There is this myth that Americans refuse to “do the right thing” when presented with information about risk and consequences.
This myth has been perpetuated by well intentioned politicians, medical celebrities and even prominent Libertarians, despite the long history and recent evidence to the contrary.
Let’s look at the example of masks.
Despite medical celebrities adamantly telling us not to wear masks in Feb and March, many Americans did so. Nationwide adoption of mask wearing went from 5% to 70% between March and May.
The New York Times reports mask compliance continues to be about 60%, nationwide, with many urban areas seeing 90%, and our Ohio Governor citing 90% state-wide recently. (This is historically true, during the 1918 Influenza epidemic mask adoption, pushed as a tool to reduce spread, became accepted and widespread, with most everyone wearing them.)
Here in Ohio keeping a polite distance during times of widespread illness is part of our Appalachian sensibilities and mid-west charm. We do not cram up on each other even when not sick. It’s called personal space. (It is also a popular myth that people go around sneezing and coughing on each other. Sure, we all have that anecdote about the person in the store or office who was rude, but those are rare.)
We stayed home when the situation was presented as dire. And most continue to limit their activities, even where there are no restrictions or penalties. This is evident in the imploding revenues for local and state govt, money is not moving through local economies. Beyond the dubious tracking of cell phone location, the movement of money is the best indicator of people movement.
We also wash our hands, a lot.
The truth is Americans do not need orders, mandates or “leaders” to direct their lives. If we all decided this was nonsense there is no power that can stop us. We are going along with orders, mandates and advisories because we see physical health and social benefits (in cases where advice is clearly not working we continue to humor people out of politeness and compassion), despite economic and mental health costs.
We are watching this illness unfold world-wide in real-time, and every strategy, except trust, has brought more consequences and harm, many that will impact our lives long after 2020 is a historical punchline.
Any plan for Ohio, any state or nation for that matter, must be based on trust, collaboration and consent.
Without these elements we may triumph against this illness and lose our very soul.
Michael Sweeney, Member At-Large, FCLP