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Not us versus them, it needs to be WE

A field of poppies reminds us of Memorial Day. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

I was driving to an appointment with my family, and we had to make a few scheduled stops. I saw many people not wearing masks. (Now keep in mind, people do not need to wear masks while practicing social distancing. I know you all know, but I digress.) The gas station even had a sign on its front entrance requiring all patrons to only enter if wearing masks. It was difficult to miss since you have to push on the sign to get through the door. Yes, there were people inside not wearing masks. Yes, some of those people mocked those of us wearing masks.

I found it ironic on Memorial Day weekend, a time to remember people who have died — not served, but died — for our country, there are people still putting their individual rights before the collective whole. You can wear a poppy on your lapel for a person who lost his/her life, but you can’t wear a mask to protect someone from actually dying? That doesn’t even make sense.

Later in the afternoon, I drove past a few people protesting from a pullover near a busy hiking trail. Yes, it was busy. Cars filled every spot, and people were milling around without a mask in sight. I noticed the written posters were aimed at sending people home, not about educating them. I did not stop to interview these people or find out who they were. It’s just my gut reaction, as someone who lives here, this was about “us” versus “them.” Again, on Memorial Day weekend, I would have liked to see unity.

The signs directing people to go home, to turn around and not spread the virus, felt hostile to me. In my non-essential opinion, the reality is once people get here they aren’t turning back. I appreciate the protesters’ intentions, but not the targeted segregation. I would have rather seen signs stating, “Please keep my family safe; wear a mask,” or, “If you don’t live here, please consider donating to our hospital because there aren’t enough ventilators for this many visitors.” From what I’ve discovered, the protesters were peaceful, respectful and obeyed laws. Those are all worthy actions in a section of the world only at Phase 1 of an opening plan.

I’m conflicted as usual because I always feel education, not confrontation, is the answer. While grilling those burgers or relaxing out on the water, I hope everyone takes a moment to remember all the people who died in service protecting the weak and vulnerable. Now, while enjoying the barbecue or bonfire, please have a moment of silence for those people who have died and will die because simple measures aren’t taken to prevent the spread of a virus.

Everyone has lost something during this pandemic. Let’s not add more family members, neighbors and acquaintances to the list. Besides, wearing a mask looks good on you. It brings out the compassion in your eyes.

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