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Whether political bias or vanity, it isn't easy for many to sport a mask - but it's time to tackle that fear

Masks. The new way to show your creativity, or your commitment to community health … or your capacity to bend to the liberal dogmas of state government all designed to discredit President Trump.

Or your refusal to wear a mask. The new way to show your love of country, or your commitment to liberty … or your ignorance to follow science because it might reflect poorly on President Trump.

Out here on the east side of Oregon, our rural, more conservative makeup makes us less quick to want to put on a mask to venture into a place of commerce. We're rural Westerners. We are born capable of, and comfortable with, social distancing.

But guess what. Smart people whose lives' work it is to know such things STRONGLY URGE PEOPLE TO WEAR A MASK when commingling with the public when social distancing of at least 6 feet is impractical, like when buying products at a store.

But still, there are many, probably a majority of local people, who ain't about to sport a mask, and likely for one of the three reasons put forth in paragraph two, plus a few reasons all to their own, which are likely related to either vanity or laziness.

Plus, the cold, hard truth is that there are many people out there who, when it comes down to it, don't care much if anyone else gets COVID-19, as long as they personally, or anyone in their likely tight circle, don't come down with it. That may be a bit harsh, but it is true, and shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Over the past weeks, I've heard otherwise smart people (well, OK, smart might be an overstatement, but definitely not stupid) come up with various reasons for not wearing a mask, including the one pushing the notion that masks "are actually unhealthy and make you breathe too much carbon dioxide, and don't help keep you or anyone else safe."

I think most people quoting this line of thought — that masks don't help and may be harmful — first heard it when White House officials were expecting as many as 60,000 Americans might die due to the virus. That was so two months ago. A lot of what we heard in March hasn't turned out to be 100% correct.

Now, it isn't just Kate Brown and Tony Fauci and those liberal goons on CNN touting masks. Essentially, everyone on the White House virus team speaks of the importance of masks and wears them when appropriate … other than the president, who may or may not be on that team, but does tend to speak for them quite often..

I'm as much of a small-town Westerner as the next guy. And just as vain. My inclination is to not want to wear a mask. But that isn't because I abhor Kate Brown and am enamored with Donald Trump. It's mainly because I don't want to stand out or look goofy. I know, it's past time to get over it. I usually have to battle a bit of social anxiety every day, so keeping 6 feet of separation from people is more of a life choice than a health suggestion at this point. I keep thinking my skills in that department might not be enough.

However, I'm married to someone who has a very healthy fear of this virus that has turned the world upside down, cares about her own health and that of her family, and the community in general. That tops my laziness and vanity.

She made some nice masks that look great on her and my daughter. Nice little powder blue masks. However, when I tie one on, it looks like I'm sporting a pair of little girl's underwear across my face. It takes a real man to carry off that look, and frankly, I don't know if I'm up to it.

A couple weeks back, my wife and daughter and I ventured into the Redmond Home Depot, all three of us masked-up for the first time, like we planned to walk out with a flat of petunias and a couple power tools. It looked like we'd dropped in there from another country … one where people wore masks. Of about 40 or so in the store, only one person, one of the employees, was wearing a mask. I felt as if we were minorities in a place where they didn't much like minorities. That's not a fun way to feel, by the way.

But then we went to Lowes. Things were different there. All of the employees were wearing masks. Plus, nearly all of the handful of customers were masked. I felt a little less conspicuous with my face underwear on.

But that was a couple weeks ago. More recently, we had to go back to Redmond as one of our dogs gets special food available only at Coastal. (We humans of the family feed ourselves at the nearby fast food joint, but that's beside the point). Anyway, my wife is with me so I have no choice but to mask up, figuring I might be the only one with facial protection in the farm and ranch store. But to my surprise, essentially everyone in the store, customers and workers, were masked, and standing a safe distance apart at the checkout stand.

Next, we had to make a stop at the fabric store. Now I wouldn't go into a fabric store even if it wasn't springtime in the year 2020. Everyone (except one person) who came in or out of the fabric store wore a mask – but I figured that should be the case at the store that likely has made it through the recent economic crisis largely by selling material to make masks.

My wife emerged bearing gifts … or at least as much as a collection of material can be considered gifts. She wouldn't budge off her stance that my powder blue mask was in any way whimpy, but she flashed some dark blue material with some kind of checks on it, saying she'd make something "more masculine." It wasn't exactly a black Raider Nation mask, but it did represent a jump from female underwear to maybe a rich guy's pajamas. Baby steps.

So please, mask up if you can, guys. The more of us that do, the fewer of us that will look goofy.


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