Yesterday, I posted a comment on one of our Lititz, Pennsylvania, Facebook group pages. A woman had asked why the town was holding a super-spreader event this weekend. Predictably, her question ignited angry retorts from the “freedom!” (without public responsibility) crowd.
The craft show is a big event drawing tens of thousands of people in good years. The two main streets are closed as they and the Lititz Springs Park are lined with tents and booths. The event is also important for the town as it raises money for the community’s benefit. From the event Facebook page: “The money raised through renting out spaces to the crafters, subtracting expenses, is given right back to the community. The Rotary Club of Lititz donates to nonprofits such as Lititz Springs Park, Lititz Library, Warwick Community Ambulance Association and local fire companies.”
The retorts to the woman’s question included the usual laughter emojis, which I suppose are a way to “own the libs” for people who have no reasonable reply to offer. They were not the responses I found most discouraging.
I suggested that the fear that this year the craft fair could become a super-spreader event was not bogus and that, according to our current numbers, Lancaster County could be in for a very rough time with the virus. For so doing, I drew the usual disparaging retorts: a so-clever abuse of my nickname, a recommendation that I stop watching CNN, and more laughter emojis, plus a small chorus of, “Stay home if you’re afraid,” “It’s a personal choice,” and “I’ll be there with no mask!” Discouraging? Yes, but not unexpected. I should note that my rather understated comment drew more than a few positive emojis as well. So, “America’s coolest small town” does have people taking seriously the resurgence of the virus with its Delta variant that is attacking children in new and troubling numbers.
Two further retorts, however, stood out as discouraging. One woman posted, “I just want to be free and have fun!” As someone noted recently, “Freedom without responsibility is mere adolescence.” I felt my own dark thoughts troubling me as I imagined the headstone for a child’s grave inscribed (as it surely would never be) with, “My mother just wanted to be free and have fun. Well, Mom, now you’re free of me. Have fun!” What a terrible thought! But we are in the midst of a resurgent pandemic, and a pandemic kills without regard for its victim’s age or the depth of grief it causes among parents left not only with horrific loss but also with the self-blame of, “If only I had . . . .” I wish it would not happen to any parent or any person, but I fear there will be parents left blaming themselves in their grief.
The second discouraging retort came from another woman parroting a vacuous argument I had heard before: that because she could still smell odors through a mask, the mask obviously did not protect her from the virus. Upside down and backwards. Of course I can detect odors through my mask. I need to be able to breathe, and I’m wearing a cloth mask not a gas mask. I wished I could talk rationally with the woman, but Facebook is not the forum for rational conversation on a subject that has aroused anger and resentment. What might I say?
You’ve been outside on a cold day when you could see your breath. What you’ve seen is the small cloud of respiratory moisture droplets you are exhaling, and they can carry the virus. Your mask keeps most of your moisture from escaping to infect other people, and their masks likewise protect you from their exhaled moisture.
What discourages me in these Facebook exchanges? First, I find discouraging the adolescent (and prevalent) misunderstanding of freedom as personal liberty without public responsibility. Second, I am discouraged by the deliberate dissemination of empty, silly arguments designed to deceive the gullible who are only too happy to repeat them in foolish and dangerous defenses against unwanted personal inconveniences such as getting the shot and wearing a mask.
I find myself wondering how we will escape the ravages of this pandemic without widespread tragedy to prove the lies false and the bravado foolish. I hope that as a county, state, nation, and world we can come to our senses without first having to bury more and more of our children and other loved ones.