I stopped to see Amy McLenithan at her Country Cooking Wagon, I haven’t been by much during the coronavirus lockdown.
It was surprising to see her with a mask, and odd to be wearing one when I got my coffee.
They call it the new normal, and I’m getting used to it. Amy looked great and said her business was holding up. I missed her.
Before stopping at Amy’s, I made three stops along Main Street in my town – the hardware store, the post office and a convenience store.
It feels like the town is opening up, more men in trucks, more cars, more stores delicately moving to open. All along the way, I encountered groups of men who were not wearing masks or social distancing.
They were talking and gathering as they always do, not as health authorities and the governor are pleading with them to do.
Yesterday, I saw some stories about the growing the growing political divide over masks. The President isn’t wearing one and is encouraging his followers not to wear them, and this has upset medical authorities and many people who do wear masks and who believe it is callous and irresponsible for people not to wear them.
It makes me a little sick to see that masks are being used to divide us further and politicize this awful Pandemic. It speaks to the country’s broken soul.
It also challenges me to figure out ways to help undivide the people I live around. It’s time to make America kind again, and it has to start one person at a time.
The country is too big to handle for me, but listening has to start somewhere. If Nelson Mandela did it in South Africa, we can do it here.
One of the men I met this morning told me that he doesn’t wear a mask in order to support President Trump. Everyone was jumping on him, he said.
I said I was sorry to see the masks divide us in our town. I said it was his choice to make, I don’t feel I can tell anyone to do. He was polite and offered to shake my hand.
I shook his hand. ( I admit I did use the sanitizer back in the car.)
This man then said he thinks people who wear masks are doing so in opposition to Trump, as a statement against him. I said I was wearing a mask to protect myself and others, and in good faith, but that we all had to answer to our own sense of what was right.
Another man waiting in line at the post office – he had no mask, looked uncomfortable when he saw mine, and moved away a bit – told me the virus might be serious in New York City, but not up here.
He seemed angry. The whole thing was a lot of BS, he said, from people who wanted to make the president looked bad and who didn’t give a shit about ordinary people.
I said I wasn’t in the business of telling other people what to do, and I understood the feeling of resenting the government’s intrusion into our personal lives. I said I often voted Democratic and I wore the mask because I believe the doctors who say I needed to, for my sake and others.
I said no politician, including Donald Trump, made my clothing choices. I said I did listen to Dr. Fauci and the CDC, but that was my choice, he had to make his own. You don’t need to explain yourself to me, I said, and I don’t need to explain myself to you.
He nodded and turned away and do his business. He still seemed angry, but he nodded to me on the way out.
I don’t intend to march around talking to people about masks. But I’m figuring out what to do when it comes up.
I was wearing a mask for both conversations, and it was strange to think of this as a political statement. I did feel a bit like a wussy, the real men were not wearing masks. Then I rethought that..
My town has a lot of supporters of Donald Trump, it also has a bunch of transplanted New Yorkers who don’t care for the President and who are wearing masks.
So it is divided, although it rarely bubbles up.
A lot of the New Yorkers speak up and argue with the locals who aren’t wearing masks. Some even shout at them or move far away. Some argue. I can’t recall ever seeing an argument change someone’s opinion, online or off.
My feeling about it – some people won’t like it – is that I need to try and accept the feelings of other people. I don’t think I changed anybody’s mind, but I liked the fact that we did listen to one another.
I sometimes resent the mask also, there is little coronavirus up here, and I can understand why these men – most of them out of work now and hurting – are getting angry and vulnerable to different messages, and already feel divided.
I feel like I’ve got to start listening somewhere, and at some point, and I’m not inclined to rush to judgment on other people who have their own souls and consciences to consider.
I hate being told what to do, and I hate doing that to other people. It’s too much like playing God to me.
I wear the mask on the admittedly remote chance that I will save my own life, I am an older man at risk, and as, and as importantly, so that I might save the life of someone else.
I think wearing a mask is the right thing to do, for now, I have no reservations about it.
I can understand ignoring a politician, but I do listen to doctors, they have saved my life more than once, and have saved countless other people as well in recent months.
It is just too easy to judge other people when I am so flawed myself and have been judged so often by others.
So that’s where I am on masks. Generally speaking, and unless it relates to dogs, I don’t tell other people what to do.
I focus on what I do and make sure I like the face I see in the mirror each morning and do nothing to shame him. I also appreciate my town, these men, who are so different than me, have always rushed to help me when I needed help.