GUEST COLUMN: Real (smart) men wear masks
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Here’s the thing, Mr. Vice President: Real men wear masks.
Not just those unmartial milksops like French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, who believes in diplomacy, plays classical piano and can recite an alarming quantity of Molière from memory. No, amid this coronavirus pandemic, some of the world’s most dedicated and dictatorial thugs have been seen in protective gear, including even the famously bare-chested Vladimir Putin.
Yet on a recent tour of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mike Pence went in bare-faced, in violation of the hospital’s policy during this pandemic. He does get tested for COVID-19 regularly and said that means he knows he doesn’t have it.
He also said he didn’t wear a mask because he wanted to be able to look those doing such good work in the eye when he thanked them. If that’s true, do you think he might be unsure how to wear one? (Nose and mouth, covered. Eyes, uncovered and hopefully open.)
Some off-script Mayo tweeter noted that Pence had been informed that the clinic requires everyone to wear a mask for safety’s sake, but that post was soon disappeared. How much courage would it have taken to say, “Sir, it’s really important that you do this.” Though I'm not the vice president’s biggest fan, I really can’t see him saying, “To hell with your patients! My face was meant to be seen!”
I can, however, see him wanting to stay in sync with the president, who has said he just doesn’t want to wear a mask — doesn’t see himself in one, as if this were any other fashion statement, or a matter of personal taste.
"I just don't want to wear one myself,” President Donald Trump has said. “It's a recommendation. ... Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know, I don't see it for myself."
This is the same macho impulse as when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson bragged that he was going to keep right on shaking hands with COVID-19 patients. You know, right up until he became one himself.
You know what's just as contagious as the coronavirus? The attitude that wearing a protective mask is optional, signals weakness and is simply not a good look.
Here in Missouri, where I live, Gov. Mike Parson said the same thing the president did when asked about whether he’d be wearing one to keep others safe. He seemed offended by the question, and more than once, has said that the guidance on wearing a mask is this: “It’s up to the individual what they want to do.”
No, it isn’t. The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is that if you have to be in close contact with others in places where social distancing is not possible, you should wear one, to protect them in case you have it yourself and are asymptomatic.
To do otherwise is just plain selfish, because again, the main purpose of the mask is to protect other people. And for anyone who is supposed to be a role model, such self-indulgence is inexcusable.
Flouting a core value:Trump's science denial is un-American. Just ask Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
More than a million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more have already died of it than we lost in the Vietnam War. If our leaders can’t put up with even so minor an inconvenience as a mask in response, then the message is that we have no real responsibility to one another.
“Wearing a mask might prevent you from inadvertently conveying the virus to a loved one, family member or friend,” the vice president said when asked why he wasn’t wearing one. "So we think they're very useful in that respect, and we respect that altogether."
For other people.
Melinda Henneberger is an editorial writer and columnist for The Kansas City Star and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. Follow her on Twitter: @MelindaKCMO