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Why Won't They Wear Masks?

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Disclaimer: It's not a communist propaganda.

George Frey

The world is in the midst of a crisis. Well, let’s face it, there’s always a crisis, but this time it has gone beyond borders. From Wuhan, to most recently São Paulo, COVID-19, more infamously known as ‘The Coronavirus,’ has taken advantage of the connectivity of our modern world and flipped everything we know onto its head.

I was born in 2000, meaning I grew up in the paranoid “new normal” that is; September 11 USA. I grew up hearing about the war in Iraq and seeing images of deceased suicide bombers on television. When the towers fell, anger rose and radiated out from those 16 ruined acres of Lower Manhattan. No matter where I went, there was always post - 9/11 fear lurking in the shadows, as the war raged on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The degree of the conflicts; however, was half a world away, they didn’t impact my ability to live my daily life. You grow up thinking, ‘This is America.’ Let’s face it, I was the child of an affluent family growing up in the United States in the mid-2000s and besides September 11, nothing of that sort of critical nature took place in my country at the time. I and so many others, as a result, were far removed from the realities of conflict and crisis, until the pandemic reached our shores earlier this year.

As the pandemic spread, I and many others never anticipated the level to which it would change our lives. Then came the day, the day I was asked to evacuate my university flat in just 24 hours. I stayed up all night, cleaning, packing, and folding my belongings into the cardboard boxes they came in, with zero discretion as to what went where. That was a sign to me, that this was much more dangerous than I’d assumed. That same evening, I tied a bandana around my mouth and nose, creating a make-shift mask and left my dorm for good. After that, I did not leave my house other than to get some essential items.

The metaphorical tsunami that was COVID-19, was building and pushing itself further and further towards my city, leaving destruction and a trail of thousands of bodies behind it. With it first striking the West Coast, more specifically, the Seattle, Washington area, likely in late January. Then, came Chicago, Illinois several days later. With it finally reaching the East Coast via Europe, more specifically, Boston, Massachusetts, and then moving on to New York City in early February. Yet, at the same time, many around me continued to underestimate the power of this invisible enemy.

New York, a city devastated by the aforementioned 9/11 attacks nearly 20 years before, became the most infected city worldwide, surpassing Wuhan. In Brooklyn, my cousin left her small apartment with only a few belongings. She got out of the city when she could. The streets of the city became vacant, as more and more fled to smaller cities and towns, with those who had no choice staying sheltered inside their apartments, just as they had done 18 years before.

The life of everyone in the United States was altered, albeit, altered to an extent, because, despite the over 100,000 deaths we have had, many Americans outright refused to do the bare minimum in preventing the spread of COVID-19, sans the help of the Federal Government. The bare minimum being mask-wearing and social distancing. A larger question still remains in the international community, why? Why would people choose to ignore a crisis? The answer, from my point of view as an American, is much more complicated than what we observe at face value.

As young children, up until a certain point, we are taught all the positives of the United States. We are taught that we are the absolute pinnacle of democracy and a perfect, functioning society. Not much thought is given to other democratic nations such as India, Germany, Japan, the UK, amongst others.

It isn’t until secondary school that we learn more about the realities of living in the United States in the 21st century. Some, however, take this as a threat to their personal existence. They believe any criticism of American society is a criticism of their individual self. This belief makes it hard to talk about our history and; the many horrific actions we took as the direct, yet independent, descendent of the British Empire.

This feeling of being personally attacked results in insecurity and in turn, an intense feeling of individualism and nationalist sentiment. Given that the United States is known as an individualistic society as opposed to a collective society, the needs of one go above the needs of a larger group. Which can have it’s pros and cons, but in this case, it serves as a crutch.

As these individuals grow into adults, any sort of outside interference or criticism triggers that insecurity and in turn, an immense amount of anger. While I cannot say this is the exact answer as to why, from my observations being born and raised in the US, it is a significant handicap in being able to work with the international community.

The people that fall into this bucket, outright hate authority. They are often members of what is known as ‘the Tea Party,’ in which their agenda is to essentially be 18th-century revolutionaries in 21st century America. Rekindle their colonial roots to protest any policy which harm their ideologies.

They have the revolutionary mindset, that any attempt to influence their behavior is a threat to their individual liberties, which simply isn’t true. That’s why there are protests in places like Michigan against quarantines and newly imposed measures by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

To be fair, not all Americans, dare I’d say most, are like this of course, I have to give my nation some saving grace but, these people exist and many of them have risen to an incomparable amount of power. So, what does this have to do with masks specifically and how can this be fixed?

Everything. It has everything to do with the resistance to obeying certain societal measures and the only way to fix it is to alter our children’s education, which likely will not happen until Betsy Devos (the US Secretary for the Department of Education) and, the rest of the current administration leaves office. Even if these actions are taken, however, this mentality can be perpetually spread; until Americans and the federal government acknowledge our issues and choose to pay attention to the rest of the international community, there is virtually no way to fix this crisis. All we can do is be critical of the decisions made by others and listen to the World Health Organization. For a nation that can reflect upon itself, is a nation that can progress.

In the meantime, if you are a non-American, I want you to understand that if you are looking from the outside in, take time to process the context and know that despite the power of these individuals, many in the United States are committed to flattening the curve and, more importantly, improving upon the system in place.

The above article is an opinion piece. Any views or opinions represented in this op-ed are personal and belong solely to the author, and do not represent the views of The Contrarian. No views or opinions are intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organisation, company or individual.

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