The mask: to wear or not to wear?
People certainly have different reactions from here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where most wear masks and comply with requests from retailers to enter stores with masks; differing from scenes of large public gatherings at beaches and other public places where a desire to return to normal for many means no mask.
Seemingly, the sense of an obligation to protect translates into a fairly broad range of behaviors. The mask offers self protection, but it also protects others against the possibility that any one individual might transmit the virus.
So, while I am comfortable with a small group of people who are symptom-free and healthy and might join them for dining or time in the afternoon, when out in the community, I wear a mask.
This obligation to protect will surely drive the way we approach life going forward. Airlines are taking steps to insure safe passage on their aircraft…safe now, not just from the nature of flight, but from the air in the cabin during the flight.
Entering a nearly empty location usually bustling for a haircut, I had my temperature taken. The practice not only protects the person tending to my hair, but the establishment has an obligation to protect me as well. The fact that I am fine doesn’t mean every other customer will be.
And, so it goes. For the many, there is a heightened sense around the need to protect ourselves and others. This obligation to protect is, I can only hope, becoming something of a core value as we work to find a new normal.
And, this was what I was thinking about when along came the tragedy of George Floyd.
For me, the outrage has much to do with the obligation to protect. A citizen in police custody deserves that and law enforcement has the obligation to deliver protection. Trained law enforcement officers work as a team to restrain people everyday. They work as a group because injury to themselves and a suspect is LESS likely than it would be in a one on one confrontation.
When the actions of one person are excessive, as the chief said above, others have an obligation to act. The situation could only prompt outrage. And, perhaps with pent up frustration, lack of employment and economic challenges a violent result was inevitable.
It is a sad outcome. And, now those being targeted for contempt are the very individuals pledged to protect us. And, from my experience, that is something the vast majority in law enforcement do. Yet, we have to realize that what might be our experience is not everyone’s experience. And, since we all deserve to be protected, we also have an obligation to better understand the disparities that exist today and leaders have the obligation to address the cause of disparities when it comes to their obligation to protect.
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.