In A Mask, No One Can See You Scowl

Obviously, you see a lot more masks around now.  People are ordering masks, making masks, and talking about masks — a lot.  In Ohio, there has been a lot of chatter about masks over the last 24 hours because Governor DeWine’s administration seems to be revisiting precisely who should be required to wear a mask, and when, when businesses reopen.  Kish and I have laid in a supply of cloth masks and disposable paper masks to meet our masking needs once the masking guidance is settled.

2020_4largeimg_183406303So far, I haven’t been in an enclosed structure other than our house since before the guidance on masks started to change.  You will recall that, initially, health authorities took the position that masks weren’t needed and actually might be counterproductive, because donning and doffing a mask might cause you to touch your face, which was totally discouraged.  Then the prevailing view changed, and masks became recommended.  Now, in at least some instances and for some people, they apparently are going to be required when you are in a structure.

So far as I can tell, however, there is no requirement that you wear a mask if you just go outside for a walk.  I don’t wear one for that purpose, and most people I’ve seen around German Village don’t seem to do so, either.  I’m not aware of any studies or medical information indicating that, if you maintain proper social distancing when you are out in the open — and I do — you are at risk of contracting coronavirus, or communicating coronavirus to others.  And a mask really interferes with one of the key elements of a walk, which is to breathe in some deep gulps of fresh air while you are out stretching those atrophied muscles and appreciating nature.

Nevertheless, some people now seem to be arguing that everyone should be required to wear a mask when they exit their front door.  That’s because the whole mask/no mask issue plays into the busybody gene that those people have in abundance.  They decide to do something, and because they do it they think everyone else should be required to do it, too — and you’re a hopeless idiot and horrible person if you don’t.  And they will gladly share their opinion with you, in stern and certain terms.  But just because they conclude that they want to be masked when outdoors doesn’t mean I must follow their lead.  In our land of liberty, you have the right to wear a mask outside if you choose, and I have a right to go maskless — at least, until our elected representatives instruct to the contrary.  That hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve heard of some busybodies taking people to task for walking, jogging, or biking without masks.  That hasn’t happened to me, yet, and if it does I’m just going to ignore it.  The masked among us can judge us all they want, but they need to remember that when they’re wearing a mask we can’t see them scowl.  And that mask pretty much muffles their hectoring comments, too.

Rearing “Free Range” Children

It’s high time for another screed about how America, at least as I understand it, seems to be vanishing.  This time, the precipitating event is a news story about parents in Silver Spring, Maryland who are under investigation by Child Protective Services because their kids walk the streets alone and play unsupervised in a park.

The parents recently were found responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect” because they let their kids — a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old — walk home, alone, in December.  Now the parents are being investigated again because the two kids were playing together in a park at 5 p.m. on Sunday and another parkgoer reported the “unsupervised children.”  The parents, who are both scientists, believe that their “free range” approach will encourage their kids to develop independence and self-reliance.

UJ and I started walking alone to school in Akron when I was a five-year-old kindergartener and he was a six-year-old first-grader.  Mom packed our lunches, bundled us up if the weather required it, and set us off on a mile-long trek to Rankin Elementary School.  This was viewed as normal behavior in those benighted days of the early ’60s, just as it was viewed as normal in the ’70s when UJ and I rode our bikes to our junior high school in Upper Arlington.  Nobody talked about “free range” children back then because every kid was a “free range” kid — even though the “free range” phrase wasn’t invented until years later in connection with chicken.  Amazingly, kids were viewed as capable of walking to school, riding bikes to their friends’ houses, and playing sandlot baseball or a game of tag in a park without having the watchful eyes of parents on them every waking moment.

At some point that all changed . . . and in a poisonous way.  Now we apparently view our neighborhoods — even in Silver Spring, a suburb of Washington, D.C. — as so inherently dangerous that children can’t be alone on the streets even during daylight hours, and what’s more if kids are spotted outside without parents nearby our instinct is to report the parents for child neglect, even if the kids seem healthy, happy, well-adjusted, and fully capable of playing by themselves.  Rather than making our streets safe for unsupervised kids — if in fact they are truly unsafe, as opposed to the focus of overblown concerns brewed in the fevered imaginations of helicopter parents who must arrange every element of their kids’ lives — our approach is to investigate parents and put them on the watch lists of government agencies just because they don’t monitor their kids’ every move.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d want to live in Silver Spring, Maryland, where busybodies apparently feel good about reporting unsupervised kids in a park on a sunny Sunday afternoon and authorities dutifully investigate such claims and hassle responsible parents who hope to encourage their kids to develop a sense of independence.  Is every town in America like Silver Spring, Maryland these days?  Have we really gotten to the point where parents who simply let their kids play outside unattended are viewed as so irresponsible that we need to sic Big Brother on them?  What kinds of lost adults are the constantly cosseted kids of modern America going to turn out to be?