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Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox--Deadly conjuring

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Since Chatterbox, March 19, we’ve spoken too often about this topic and yet, it seems, we can’t avoid its issues.

Staring down a pandemic, America has, unbelievably, divided into two camps: defense or defiance. How unity isn’t absolute in reference to staying alive in America, most of us will never understand, and how has protecting our life and that of loved ones and neighbors become political or debatable?

Last month, I attended a wedding for a very responsible bride and groom who postponed their reception but were content to hold their ceremony on Zoom. It was less social but just as joyful. People waved to each other and took turns exchanging greetings. The bride and groom took pictures, took their vows, spent a few moments with the guests they could see and waved goodbye. It wasn’t what they’d planned, but if next spring’s conditions allow, we’ll party like it’s a wedding because it will be.

On the flip side, we’ve all seen the images of crowded beaches and bars, the protests and marches, political rallies, even a recent pre-press conference gathering, where masks weren’t in use and distancing was ignored. Last week, personally, I watched a group of kids laughing and chatting, skateboarding and gathering to go biking all without masks or distancing. We have towns, cities and states where the leadership isn’t mandating the use of the best defense we have to limit the spread of this virus – distancing and masks. Those who do, don’t enforce it even to the degree to which they can.

Our medical and emergency communities are handling far more than they are medically supplied for or mentally, emotionally and physically able to handle. Americans are dying. How can we not be unified in the discipline to change that? The resistance to distancing is more than selfish; it’s juvenile and dangerous and why masking up has become a political carrot is beyond comprehension by anyone without a death wish.

A person’s choice to unnecessarily risk his or her life as a political statement is a personal choice. When the choice endangers others around them, it’s a legal issue.

What about the children involved? We all saw the pictures of the woman at the Trump rally with the newborn in her arms. She had no mask, stood in a group of other unmasked attendees in a large room filled with people. Some had masks but most did not. They risked being infected as well as infecting others. Others brought youngsters who couldn’t know the risks. The adults charged with their well-being, should have. It makes one wonder if such an act should be or could be considered endangerment of a child.

The results are in from around the world. Masks are one of very few ways we can protect ourselves and our loved ones, and a deadly virus is deadly whether it infects a person who defies or respects its lethality.

Recently, I caught the tail end of an amazing true story about a man who was a prisoner of war during World War II. It was a heart wrenching story of his struggle, but it typified the struggle of all prisoners of war. The mental, physical, emotional, and psychological trauma they endured for years, just to communicate with loved ones, to maintain their dignity and human concern for fellow prisoners, and just to stay alive. They suffered immensely but they persevered. Many died anyway, but they did all they could. It made me think about our endurance during this virus.

We are bleaching our groceries, divesting toxic clothing we wear to run essential errands, even bleaching the bottoms of our shoes. These are small sacrifices. Wearing our masks, Zooming our weddings, and missing out on one summer at the beach all pale in comparison to what many people have done, in various conditions, just to stay alive.

Our masks don’t protect us; they protect others. In that way, their use isn’t our choice but that of those we come in contact with. Common concern, if not just common sense, seems to make the determination. Flying in the face of either is folly as we can never beat this plague without discipline.

We have, somehow, turned survival and common decency into a political stand. Reckless endangerment has become a parental option, and elected officials refuse to take responsibility for the very people they were elected to protect.

A simple mask, six feet of space ... or a flirtation with death. The choice is clear, and the debate is absurd.


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