re an employer or a business owner and you are requiring your employees to come back to work, you need to be there too. You need to be the one who enforces the policies you and your state or county have put in place. Don’t ask your minimum wage workers to take on that responsibility. You need to assume the same risks that you are asking your employees to assume, whether you’re running a restaurant or a meatpacking plant. Now is a really bad time for you to be phoning it in.

That’s it. No right, no left, no nonsense. We can disagree on just about everything, but we damn sure don’t need to fight about this.

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