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COLUMN: Sense of connection lost on anti-maskers

Like it or not, all 7.8 billion of us are linked through the air we breathe

A quick show of hands, anyone who has managed over the past several months to break themselves of the habit of touching their face 800 times a day. Yeah, me neither.

Add it to the list of things that we must learn to do differently during a global pandemic.

For example, trying not to leave home without at least two clean masks and a mickey of hand sanitizer in my purse.

As rude and un-Canadian as it makes me feel, I tend not to hold the door for strangers these days.

And I try not to look too uncomfortable when someone holds a door for me, forcing me into that six-foot perimeter we’ve been told to avoid. There are many good friends I haven’t seen face-to-face in months. Dining in a restaurant? No thanks, I’ll stick to take-out for now.

And when I go out in public, I wear a mask.

Do I like it? Not really.

Am I a sucker? What about everyone else who is making a concerted effort every day to help protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19?

Are we sheep who’ve been duped into trading away our personal freedoms in return for a false sense of security?

I don’t think so.

Why don’t we ask my friend who lost her uncle to the disease last spring? She shared the news on Facebook a few days ago, while posting a story written by a Washington state woman whose mother died after contracting coronavirus.

The writer’s plea to readers to stay home as much as possible and to cover their face when out in public is the same request we’ve been hearing for some time now.

In B.C. it’s less a request than an order and yet for a select few, it continues to fall on deaf (or, should I say, defiant) ears.

Every time I read or watch a story on the news about someone throwing a tantrum inside another person’s place of business, screaming about how their rights are being violated, I’m forced to wonder what makes that person feel so exceptional that a government mandate somehow doesn’t apply to them.

Perhaps this sense of disconnectedness comes, in part, from not personally knowing anyone who has become gravely ill or died as a result of COVID-19?

That might be a bit generous, based on some of the scenes we’ve watched unfold in recent days. In truth, all signs point to plain, old-fashioned narcissism

But if this pandemic has taught us anything it is certainly that we – all 7.8 billion of us – are connected at the most fundamental level – through the air we breathe to simply exist

Consider that this virus took root one year ago in a single human being. Today, through the spread of airborne droplets, every single person on the planet is, or has been, put at some degree of risk. For some, contracting COVID-19 will amount to no more than a sore throat, but for others, it’s a death sentence.

Knowing this, why wouldn’t we all do everything that has even an outside chance of helping to stop or slow its spread? Especially something as simple as wearing a bit of cloth over our nose and mouth when we’re out in public. I’m not talking about people with a medical condition or who for one reason or another can simply not wear a mask. But I suspect these are not the people who insist on making a scene.

No, masks are not a panacea. They’re simply one more tool in a very small set that we’ve been asked to employ – along with washing our hands and keeping our human contacts limited – to help keep ourselves and our neighbours safe from an invisible, but potentially deadly, foe.

It would be good to think that as the winter progresses and people continue to get sick – and possibly die – in exponentially higher numbers, a few of these anti-maskers might stop screaming about their rights long enough to give a moment’s thought to the responsibility that comes with being part of a larger community.

It would be nice if that happened, but I’m not holding my breath.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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