Why can’t we all just get along? Just do your thing, let me do mine, and us and the world will all be fine

Recently I read an article here on Medium titled (and I’m not sure I’m getting it exact, though hopefully close) “The Politics of the Mask.” It was a good thought-provoking read, not to mention an inspiration to me to write an article along the lines of the same topic, that of wearing masks in public in hopes of preventing/slowing down the spread of Covid-19.

During the two-plus month “shutdown” of, basically, the world due to the novel coronavirus, a lot of ugliness has surfaced. Okay, maybe it was always there but unfortunately events and crises that invoke fear and panic always shows off people’s true colors — and they often aren’t pretty. One such example of said ugliness is how it seems people/the media are making this pandemic into a highly political (and thus, divisive) issue. Oftentimes I read articles in newspapers or on social media and I think, “Really?!”! This isn’t a political issue, it’s a worldwide public health situation!” So it’s not a Democrat issue (as some conspiracy theorists would have you believe) or a Republican issue. It’s just an issue. No need to put partisan labels on it.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” — U.S. President Harry S Truman

I realize that the aforementioned fear and panic caused by this current issue is at the root of much of what people say and do that may be perceived as ugly, rude, contentious, and so on. The panic is the reason grocery and other stores were constantly running out of toilet paper in about the first month of this pandemic. And fear is likely the reason many people are striking out at other people (and being argumentive and confrontational) on the mask issue … or the “to wear or not to wear; that is the question” (with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare for paraphrasing one of his great lines) debate of late.

This mask debate has gotten a bit, ummm, nauseating. After I read the “Politics of the Mask” article I began to question it in political terms and found that I can’t pigeonhole anyone. It seems — from what I read and observe around me — that most people go to one extreme or the other. There are those who never leave the house without their protective gear in place: mask, gloves, can of disinfectant spray or wipes at the ready, haz mat suit on, etc. I think of these people as “the mask police” (I first thought “mask Nazis,” but realized that is profiling, and profiling is wrong, as comedian Ron White says.

And there are those who absolutely, and loudly, refuse to wear a mask, who deny the severity of the disease, and appear to not care less about whether or not they might be a carrier of the coronavirus. I call them “mask deniers.” I assumed, though I admit I could be wrong and/or unfairly stereotyping, that many of these people are also climate-change deniers, but that is another article. On with this one ….

I live in a small town in the upper Midwest of the United States. Being a rural area, it is mostly populated by people of the conservative mindset (read: a lot of Trump supporters here). At first glance it would seem that most of those people I think of as “mask deniers” are conservatives, but it ain’t necessarily so. I know a number of my neighbors in smalltownville who are “mask police,” sometimes getting rather loud (and sometimes obnoxious) with others about “why aren’t you/they wearing a mask??” Their shrillness is sometimes alarming, until one realizes they are likely reacting out of fear. And of course, there are plenty of mask deniers in my town, as there are everywhere.

Another perception I had that was blown to bits the other day was thinking that the mask deniers are generally men. This is probably because I most of the men I know are not wearing masks in public unless they have to because a store they want to do business at requires it. Though I now know I was wrong; there are female mask deniers too. I just love it when I hear these people yelling about how “forcing” them to be masked is “taking away their freedoms.” The logic (or lack thereof)behind that just boggles my brain, but then again so do many people perplex the absolute hell out of me. I wonder what these people are fearing that cause their actions (or inactions) that, unfortunately, sometimes lead to real ugliness.

To everyone I offer this insight that I read elsewhere: your overblown fear could possibly be increasing your vulnerabillity to catching something, like the coronavirus. It has been scientifically proven that worry, fear and panic can literally make you sick. There’s a strong mind-body connection at work here. So you might want to take a breath and calmly consider that.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a happy medium, into which I like to think I fall, and I’ll explain: Happy medium between the extremes would be people who take the precautions of hand washing and cleaning a lot, practice social distancing (with to my mind isn’t much of a hardship), possibly wearing gloves and maybe donning a mask when venturing out in public. I have to wear a mask because I work part-time as a caregiver and am considered a health care worker (and therefore “essential”). It can be uncomfortably hot though I wear it without complaining because work rules insist, as do some of the places where I like to do business.

So what I’m saying is, people either wear a mask or don’t. Do what you’re gonna do and don’t militantly force your beliefs on others as though you are “right” and everyone who believes/behaves differently is “wrong.” (Hmmm, sounds like a good life-in-general philosophy).

Those of you who are of the “super safe” mindset in your protective gear may be protecting others from your possible infection, and protecting yourself from others. Just don’t be so confrontative and insist that everyone be like you. On the other hand, those of you who don’t want to wear one, then don’t. The majority of places do not require them, and you still do have the freedom — in spite of what some people say — to choose. That freedom includes choosing not to do business in places that require you wear the mask. Just don’t ridicule the mask wearers, or get in fights with “the mask police,” and please, please do NOT sneeze and/or cough right next to others (yes, I’ve heard of people doing this; not only is it disgusting but downright rude).

No matter where we stand on the mask issue, can we all just agree to get along, do our thing in accordance with our beliefs, and live and let live? Can’t we all just get along??

Experienced professional writer/freelancer and former newspaper reporter-turned-online writer/blogger. Thinker. “Old soul”, young hippie, empath.

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