WATERTOWN — In an effort to avoid one illness, some people in the north country are wallowing in another.
A soldier stationed at Fort Drum and his family recently came under heavy criticism after standing in line at a Watertown business without wearing masks. Steve (he requested that his last name not be made public), his wife and 2-year-old son were waiting to buy some desserts at Cowlick Ice Cream on the evening of July 24.
In an article published July 31 by the Watertown Daily Times, Steve said he was unaware that he and his family members would need to wear face coverings once they arrived at the service window. So they didn’t bring their masks when they decided to make this trip for ice cream.
Steve, his wife and child were standing a safe distance from everyone else in line. He didn’t see any signs mandating face coverings on previous visits to Cowlick, so he didn’t believe his family needed them this time around.
While in line on July 24, though, Steve’s wife observed an alert requiring masks. Steve said he intended to ask about masks once the family ahead of them made their purchase. If the people operating Cowlick didn’t want to serve Steve’s family unless they wore them, he said he would understand.
But a member of the family standing in front of them took exception to their lack of face coverings. Steve said she complained about the situation and gave them a “mean look.”
Steve made a snarky comment of his own, which he admitted was inappropriate. The woman became verbally abusive, and Steve’s wife suggested they leave. As Steve was putting his son in a car seat, another member of the other family removed her mask and spit in his direction.
Cowlick Ice Cream owner Barbara Speary and her daughter, Jennifer Hilpl, didn’t believe that Steve and his family were treated well by these other customers. So they used social media to contact them. They offered Steve, his wife and son some gift certificates and a gift basket.
Hilpl witnessed the encounter after pulling into the shop’s parking lot. Members of the other family were “rude and nasty,” she said. It disgusted Hilpl to see people treat a family with a young child this way.
Speary and Hilpl made a gracious gesture. They wanted to do right by Steve’s family, and it reflects well on them as local merchants to care about the impression that something so ugly and unnecessary would make.
This incident highlights a disturbing trend in our society. Mind you, it’s an ancient phenomenon. But it has found new life in this health care crisis.
Many Americans have become divided — and combatively so — over the merit of wearing face coverings. Those who promote the value of masks are dumbfounded that this has somehow turned into a matter of debate.
And I join them in taking this stance. As I wrote last week, medical experts overwhelmingly support wearing face coverings (along with social distancing) as the best protection against spreading the coronavirus while out in public. The points made against masks have been thoroughly debunked; a reasonable argument opposing them simply doesn’t exist.
So members of the pro-mask faction have science and common sense on their side. There is no question they are telling the truth.
But some of them have crossed the line in advocating their position. While professing to care about our physical health, they express little concern about our civic health.
These people use the issue of donning face coverings to exert their sense of self-righteousness. This troubling urge often overcomes any interest they have in public safety.
Americans have always split over contentious matters — it’s in our DNA. And these divisions drive how we practice democracy. So disagreements over important questions are vital to our progress as a society.
Unlike in previous eras, however, we’re unable to function in so many crucial ways because virtually anything now becomes a topic of dissent. We take more comfort in belittling our perceived adversaries than we do in accomplishing essential tasks in spite of them.
Among the mask-wearing, holier-than-thou crowd are those who want to publicly bask in their self-proclaimed moral superiority. There’s ample evidence this will not lead to a productive result.
Many people giggled at tea party activists in 2009, demeaning them as teabaggers. They didn’t take these individuals seriously.
So what did those in the tea party movement do? They organized themselves and became the dominant force in Republican politics, taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2014. Gee, how did that work out for the Obama administration?
Many of these Republicans continued to face ridicule in the 2016 election, so how did they respond? They put Donald Trump in the White House. Gee, how has that worked out for our nation?
To influence someone’s behavior, we need to convey genuine concern for their well-being. If our only interest is in displaying contempt, why would we expect to get anything but contempt in return?
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to email@example.com.
* * *
rockloper, a regular contributor to the comments section on NNY360, was unable to post this comment about my column. I also couldn’t get it to post (just like rockloper, I was informed it appeared to be spam), so I’m adding it to the end of my column:
* * *
So let’s disect this one point at a time.
First and foremost I consider the woman’s action reprehensible and ignorant so this is in no way defending her actions. But it seems Jerry your defense of steve is more about your disapproval of spitting woman’s actions than it is of defending steve.
“Steve said he was unaware that he and his family members would need to wear face coverings once they arrived at the service window.” Has steve and his family been living under a rock the past 6 months? Everybody , yes everybody, knows there would have been signs requesting or demanding masks would be required. Do you actually believe steve’s defense? steve thought he could defy the nazi decree of wearing a mask period. Maybe steve is the one I saw in Walmart with his wife and child with no masks and purposely walking the opposite direction marked on the floors.
“He didn’t see any signs mandating face coverings on previous visits to Cowlick, so he didn’t believe his family needed them this time around.” When were steve’s last visits - last summer? In my family when we’re headed for a destination the first thing asked when we get in the car is “Does everybody have their masks?”
“If the people operating Cowlick didn’t want to serve Steve’s family unless they wore them, he said he would understand.” In other words if the employees of Cowlick were willing to take a chance and not require him to wear a mask he was too. Another example of living in a society where you tolerate irresponsibility that’s exactly what you get.
“Steve made a snarky comment of his own, which he admitted was inappropriate.” I see, do you know what this snarky comment was? steve claims it was snarky. Could it be that it went well beyond the category of snarky and was instead highly offense?
“As Steve was putting his son in a car seat, another member of the other family removed her mask and spit in his direction.” Gee, did anyone get out a tape measure and see if the spit landed at least 6’ away? Of course that statement is ridiculous but the point being was that gesture more symbolic than threatening?
“Those who promote the value of masks are dumbfounded that this has somehow turned into a matter of debate.” Not debate, politics, big difference.
“While professing to care about our physical health, they express little concern about our civic health.” I’ll side for physical health over civic health when it comes to my family, thank you very much.
“These people use the issue of donning face coverings to exert their sense of self-righteousness.” Really? Self-righteousness? Do you know why they call it the NOVEL coronavirus? Think about why. If I have a family member who has compromised health I don’t want some schmuck playing russian roulette jeopardizing my family members just because he wants to be an idiot.
“-it’s in our DNA.” Just curious which chromosome that’s linked to.
The rest of your editorial is actually off topic and not worth delving into other than saying it’s a bad analogy cause the political tea baggers didn’t make it far. Remember the young guns? LOL