Truth be told, I don’t like wearing a mask. It’s uncomfortable and perhaps only reasonably effective.

That the whole mask issue is such a political pigpen is no more astounding than everything else that seems to quake along political lines.

Just to be transparent, I do not identify with either the Republican or Democratic Party. In 2016 I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, nor did I vote for Donald Trump. Neither appealed. I have, however, voted for Republicans and Democrats in the past. Policy positions at various points in history have determined my vote, the character of the individual has certainly been a factor, and sometimes choosing the lesser of two evils has been the only lever that seemed rational.

The citizens of this country can certainly pride themselves on the idea of free choice. It is one of the freedoms we enjoy as a result of the toils and hardships those before us have fought for, both through lives lost in defending our country, but also in the laws passed by Congress.

This is probably a good place to note that federally elected officials, whether they be Republican, Democratic, or something else, have a responsibility to represent everyone in this country, not just the people who elected them to an office or the lobbyists who paved the way. Yet, sadly, some are so preoccupied with ideas of keeping their elected office that they expend extraordinary effort planning for the next election, which invariably puts them in an unrepresentative state of mind where too much energy seems focused on self-preservation, not the needs of a nation.

It all leads to this “you are either with me or against me” reality, which is further perpetuated by social media comfort zones that soften our insecurities with like-minded pablum and muzzle opinions not shared by the “group.” Hear only what you want, tune out the rest and label non-conformists as members of Bizarro World.

Certainly, national media cannot be left out of this dysfunctional system. Nowhere is it more obvious than among TV media, which seems less interested in objective reporting and more focused on pushing an agenda and entertaining their market share with sound bites, video clips and cheap shots that are designed to keep those who are plugged in agreeing with everything they’ve already heard a hundred times before. The personalities on both sides of conservative and liberal media entertainment have become so enamored with their spin, they aren’t even pretending to be objective, hence the label of entertainment, not objective reporting.

Which brings me back to the whole discussion on masks. I don’t like wearing one for numerous reasons. I’m certain it’s almost impossible for me not to be contaminating the exterior portion because I frequently need to adjust it. So that means frequent disinfecting of the mask is required.

It also causes my glasses to fog up. It’s not comfortable. The straps make the backs of my ears itch. Facial expressions are non-existent. And the CDC earlier did not recommend that people wear them.

However, since those early days, the CDC, WHO and several universities have studied the effectiveness of cloth masks more carefully. When social distancing cannot be achieved, a mask will reduce the number of droplets that can escape into the air. That alone will reduce the load level of COVID-19 being expelled if the person who is infected is wearing a mask. Will it stop it completely? No. But wearing a seatbelt is not going to guarantee we will survive a car crash, yet we strap it on every day because we recognize that it will improve our chances of survival.

Some folks want and need the government, or a political party, to tell them what they should do when it comes to issues like this. But at this point it’s commonsense. Sort of like the old advice about covering your cough with your arm. It’s not 100%, but it’s better than blasting it into somebody’s bubble.

This isn’t a popularity contest or a badge of honor and it certainly doesn’t make you a member of the popular clique, even though some appear to wear it that way. This is about taking one very small step to stop the spread of COVID-19. We’ve all felt pretty helpless when it comes to this virus. But this is a rare opportunity to have some ability to change the course of this disease and possibly save somebody else’s life in the process.

I don’t like wearing a mask. I certainly don’t like the idea of somebody mandating it. But sometimes, we make decisions that are for the good of everyone and less about what makes us personally happy.

Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota.

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