Friday, July 10, 2020

In defense of the COVID mask

I wear a handgun to protect myself and others.

I wear a mask to do the same.

In both cases a little bit of insurance – lightweight, portable, and effective – goes a long way in keeping threats under control.

I will never understand those who are vehemently opposed to either means of defense for in my liberty based world view, you’re welcome to do what you want to do as long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others. At the same time, you have to be prepared protect your rights – and those of others -- from those who don’t respect them.

What are these rights?

As the Declaration of Independence so succinctly put it, we are endowed with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Notice that first among those rights is life.


We have to protect life, ours and that of others in all forms – the unborn, children, men, women, black, white, the aged. They all matter.

Thus, it makes sense that we use the tools available to each of us as individuals.

Given that heavy and important responsibility for self and for others, why have masks become, like guns, a divisive political issue?

When you listen to the talking heads or navigate the wild world of social media it seems like conservatives are as dead set against mask usage as liberals are against private ownership of firearms.

It shouldn’t be that way.

If you wear a gun yet you find wearing a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose to potentially save someone’s life to be a hang-up you really need to reconsider how you perceive your obligations, written and unwritten, to others in all things you do.  

Consider why I wear a mask.

I wear a mask to protect myself. Given my physical condition I don’t expect to break a sweat if I get COVID. But, I also know that I’m no spring chicken. I’m middle aged. Anything can happen to a body that’s seen close to a half century on this earth.

I wear a mask to protect my family. My wife and I have a full house , with 4 children ages 1 to 8. Statistically, kids have been spared by coronavirus, but with twin toddlers only a year removed from arriving in this world 5 weeks early, there’s always a risk. Then, there’s my parents, in-laws, and our grandmothers to think about; we are blessed to still have them…why would I even chance bringing them something that takes them away from us prematurely?  

I wear a mask to protect my coworkers. My team deserves to come to a workplace that’s safe and healthy. We’ve been providing that for years with policies, procedures and controls for machinery and its usage, so it only makes sense to extend protections to the global health threat before us. I have 165 families to take care of, in so many ways, and a mask is a simple tool by which to do that.

I wear a mask to protect the community. I want my town, my world, and all those in it to flourish. As I go out and about in public I feel politely and naturally obligated to not spread COVID to workers and customers in the businesses I frequent and among the populations I serve. Do they or their partners have conditions that put them at risk, like diabetes, heart disease or cancer? Do they have immunocompromised children at home? Do they care for elderly loved ones? Are they pregnant? There are so many unanswered questions best served by simply donning some fabric.  

I wear a mask to protect the economy. If nearly-universal mask usage serves as a visual cue for policymakers to open all facets of our vast, inter-related economic engine, why wouldn’t I contribute that to the markets?

All that said, I wonder why there’s so much disdain for masks.

Is it because governments – local, state, and federal – have guidances in place about their usage?

Is it because businesses are telling you how to interact with them in their world?

Or is it because you don’t like the dirty looks you get when you take a cavalier approach to their use?

Realize those dirty looks are telling you something: Put a mask on. They did, in part, for you. You can for them.

If you value self-defense and defending others -- and ensuring the economy stays open and our kids can go back to school -- do your part, a simple part no less, to keep coronavirus at bay.

You actually can wear a mask and enjoy liberty, too.

From the 13 July 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Friday, June 26, 2020

Remembering the Forgotten War, 70 years later

Last week marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.

You’d never know that given the activity on news feeds and social media. That anniversary was but a footnote.

That’s nothing new.

For many years this conflict has been known as “the Forgotten War” because, collectively, we as a nation have ignored it and its meaning because it was bookended by an epic World War and the controversies of the Vietnam War.

It’s rare that we discuss it and as we saw -- or more accurately didn’t see -- last week it’s rarer yet that we give the participants their just recognition and appreciation.

Consider this: Almost everyone can readily identify the center point of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC -- the restrained yet powerful Vietnam Wall -- but how many can identify the primary image of the Korean War Memorial?

For those who don’t know, the memorial, finally built in 1995, is a collection of 19 statues of American soldiers trudging across rough terrain, harried looks on their faces anticipating the next surprise attack.

That haunting memorial perfectly represents the Korean experience. It was a frightening war, full of dreadful fighting reminiscent of World War I’s close-quarters bloodbaths. None of us today can imagine the stressful horrors of scaling a steep hill, wondering if the barrel of an enemy’s gun will be at your head at the next rise. Our soldiers paid a heavy price in life and limb and those who survived saw things on a daily basis that no one should ever see, memories they carry with them to this day.

It started off horribly as more than 1,000 inexperienced and under-equipped young soldiers were cut down in one of the first American battles of the war, U.S. and U.N. forces greatly underestimating the power of the North Koreans. The body count remained high throughout the three-year occupation when battles in extremely rugged and dangerous mountain terrain became the norm. The war was so violent that come 1953 — after both sides each lost more than 1 million soldiers — it ended with an armistice, a cease-fire that left a ravaged land and its two primary nations in no better shape than before the war.

It was a brutal affair, but so few know that. Ask anyone to list in order the three U.S. military involvements of the past 100 years that had the highest number of casualties. Most respondents will answer incorrectly. They will answer in a hurry, and correctly, with number one (World War II) and number two (the Vietnam conflict). After some stumbling over a response for the third slot, most everyone will come back with the nation’s most recent wars in and occupation of Iraq, responsible for more than 4,400 deaths.

That is the wrong answer. As horrific as that death toll is, it is dwarfed by that of the Korean War. The bloody conflict accounted for the deaths of more than 34,000 Americans and the wounding of 103,000 more from 1950 to 1953.

It’s really a travesty that most Americans are grossly uninformed in regard to something so great in scale of sacrifice. It seems that their only knowledge of the War is MASH, the classic television series.

We need to change that and use the 70th anniversary as a means to finally celebrate the real-life heroes, especially since time is of the essence. Less than 40 percent of those who survived their service in the War are still alive today. They are in their twilight years and they won’t be with us much longer. The youngest of the Korean War veterans turned 85 this year. The youngest!

As a country, we need to give them the love that is long past due. The Covid-19 world will likely stymie most memorial events, but you can do your part by sharing a simple heartfelt “thank you.” The Korean War veterans haven’t been told those simple words enough in their lifetimes. Let them know they weren’t forgotten.  

From the 29 June 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Friday, June 19, 2020

A year without role models

My friend is a teacher in a suburban school district. His school, like all others in our state, has had to teach remotely. Without the rigors and routines of traditional schooling, that situation has put added responsibility on students – and, ultimately, their parents – to keep up with lessons and projects.

That responsibility was abandoned by some of his families: A quarter of his students didn’t turn in any work at all.

Think about that.

In an upper-middle class suburban district with legitimate internet infrastructure – criteria that educational leaders and policymakers believe should lead to good outcomes -- he had 26 students who submitted no school work from the third week of March through the second week of June.

Where were the parents?

No one in education, no one in the community expects parents to teach. Outside of the realm of homeschool families the typical parent has not mastered science nor math, for example, and may not be qualified or comfortable enough to expound upon those subjects. It’s asking a lot, especially on top of the duties of being breadwinner or homemaker and dealing with the stresses of the Covid world.  

But, it’s a reasonable expectation to have parents parent. While no one was wanting or asking mom or dad to look over a kids’ shoulder and walk him through every homework assignment, it shouldn’t be a big deal to ask that those guardians make sure their kids are staying on task, turning in their assignments, meeting deadlines and asking for help when needed.

But here, in the case of my friend’s classes, 26 students lacked that guidance for the entire length of the classroom shutdown.   

That never would have happened had the physical school been in session. My friend the teacher, other teachers, counselors, peers and more would have kept the students moving forward.

This should serve as a powerful reminder that many young people need something a little more. They need all of us. As the African proverb goes: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Not everyone comes from a good home. They need contributions of love and encouragement from the village to rise above that.

Even those children who do come from healthy homes still want and need the village to be exposed to different ideas, different world views and different experiences.

Unfortunately, that village has been shut down since March. It’s coming back to life – but only a little bit – and it looks like further shutdowns are in the works.

Who are the kids missing out on?

There’s the teachers. But there’s also the scout leaders, coaches, music instructors, faith leaders, summer camp counselors, day camp leaders, librarians, and 4-H leaders. Even family members have been considered off limits: Many children haven’t been able to spend quality time with their grandparents over fears of them being part of the susceptible population.

They’ve lost 3 months already -- and many more will follow suit -- with the adults they look up to; the adults who make learning and doing new things so fun and interesting; the adults who show them how to love and serve others; the adults who emphasize kindness and character; the adults who lead in their homes, communities and hearts…their role models.  

For kids who come from broken homes and those who are hungry for more of the world, this loss of time, activity and togetherness seems like an eternity. It might actually work out to be an eternity: Foundations are created in the formative years -- with critical contributors to those building blocks gone, what have those children lost, what has society lost, as part of who they could have become as adults?

Wondering who they might become without that support is especially heartbreaking when you consider the numerous reports over the past few months of stay-at-home orders leading to unconscionable increases in domestic violence and overdoses. For many kids, home was never really the safe place – the classrooms, troop meetings, or ball diamonds were.

If and when these venues come back to life, we all have our work cut out for us: How do we as their guiding lights make up for lost time and help them be the best they can be, especially given what 2020 has become? The kids have always needed us, but they need us now more than ever.  

From the 22 June 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News