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Letter: Don't shame those who wear masks

Community health issue

How did we let protecting your community become a polarized debate, instead of a civic duty?

My grandfather was a pilot in the Second World War, probably the last greatest challenge for our country until the outbreak of COVID-19.

The survival rate of his flight school was 15 per cent, for every one hundred men there, eighty-five did not come home. Yet he went because that generation believed it was their duty to do so.

He did not tell many war stories, but he did speak of getting an orange before every mission, then your toughest decision was to eat the orange on the way home, as a tasty reward, or eat it on the way out in case you were killed and the orange went to waste.

I find myself often wondering what those young men and women who were willing to sacrifice it all, would think of how we view our duty today.

After seven decades or so of relative peace and prosperity, bought with such sacrifices, we are being asked to make decisions that reflect our civic contributions and duties.

Fortunately for us, the requirements of our “sacrifice” to protect our country, our community, our neighbours, and our most vulnerable, is far less dramatic.

We are being asked to wash our hands, stay six feet apart, not gather in groups, and wear a mask when we cannot distance. This sounds simple, easy, and only moderately inconvenient, yet many resist this directive with surprising fury.

To me, the mask wearing comes as almost a relief. Finally something proactive I can do to try and help my community prepare for, and fight against, the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of just waiting for it to wash over us like a wave.

From the beginning of this ordeal my biggest fear is that I will inadvertently bring this virus home with me to my family, to my parents, to my friends, neighbours, or co-workers.

By wearing a mask in public indoor spaces I not only reduce the risk of transmission to myself or others, but also give myself the knowledge that I have done all I can do if the unimaginable happens.

I will do everything I can to avoid being the guy who makes a kid sick, causes a working parent not to be able to support their family, or brings a lonely, uncomfortable and undignified death upon someone I care about.

Call me naive, but I truly believe that Albertans are kind, generous, and brave people. The types that donate their resources to the less fortunate, love their neighbours, and would run toward the burning house instead of away from it. Especially if there was one of our citizens vulnerable and needing help in that building.

Yet the same people who would give someone the shirt of their back, or pull you from a fire, refuse to consider wearing a mask. Even though it is a minor thing, and even though it literally could save people’s lives, it has become a polarized and political issue.

I do not really understand this, or why this has become a hill to die on in our society that has so many codes, regulations and equipment solely based on keeping us healthy.

Perhaps it is the influence of our southern cousins, certain cultural influences, our natural redneck stubbornness, or just the cowboy in us all that does not want to be told what to do.

Either way, it surprises me that the Alberta way of giving to, and protecting your community does not override these other factors. The house is starting to smoulder, now is the time to work together the smother the flames.

So please do not shame those who choose to wear masks. Do not call them sheep, or puppets of the government, or state that they are letting fear get the better of them.

Perhaps they are overcoming the fear they have for all of us by using one of the only tools available to the average person. Perhaps they are trying to protect the teenager working the drive through, the single parent at the cash register, a small business owner, a teacher, or a cherished grandparent at home.

Perhaps, just maybe, they are even wearing it for you.

Jon Weddell,