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Larry Peterson - Straight Shots

It’s about ‘us,’ not your political affiliation

It’s understandable if you’ve grown weary of the troubling news of the past week, so I’m not going to pretend to have some insightful prose here to solve decades of systemic racism in America.

It’s so baffling to be watching basically the same television newscast that I did as a kid in 1968. The only difference is that 52 years ago the broadcast was dominated by protests against racial injustice and the Vietnam War, while now it’s protests against racial injustice and a global pandemic.

Hopefully, this generation can push the dialogue forward enough to start pushing institutional discrimination out of our society, after so many years of futility. The destruction of family businesses by people taking advantage of the situation to cause mayhem is the disheartening part. That’s just destroying more lives.

So, the basic message today is: It’s about us.

Everything is so politically polarized now, that we have to make every single issue into a political fight, and you’re constantly asked to take a side. What happened to George Floyd on camera in front of Americans is a humanity issue. You don’t have to be a member of one particular party to realize no person deserves justice served in that manner, regardless of the circumstances of the incident that led to police being called to the scene, or his own criminal history.

The idea that we’re all in this together also pertains to the “other” major news issue of 2020, the death of over 106,000 Americans with another 1.8 million infected. Remember COVID-19?

It was shoved aside in the news cycle, in much of the same manner as the cavalier attitude you often encounter now as society reopens. The pandemic is not over just because you’re over it. We can’t waste two months of personal and financial sacrifice by reckless behavior.

Just this week, Tyson Foods said 815 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at meat processing plants in Storm Lake and Council Bluffs. Many were asymptomatic. It seems, especially in younger people, it is often spread to others before feeling any symptoms or having a fever. As of this writing on Wednesday, Union County has 10 confirmed cases, and in Iowa there are 20,018 confirmed cases and 564 deaths.

It was asymptomatic spread among young, healthy people that made it such a problem on the USS Roosevelt. The first case on that U.S. aircraft carrier was on March 22. Two weeks later 150 sailors tested positive, and six weeks after that initial case the number was up to 1,150 — a quarter of the crew on board. No obvious symptoms like fever or coughing by many of them.

The report of a positive case in Iowa State University athletics Wednesday, just as some student-athletes are returning to campus, is just one early example of how colleges have a tough task ahead of them to identify casds and trace contacts to quell outbreaks.

Of all the voices out there, I like to listen to experts who have earned their credentials through the study of medicine and epidemiology. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is the nation’s top medical expert on the pandemic and a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force (Again, remember them?)

Even before people gathered in large numbers for protests, some wearing face masks and some not, Fauci was troubled by attitudes expressed in photos of huge Memorial Day gatherings and from swimming party venues.

“I think people who are out there frolicking need to realize that when you do that, and you see no negative effect in one week, please don’t be overconfident, because the effect of spreading is not going to be seen for two, three or maybe even more weeks,” Fauci said.

That’s where my message of tolerance begins. We need to be respectful of however anyone chooses to respond to the public health threat. Wearing a face mask in public should not carry a political stigma.

I admit to not being as mindful as my wife Deb in consistently wearing a face mask in public. When she does that, she’s doing her part to keep anyone near her in public safe from some of the risk, especially those brave store clerks on the front line. Kudos to the companies who have their staff wear the masks, for setting a good safety tone.

Somehow, it’s been made into a sign of weakness or being a “sheep” following a message of fear. Rather, it’s simply a consideration for the common good.

If someone behind you in line is wearing a mask, there’s no need to look around in scorn because they might be “one of them.” Maybe it’s just someone who wants to be safe, and to keep you safe. Droplets can be spread from just talking, not only sneezing or coughing, which makes me a little scared about what might be spreading from all of the protest chants in close quarters, sans mask.

I saw a newscast where South Korea had to pull back a little from its reopening of schools and many businesses, because of rising numbers of cases. And, that happened in a country that has been extremely organized in its mitigation efforts, with plexiglass partitions already erected between school desks, between cafeteria seating spots, worker stations and just about 100 percent mask wearing in public.

I knew from the start that we’re a nation built on individuality and personal freedom, and that our patience for public mandates would be shorter. That has proven to be the case.

Why is it OK for a country club golfer to abide by a “collard shirts only” policy, or convenience store shoppers complying with a no shirt-no shoes rule, but suddenly the request to wear a face mask during a pandemic is a violation of individual rights? It seems so absurd, in the continued absence of a vaccine or effective treatment.

I’ll close with a story told by Roseanne Cash, a writer for New Yorker.

“My daughter lives in Nashville and wore her mask to buy groceries. Guy yells at her, ‘Liberal pu--y!’ Back story: she nearly died of H1N1. She was in the ICU for a week, on a ventilator for 3 days. She CANNOT get Covid. The ignorance and hatred is so painful. She’s trying to survive.”

You don’t know the story of the person standing behind you wearing a mask, or working hard to stay at least 6 feet away from you.

“It’s about us,” actor Matthew McConaughey said in a public service video. “It’s not about politics. The virus doesn’t care who you voted for. We need more empathy and compassion for each other, please.”


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Twitter: @larrypeterson

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