Who would of thought that in 2020, one of the most controversial debates would be to wear or not to wear a face mask in public? Some claim it is a suppression of their rights by governments or businesses by making wearing the face mask mandatory in public. Others claim medical conditions prevent them from wearing a face mask because of a lack of oxygen getting to their lungs from wearing a mask. One thing is for sure, there is lots of misinformation about wearing masks going around on the internet. I could understand that some people are on the fence on whether to wear or not to wear a mask. Let me try to sort through some information which will hopefully paint a clearer picture of the issue.
I believe this issue arises from the inconsistent information given to us by our leaders. Here in Canada, at the beginning of the pandemic, health officials downplayed the benefits of wearing a mask, claiming that social distancing and washing your hands frequently was enough to stop the spread of the virus. To their defence, they did not have all the knowledge of how covid-19 was spreading. Now we know that wearing a mask will help protect others from getting infected since most carriers have no symptoms, and that is their current recommendation along with social distancing and washing your hands frequently. The health officials, which base their decisions on the WHO (World Health Organization) recommendations, evolve their stance on the virus as new and more information is available. I believe the WHO has the world in their best interest. We need as a collective to follow their lead to overcome this virus. Until we have a vaccine or medication to fight covid-19, we will need to learn to live with it and arguing over prevention measures will not get us anywhere. We will just place the more vulnerable at risk.
The question is why people are making this a political and rights issue, especially in the United States when already tensions are running high. This is not something the main media is really talking about. On social media, you can find many videos of people getting frustrated when asked to wear a mask, claiming a suppression of their rights, or that we live in a free society and they can choose not wear a mask. I think the answer lies in the culture and it goes deeper than people care to admit.
In North America, for over 30 years if not more, we associate people that wear face masks to bank robberies (especially in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) or to terrorists in general. Especially after 911 in the United States, that is more of a reality. Now that health officials are recommending to wear a face mask in public and governments around the world are enforcing the wearing of a face mask in public, many feel that it is not in their culture to wear a mask. In modern Asia, wearing a mask is part of their culture, but in North America, for some, that symbolizes s rejection of North American values. The attitude of some is that if I wear a mask, I am part of the enemy. Combine this attitude with the current political climate in the United States, well the result is what you see. This attitude does exist in Canada, but not as pronounced. I believe here in Canada we overall follow the recommendations of the Health Officials and the Governments. Those who try to politicize the issue have missed the point.
I found this video from the DW News. For those who do not know them, DW News is a global English-language news and information channel from German public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. This really gives you a great overview about this issue:
A global pandemic should unite us, not divide us. There is no conspiracy between the governments, big business, and the elite to take control of the world and suppress people’s rights. We were never completely free in the first place. We answer to governments by paying taxes. You buy a home, but you do not really own it, you need to pay yearly municipal taxes on it. In my opinion, these measures are much better than living under a dictatorship. We have a certain way of life or standard of living. By no means it is perfect, but in Canada, most people can make a decent living and do not need to worry about food, shelter, and universal healthcare. I am not saying that poverty and homelessness does not exist in Canada, but the problem does not even come close to what is happening in the United States with tent cities popping up all over that nation. Maybe that is why the rights issue is more pronounced in the United States. All that to say, our society was polarized before covid-19 hit, and it shows how polarized it is with this mask issue.
People would need to understand that wearing a mask should not be a cultural or political issue, but a public health issue. It is to protect others from you in the event that you have covid-19 without any symptoms and stop you from spreading the virus. If everyone would understand that, we will definitely put a dent in the spread of the virus. Globally, we should take this opportunity to unite together to fight this deadly virus, and make it a steppingstone so we can unite together and make this world a better place for our children. However, as long as we have governments like in the United States, this goal will be harder to achieve.
In conclusion, all I have to say is this: “Wearing a mask is like wearing pants when going outside in public. Just do it end of story”.