When Push Comes To Shove: Thoughts about American Life

Hey, its another blogger and blog site….grooooooan, really? Yes, really. You’ve probably noticed that at the moment, there are an abundance of important topics one can muse about, like Covid 19, Black Lives Matter, and an upcoming presidential election, so I’m jumping into the world of dialog, feet first, damn the guard rails and full speed ahead. Honestly man, why are you throwing words at us, the curious, trusting reader, and why should we deem your passages “worthy? “Okay, fair questions. Here’s my answer to those important and “just” queries: I feel a need to help solve issues; kind of a problematic bane that complicates one’s life, but its my bane, and I carry it proudly. Also, I enjoy writing. Dabbled in it all my adult life: from letters, to poems, to short stories, to novels. There are more reasons why you, the questioning, information seeking readers are being victimized by my “wordsmanship.” For instance, my friends are becoming tired of long, unsolicited text messages and they need a break. Also, my second book is presently shelved, waiting for a better moment in time for unveiling. Not a problem…my first novel sat in limbo for ten years before publication. So, what’s an idle writer to do? Find another platform of course!

So there’s the answer to “why are you writing” and next, comes the defense of “are your thoughts ‘worthy’ of notice?” Holy jumping b’jesus…this guy can dribble on….Well, yes, I can and in all fairness, this is an introduction to me, my writing style and intentions, so cut me some slack, here, and we’ll get through this together. Are my thoughts of import? You be the judge. I’ve been “around the block,” more times than most. The next time I blow the candles out, seventy will be written in colorful icing for all to see. Age by itself doesn’t create insightful understanding; experience must accompany the maturation process. Varied experiences help sharpen perception and challenges put a razor-sharp edge on one’s ability to cut-to-the-chase. (OMG, stop with the metaphors) With that thought in mind, let me continue. I’ve rarely taken the easy path. Consequently, my skill sets and experiences are varied. I passed up as a young man two proffered mid-managerial positions and chose to seek my own way without props provided by privilege or position….along the way, I’ve been a “ditch digger,” (I can really shovel some dirt) not cognitively challenging, but a great workout…. a sawmill, plainer chain “puller,” again, not rocket science, but a great workout…. Head of Room Service at a large Oregon Coast resort…. a Scuba shop employee on the Island of Maui, bar none, best job ever! an educator, most challenging, creative, stressful and rewarding line of work to date…. a home builder, again, challenging, creative, stressful and rewarding…..and a novelist, a uniquely personal and inventive endeavor….left out a number of other “paycheck” producers…. they weren’t as influential as the aforementioned bunch.

Okay, so I’ve had a diversified array of occupations….does that define “worthiness?” nah…could be, I just couldn’t hold a job….How about social and interpersonal relationships? again, diverse hats hang on the rack….I’ve lived in upper-class neighborhoods and impoverished boroughs ….I’ve called friend “one-per-centers” and those who struggle or can’t make their “monthlies.” I’ve kicked around with loggers, doctors, teachers, farmers, ranchers, carpenters, journalists, flim-flam artists, waiters, and oh, so many more people and vocational types.

So you have been around the block…Yep, I told you that, but does anything I’ve mentioned guarantee insightful comment or demand your attention….maybe, maybe not…..Then, why should I listen to your take on American life? Here it is in the proverbial “nutshell.” I’m honest, possibly to a flaw…I’m judgmental, but in most cases, I know where my biases hide and can avoid them. I’ve been around the block, allowing me that great determiner of truth, common sense. Common sense allows you to listen to simple truisms like if smokes being blown in your face, locate who has the most to gain or lose, and you’ll probably find the smudge pot. Also, old adages become doctrines. “If its too good to be true, it probably isn’t, ‘no such thing as a free lunch, ‘there’s more to a book than its cover,” are simple statements that no longer are simple. They’re larger than life. They are life. Continuing on with advocating for my wisdom, and trustworthiness, I’ll toss into the ring my most prized possession; I care about my neighbor’s well being. I want all people to achieve the greatness that resides within them. You know, bottom line, you’ll read my words and appreciate what I say if they resonate with your values and who you are. I’m not a salesman, nor a lobbyist. I will offer my opinion, in hopes that my “take” will aid or enlighten you in some way. Are you still with me? If you’ve already jumped ship, I totally understand and harbor no ill feelings. If you’ve made it this far, I hope our voyage together will be long and interesting….Welcome aboard….

Class, let me have your attention….Today’s topic offered for discussion will focus on “Societal Norms and Responsibilities” more specifically, the ongoing debate in regards to, Masks vs No Masks…..

Sorry about the above, teacherish looking subtitle. Its a little creepy. Don’t know why after so many years removed from formal education, it still invades my privacy. I’ll be more guarded in the future. Hey, it appears that wearing a mask in public is a controversial situation in the USofA. I’m a little surprised, but you know, a lot of mystifying things are happening, so let’s get past my immediate, knee jerk response of “say what?” and really look at this. I think the whole “mask vs no mask” question came about because of numerous comments and biases which, when stirred together, created a frothy, contradictory drink that invited all to take a sip, weigh-in, and proclaim their issue-specific reviews. On the “con” side, we’ve heard everything from homemade, cloth mask don’t protect anyone from Covid 19, to, our first responders need the N95 design, so hands off commoner, to, your stepping on my constitutional rights by saying I must wear one, to, etc…..I’m sure you could follow the “etc” with your own favorite statement. On the “pro” side, I’ve heard two specific thoughts. Homemade masks reduce the chance of infected wearers spreading Covid 19 to others and N95’s do the best job of protecting the wearer from corona virus pathogens. Okay, so why the mask controversy and dagger-sharp looks between maskers and non-maskers as they pass each other. Well, its a little mix of defensive gamesmanship, politics, racism, and societal, class bias all thrown together creating an irrational, somewhat toxic, and potentially harmful mix.

Let’s look at this gamesmanship idea, meaning somebody wanted an advantage or needed to cut their losses, and “played us” with disinformation in hopes of attaining there goal. This is conspiracy theory stuff. Bear with me. I’m not a fan of “conspiracy theories,” but sometimes, they’re a reality. When Covid 19 became a reality in the US, people started hoarding commodities. My favorite, of course, was the toilet paper obsession. I want to say, “only in America,” but….We should have been stashing away N95 masks, sanitizer, vitamin C and any other auto immune stimulate you can think of, plus food stuffs and water. Toilet paper? Okay, enough about the butt wipe. At some point, I believe those in the know realized that a pandemic was upon us, and that PPE’s were not stock piled like previous commissions and administrations had suggested. ” We’re up the creek” fears must have jolted the medical community, and those entrusted with protecting our population from disease, like the CDC, and the PPE manufacturing sector. Someone at this point, not sure who, starting talking about how masks weren’t effective against Covid 19. You can probably point your index finger at all the(I said index) fore mentioned groups. For those of you saying, “What about the White House?” I think at this point the administration was clueless and in denial of the pandemic. The mask disclaiming strategy simply bought time for the medical community to accumulate what supplies they could and industry to rev up production of the same. Realistically, the first responders, nurses, doctors etc. need the equipment, so I have no beef with them getting what they require. My concern is where this mask controversy comes from, and I believe the origins started here.

It should be noted in any discussion of mask protection, the apparent and obvious differences between medical masks and the homemade variety. Professional masks block a large percentage of particulates and pathogens. N95 filter 95% of such things. Homemade masks, not so much, and depending upon materials used and design, the protection range, probably, varies greatly. When I was talking about institutions fearing for the lack of protective gear, I was speaking about the N95. I believe the mask controversy really pertains to homemade masks, although, contradictory and confusing dialog about mask protection began before people started making their own face coverings. I mention this now because the remainder of my discussion focuses, mostly, on the use of products less effective than the N95 grade mask, namely inferior, commercial products, and homemade masks .

Politics play a part in the mask controversy. In a perfect world, one would hope that partisan divide and posturing would be cast aside when dealing with a pandemic. We don’t live in a perfect world, so what we see is what we get. The present administration helped fuel the mask debate. For now, forget about your personal political leanings and hear me out. Our president flat out debunks masks. He makes fun of those wearing them and refuses to wear one himself. He goes so far as to forbid his team from dawning them. This is big. Our country is very polarized at the moment, and whatever the president does, influences his base greatly.

At some point, the facial mask got a positive bump, and people started sewing home versions to be shared with family, friends, and medical facilities in short supply of PPEs. Now, even home grown masks are in demand. Apparently, something was better than nothing. You can”t fool Americans forever, and recognition of mask protection had to be acknowledged. We saw how desperately the medical profession was asking for them. Another reality was influencing are judgement. We couldn’t ignore the three countries which were doing the best in regards to minimizing Covid 19’s devastation. South Vietnam, South Korea, and Taiwan readily accepted mask protection and their citizens wore them religiously, and in these countries, Covid 19 never reached epidemic levels. The message was out. It didn’t have to be written in bold print on a newspaper page or shouted from a street corner. The evidence was everywhere. Masks save lives.

As the first homemade mask made an appearance, so did the negative comments about them. Lots of statements were thrown around about appearance. Let’s toss those comments into the immature, childish round file. The real debate should be about effectiveness. Those in the know, and by that I mean extremely experienced doctors and medical research personnel, have, at some time or another, championed the use of cloth masks. At first, Who, CDC and other national and world health organizations stated that masks only helped protect those in close proximity to a mask wearing, infected person. Just recently, though, the CDC stated that cloth masks protect both ways; the person wearing a mask reduces the risk of infecting others, plus their mask also reduces the chances of contraction for themselves. There you have it. Some really smart people with careers devoted toward stopping infectious diseases and pandemics say that cloth masks will help stop the spread of Covid 19.

Yesterday, I had to visit a big box store. My least favorite excursion in normal times and the pandemic crisis has exacerbated my feelings. Not to worry. I gathered together, multiple masks, hand sanitizer, surgical gloves and wipes for sanitizing the interior of my rig after my shopping endeavor and headed out the door, ready for battle. I toddled off to the box store and made my purchase. I took an informal count of mask vs no mask while shopping and noted a fifty/fifty ratio. What the hell! Didn’t numerous, prestigious people and outfits just champion wearing masks? Yes, they did.

Can contradictive statements and negative, presidential disdain of face coverings cause a large proportion of our populous to shun face masks? The number of people disregarding face masks suggests more factors are present. I believe, one such factor is racism. Seems we can’t get away from that word. For good reason. In every corner of our country, systemic racism exists. The prejudice I’m noting here is the one directed toward oriental Asians. Our relationship with the roughly two billion people of this demographic during the last eighty years has been caustic, to rocky, to qualified acceptance. During WWII, the Pacific Theater was horrifying. The Korean war didn’t help Americans’ perception of Asians and visa versa. The Vietnam war worsened our feelings toward Indo-China and again, visa versa, and of course, our continual “Cold War” with China fuels prejudice on a daily basis. I don’t mention this to open old wounds or discuss pros and cons of American foreign policy. No, I’m just looking at the obvious. Killing someone and having others trying to kill you does not create lasting friendships. Hatred and loathing are words that readily come to mind, and these acidic emotions need to be buffed from peoples day-to-day psyche; prejudice and racism step to the plate and offer a mechanism by which humans can tolerate abhorred feelings they harbor. So, are Americans going to mimic Asian behaviors? I think some will purposefully debunk oriental answers to problems simply because of prejudice and racism.

There are a couple more points to cover before a conclusion is invited to the table. I mentioned earlier that class bias, a symptom of social/economic conditions is a factor helping to create our mask controversy. Two class prejudices muddying the waters are the “don’t tread on me” proponents and their anti-authoritarian stance, and the uneducated vs educated distrust present in our country. There is always suspicion between educated an uneducated peoples. This mistrust and suspicion has increased dramatically over the past few years, to the point where large groups of people ignore or completely reject helpful insight and suggestions, and answers. This can be incredibly problematic during a time of crisis, when the wrong move can have serious, deadly consequences. There’s nothing wrong with being uneducated. Levels of education have much more to do with circumstance than intelligence. What’s wrong is when people trust information from those who are ignorant and distrust information from those who truly have the knowledge and expertise to guide us. I placed the “don’t tread on me” faction together with the under educated group for several reasons; a Venn diagram of these demographics would show considerable overlap and they form a large segment of the present administration’s base.The “don’t tread” people dislike authoritarian types telling them what to do and the uneducated often distrust what authoritarian types say. Add to this, these groups loyalty to the present administration which disdains protective masks, and you’ve got the perfect situation for facial mask rejection.

So its come down to this. I’ve given you a whole lot of what, who, and why about face mask acceptance or rejection. Lot’s of personal bias and facts thrown together in an attempt to look closely at an issue. Why did I write my first blog about our present mask controversy? Well, its deadly important. Lives will be lost or saved because of how we address this issue, and also, influencing my writing, standing in the wings, behind the curtain, a bigger character prevails, one dear to my heart, “Community.” A pandemic, by its very definition, affects all of us. It threatens our national community. Because of this, mask wearing is no longer a “me” situation, but an “us” condition. Like it or not, we are all in this together and connected now by a communal threat; a pathogen that kills indiscriminately. Wearing a mask, now, is about community. It’s about a core societal value, respect. Without respect, there is no trust, no empathy, no desire to help others….no feeling of community, or country. Wearing a mask is about us showing respect for each other. Its saying that your life and health matter to me. You may not agree with facial coverings for, possibly, one of the reasons mentioned above, but this mask thing isn’t about you, its about “us” The data is out there, masks will save lives….Saving a fellow American’s life is a noble goal. Let’s allow masks in a practical, medical sense to fulfill this end, and also, let masks be a positive symbol of our community’s, our country’s health and well being.

Well, there you have it. If you’re reading these words, you’ve made it to the end of my first blog. Obviously, I did, too. Along the way, I audibly groaned, self judged, rewrote, questioned my beliefs, edited my manuscript numerous times, cursed my writing ineptness, wished I’d never started, and in general, tortured myself…..I must be a masochist because I’ll be back in the near future with another blog. Hope you’ll join me, and we’ll continue to look at American life, together…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “When Push Comes To Shove: Thoughts about American Life

  1. Hi Don. I like what you’re saying, but I do feel it’s a little lengthy for a blog post. (Can’t tell this is coming from an editor, can you?)

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    1. Hi Linda….Thanks from your imput….I agree about length, but feel the need to closely look at issues. What do you suggest? It’s great to hear from you….lost your e-mail a while back…that’s why you haven’t heard from me for some time….So, if you’ve got time, send me a few more helpful thoughts, specifically designed for one just entering the world of blogging….Looking foward to reading your insightful, input and finding out about how life’s been treating you……sincerely, me

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