Show­ing sol­i­dar­ity with my com­mu­nity

Times Standard (Eureka) - - BOOMERS+BEYOND - Tracey Barnes Pri­est­ley

Dear Tracey: Can you tell me why some peo­ple are so hell bent on re­fus­ing to wear masks? I don’t get it.

My mother is in an as­sisted liv­ing place and she’s ter­ri­fied the virus will get in there and in­fect all of them. She says she feels like a “sit­ting duck” and I don’t blame her. She calls it “The In­vis­i­ble Killer” and I don’t know how to re­as­sure her she’s safe.

The peo­ple who work there tell me they’re do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect the res­i­dents but hon­estly, that doesn’t make me feel bet­ter. We all know this virus can run through a nurs­ing home in a flash.

I don’t want my mother’s life to end just be­cause some­one is too self-cen­tered to put on a sim­ple mask.

Is there any way to talk sense to those peo­ple who won’t do their part? — Signed, Mad, Mad, MAD

Dear Reader: You have ev­ery right to be an­gry. It must be ter­ri­fy­ing and frus­trat­ing to know your vul­ner­a­ble mother is in a liv­ing sit­u­a­tion that might put her at in­creased risk for con­tract­ing COVID-19.

Thanks to a global body of re­search, many of us are de­ter­mined to stop this deadly virus by wear­ing a mask and tak­ing other pre­cau­tions.

How­ever, do­ing some­thing like wear­ing a mask is a to­tally new con­cept for Amer­i­cans and, when some­thing is new, peo­ple tend to ap­proach it through their own val­ues, ex­pe­ri­ences and bi­ases.

On a very sim­ple level, some peo­ple find the masks too un­com­fort­able to wear and they are sim­ply un­will­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence any kind of dis­com­fort.

For some, the mask rep­re­sents weak­ness and rather than be seen as weak, some peo­ple over­com­pen­sate with a show of strength. (Think of a go­rilla that pounds his chest to ap­pear larger and more threat­en­ing. Or how about pack­ing a rocket launcher to a protest? There’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple of over­com­pen­sa­tion.)

Other peo­ple hate be­ing told what to do. They equate wear­ing a sim­ple mask as loss of per­sonal free­dom, some­thing Amer­i­cans deeply value. When an in­di­vid­ual be­lieves his/ her lib­erty is threat­ened, we have seen peo­ple be­come in­dig­nant and morally out­raged, of­ten dig­ging their heels in even fur­ther over their def­i­ni­tion of per­sonal free­dom.

Fear is also driv­ing peo­ple to make bad, lifethreat­en­ing de­ci­sions. I was ab­so­lutely shocked to see a pro­tester car­ry­ing a huge sign that read, “My free­dom is worth more than your safety.” My stom­ach ac­tu­ally turned. While I’m pretty sure this man would loudly deny my the­ory, I imag­ine this level of self-cen­tered­ness is likely driven by fear. And when fear takes over, the rules of a civ­i­lized so­ci­ety can start to break­down

Sadly, all of these re­ac­tions to wear­ing a mask are ex­ac­er­bated be­cause, for months now the en­tire na­tion has been liv­ing with in­cred­i­ble un­cer­tainty. Jobs have been lost, rent can’t be paid, kids are home from school, the fu­ture looks bleak. Fuses are short. Sadly, de­fi­ance can feel oddly sat­is­fy­ing and even pow­er­ful. (Too bad it’s so short-sighted.)

But we also have a long tra­di­tion in this coun­try of look­ing out for one an­other, es­pe­cially when it comes to the health and safety of the whole. As a group we’ve come to ac­cept some per­sonal sac­ri­fices for the good of our­selves and our fel­low Amer­i­cans. We have seat­belt laws and obey traf­fic lights. Drink­ing and driv­ing is il­le­gal. Thanks to re­search on sec­ond hand smoke, there are now re­stric­tions about where smok­ers can light up.

Do we like all of these laws and re­stric­tions? Maybe not, but they cer­tainly have re­sulted in lower rates of ill­ness, in­jury and death. The thing those re­fus­ing to wear masks seem to have lost sight of is this: Be­ing part of our so­ci­ety al­lows us cer­tain free­doms, but it also de­mands that we share cer­tain re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

I hap­pen to think masks are un­com­fort­able. So what! My slight dis­com­fort is just not a good enough rea­son to skip wear­ing one. No, I pre­fer to think of it as one way I can show my fel­low Amer­i­cans that I care about them and have re­spect for them. It doesn’t feel like forced con­form­ity or a loss of my per­sonal free­dom. In­stead, I choose to think of it as a way I can show sol­i­dar­ity with my com­mu­nity. Why? Be­cause we’re all in this to­gether.

Tracey Barnes Pri­est­ley is a life coach with a master’s de­gree in com­mu­nity coun­sel­ing psy­chol­ogy and more than 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a coun­selor, ed­u­ca­tor and con­sul­tant. Visit her web­site at www. thesec­ond­hal­fon­

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