A woman in my town was slapped for asking someone to wear a mask. As it plays out nowadays, outrage immediately happened on both sides.
The early reporting gave her side of the story, chiefly because she stayed at Walgreens to report the slapper to the police. I was shocked because this is “my” store, the closest one for those 2 a.m. pediatric medication runs. The store already had a troubled couple of weeks; employees contracted COVID-19, and it had to shut down for a deep cleaning.
During quarantine, when I suggested quickly picking up beer from there, my husband said, “That … seems like the worst place to pick up beer during a pandemic. Isn’t that where all the sick people would go?”
But places like these are where all people tend to end up, either regularly or spur of the moment. They’re not just for that impulsive beer purchase; you go to grab extra batteries for an unexpected present your kid just got from Grandma, to stock up on NyQuil for a husband whom you just remembered has the sniffles, and to make unwise decisions such as trying out a new box hair dye on the fly.
(None of this, of course, applies to me.)
So, when you get a rotation of everyone coming to one place, you’ll get a rotation of different viewpoints.
The slappee is a local lawyer. Before the slap heard around at least my town, the man refused to wear a mask and asked what should require him to wear one. She wanted to show him documentation in her purse about mask wearing and some local state mandates — then still unenforced but now tagged with a $100 fine. She decided to take an active hand with some social peer pressure requested by our governor.
And then, yesterday, during our governor’s news conference, the video from Walgreens came out. She had taken the paperwork out of her purse and waved it in front of his face. He slapped her in response.
No one seems to be right here, at least in terms of the escalation.
When I first read the original story, I did what seems natural now but is probably unhealthy: I went on Facebook to read the comments. I do not recommend this method; however, I gleaned a bit more on the sentiments outside my own bubble. The repeated phrase I saw commented was, “She should have minded her own business.”
As I slowly closed my laptop on the kitchen table — because, during the enraging news cycle, I’ve learned that slamming it closed is not healthy for me or my computer — I said to my German mom, “Do we want more Nazis? Because this seems like how we get more Nazis.”
This phrase was an excuse eerily similar to what Germans did as the Holocaust happened around them; they supposedly had not known because they had minded their own business.
Why stand and speak out for someone when they aren’t a part of your tribe, as pastor Martin Niemöller recounted in his famous quote. But then he realized that when Nazis came for him, there would be no one left to speak on his behalf.
We’re bemoaning the political nature of mask wearing, but we decree our political tribal affiliations with too much glee. Wearing a mask is our business; it’s everyone’s business. It’s more than just the economy in the basest sense; it’s also our children’s ability to go back to school safely, and the ability of our most vulnerable to just go back to a drugstore.
If we bemoan the sorry state of our world yet refuse to make it our business, we’re weaker than what the virus alone would make us.
— Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.