Eventually, politics creep into everything, as the need for a political party or candidate to position itself for maximum ‘likeability’ – to be seen as the “voice of reason,” more concerned about the welfare of the masses (potential voters) than their opposition.
To accomplish this, they employ professional strategists, political operatives and marketing experts to package and position their ideology as being so far removed from that of their opponent that concepts like rationality, practicality and common sense are no longer factors.
Especially during an election year.
Anyone who tells you the coronavirus outbreak has not been politicized clearly doesn’t read the newspaper, watch what passes for national “news,” or venture outside their hermetically sealed bubble.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, local politicians who are up for reelection took to social media – issuing rambling manifestos, pushing the latest pseudo “information” or governmental mandate, enacting endless “states of emergency” which facilitated draconian measures that were, in most instances, ill-thought and ineffective, beyond destroying our local economy by punishing small businesses for the “See, we’re doing something!” factor.
Then came the fire hose flow of cash from Washington that put $96.5 million into Volusia County government coffers, ostensibly to offset the loss of revenue and support citizens and businesses affected by the shutdown, but, in reality, turned into a series of carefully orchestrated campaign opportunities for the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who made hay over the fact a paltry $15 million was allocated for the municipalities – while Daytona International Airport alone received over $21 million (in a separate CARES Act allocation not from the $96.5 million.)
In March, we were told by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Health that surgical face masks should be reserved for healthcare workers on the front lines on the pandemic – with reminders that wearing masks are only effective in preventing community spread when worn by an infected individual.
Then, on April 3, when it became clear that the catastrophic run on hospital resources many feared would happen if we didn’t “flatten the curve” never materialized, we were warned of the danger of asymptomatic and presymptomatic vectors, and told to wear a mask or cloth face covering whenever we couldn’t “social distance.”
In turn, we watched as local, state, and national elected officials began using masks as a prop – a signal of virtue – with face coverings becoming yet another symbol of the nation’s partisan chasm that grows wider by the day.
In fact, a mid-April poll taken by the Gallup/Knight Foundation of mask usage by demographic subgroups found that 49% of those identifying as Democrats or Democrat leaning independents always wore face coverings outside the home – while just 26% of Republicans or Republican leaning independents reported consistently wearing coverings outside their home (46% of GOP respondents said they never do).
You’re telling me that’s a coincidence?
A recent article in Politico by Ryan Lizza and Daniel Lippman entitled, “Wearing a mask is for smug liberals. Refusing to is for reckless Republicans,” spoke to our growing cultural and political divide:
“For progressives, masks have become a sign that you take the pandemic seriously and are willing to make a personal sacrifice to save lives. Prominent people who don’t wear them are shamed and dragged on Twitter by lefty accounts. On the right, where the mask is often seen as the symbol of a purported overreaction to the coronavirus, mask promotion is a target of ridicule, a sign that in a deeply polarized America almost anything can be politicized and turned into a token of tribal affiliation.”
As one who invariably sides with the protection of civil liberties, and the inalienable right of all American’s to remain free of tyrannical government overreach, I happen to believe that the idea of public education and consistent messaging should always take the place of harsh mandates, “executive orders,” and forced compliance.
Recently, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board, who long ago threw off the yoke of objective, middle-of-the-road reporting in favor of left-leaning sensationalism and partisanship, issued an editorial which, once again, insulted our intelligence with the headline, “Mask wearing isn’t political, it’s lifesaving.”
Of course its political!
The piece goes on to support the absolutely false narrative that, “Of the available antiinfection steps, face masks are the most effective and important.”
Don’t take my word for it, ask your doctor, or the Centers for Disease Control – proper hand-washing remains the most effective means of preventing individual infection – while face coverings are believed by many epidemiologists to be effective in stopping a percentage of community transmissions from an infected person to others.
One is no more “effective and important” than the other.
But hand-washing does not provide the all-important visual symbolism some are looking for. . .
Unfortunately, the News-Journal’s pompous screed descended into its tired bashing of the current administration, followed by a demand for states and communities to “require” the use of masks through, I assume, a rigorous application of government force and penalties on the non-compliant portion of an ostensibly free population.
At present, in Volusia County, only the City of Daytona Beach – on the executive suggestion of its tinpot tyrant Mayor Derrick Henry – has ordered its subjects to “get in line” (his words, not mine) and wear masks whenever they venture out – something that is impossible to enforce, but got Mayor Henry’s name in the newspaper during the campaign season by further exploiting community fear. . .
Like many perennial politicians, Mayor Henry has once again proven he has no qualms using the full might of government intervention for shameless self-promotion – and I hope Daytona Beach residents will remember that at the ballot box this fall.
Fortunately, an innovative new program was launched last week we can all embrace.
The public information practitioners of our county and municipal governments recently teamed up with their community partners for a novel approach to coronavirus awareness called Step Up Volusia, which asks residents to “Wash Up, Back Up, Mask Up.”
The program, which respects the rights, liberties and common sensibilities of those it serves, will use billboards, digital messaging, community influencers and celebrities to get the word out on the importance of proper hygiene, social distancing and masking to preventing the spread of disease.
Rather than mandate the wearing of masks, Step Up Volusia encourages taking personal responsibility for protecting the welfare of others around us from contracting COVID-19 in a way that depoliticizes the practice and fosters community acceptance.
I like that.
Look, I admit, I haven’t worn a mask much during the pandemic – I have seasonal asthma and the mask makes it difficult to exchange air (plus, it gets in the way of my ever-present Marlboro) – but I’m all about voluntary compliance and individual responsibility over draconian government mandates.
I’ll bet the vast majority of Volusia County residents are too.
Wash up. Back up. Mask up. That’s something we can all support.
To learn more, please go to www.stepupvolusia.org