Over the last nine months or so, I have observed the national debate in America regarding the use of face masks; and I have done so initially with growing incredulity, and ultimately with a realisation that sometimes I simply don’t understand America, regardless of how much I love it.
To me, the basic facts are quite simple.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic – there is a nasty little virus sweeping the world and it’s killed an awful ot of people so far, never mind the many who have become ill and survived. And while younger people are, at least as a general rule, statistically less likely to become seriously ill, the same cannot be said for older people. And unfortunately, this virus spreads very well between different age groups, because people within those groups tend to mix both inside families and within society more generally. We know this virus is predominantly respiratory and all the evidence says that facemasks play a significant role in helping to reduce the spread by particle inhalation. So far so good.
But then we come to the problem.
In the United States, the wearing – or not – of facemasks has become politicised. Just take a moment to actually think about that. It is no longer about what is good for a person or all the people around them; instead, it is about politics. Wearing or not wearing facemask identifies your political leaning.
I have to confess, rarely have I heard anything as surreal and utterly ridiculous as this.
To be very, very clear – wearing a facemask has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. It has to do with health. And it has to do with regard for your personal well-being and the well-being of all those around you.
I have often heard it said that “it’s my constitutional right not to wear a facemask”. And I am sure that is what the Founding Fathers intended when the Constitution was written. What such people forget is that with rights, come responsibilities.
In other words – sometimes “us” is more important than “me”.
It is dificult to read the massive daily statistics about coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths in the United States, to then consider the very broad rejection of the use of facemasks, and not to conclude there is a direct link between the two.
America may well be the land of the free. It often appears to be the land of the foolish, too.