I don’t know what to say.

It’s hard not to feel like a babysitter watching the play date unravel before my eyes where two options present themselves: blow my stack or throw my hands up in the air.

The springtime stay-at-home order was for the COVID-19 learning curve. Summer was for continuing to implement the knowledge we gained and to flatten the curve.

But for some reason, the United States veered off course, a route that few other countries in the world considered an option. It reminds me of people who take the GPS suggestion of driving their sedan over a logging road … in winter … after dark.

Instead of seeing their hard work through, the U.S. essentially did a “write-in” for reckless abandonment.

Everyone’s level of comfort and compliance differs as much as the daily news cycle.

My family is rarely socializing with friends these days, but when we do, it’s with like-minded folk who share the same level of caution, and I’ve found that my electronic interactions also have been with a similar tribe. When accepting people’s differences of opinion is the difference between life and death, it’s hard to find commonality.

The majority of the planet is toeing the line and moving forward to a place of relative normalcy and comfort.

I can literally hear mouths agape over the phone when I tell my foreign friends and family that indoor dining was allowed here already. Cousins my age won’t social distance with the elders because they are afraid of spreading the virus up the family tree.

Here in the U.S., the very understanding of what the pandemic is and how to respond to it differs from state to state and county to county.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed in an interview this past week that “masks are the vehicle to reopening, not the obstacle.”

There’s an order to things that has proven successful in other countries. I’m not sure all Americans understand this is not just happening to them. They’ve turned a global pandemic into an egocentric domestic attack on their rights, confusing inconvenience with oppression.

I liken the act of choosing not to wear a mask to not cleaning up after one’s dog in the park. It’s devoid of etiquette and humanity. It’s publicly announcing that you have no regard for people like my 86-year-old mother-in-law. She has had to move into our home from her senior residence and all its comforts and familiarity — an act I can assure you is far more inconvenient than wearing a mask on and off throughout the day.

The notion that wearing a mask might save the life or well-being of another is clearly the wrong angle for public service announcements. I think it is evident by those making it a political issue that “others” are the furthest from one’s mind.

And while we’re at it, if anyone has been to the Pecos Wilderness lately or seen the news coverage of the trash and vandalism there, it’s obvious no one is interested in the well-being of the planet or its people.

This is the age of narcissism. Putting one’s self first at the cost of the environment and fellow citizens is de rigueur.

There was a time when a national tragedy, widespread flooding or a forest fire brought community together. Instead we are the masks and the masks-not.

Mask wearing needs to be rebranded. Forget the message about social responsibility, compassion and “we are all in this together.” Government and public relations firms need to think outside the box.

Whatever gluttonous pleasure the public longs to return to (or is currently holding onto) is the hook to wearing a mask. Imagine watching the Super Bowl without a crowd in the stands? Longing for a Caribbean holiday? Want to drop your kids at school five days a week? Wear a mask to save football, your cruise and your sanity.

My view is if it could save college football season we’d gain a few million mask wearers and save my husband’s mental health in the process.

The burden of irresponsibility is exhausting and alarming. We’re wasting weeks on debate while rates skyrocket. Government needs to shut it down and pay up instead of taking us down with the ship.

Essentially, we need to be put in a timeout until we can play nice. Smart decisions, focused on public safety and economic support, need to be made for us as a whole.

Until a grown-up shows up, we’re a family divided.

Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Share your comments and conundrums at hello@etiquettesantafe.com or 505-988-2070.

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(2) comments

George Welland

P.S. - My comments are not meant to overlook the failure of wearing a mask, I concur the authorities need to invoke meaningful sanctions, after all that is what taxes and promoting public health are all about!

George Welland

Thank You For Expressing What Most Grown-Ups Know - Mature folks know that living with others requires common courtesy, that in turn benefits all of us. I see litter bugs, including smokers who flick their cigarette butts out of cars, and figure that if they're not inconsiderate, then they're definitely not very smart. These kind of inconsiderate/stupid people just can't seem to grasp the problem with "If Everyone Acted Like Them!" I don't scream and curse at people, because I don't like being screamed and cursed at, and until wearing a face mask became so polarizing, it seemed like one could politely ask others to follow a rule just by indicating what it was. Liter bugs and rude smokers will always be with us, although public service announcements seem to have reduced it from levels common back in the 60's and 70's. Until we know with certainty that face masks are not effective, then we'll just have to work around the angry, rude, and stupid; but there is just no polite way to say that mask scofflaws are anything less than dumb, rude; and/or have some kind of emotional/mental problem (the latter which I try to accommodate by being understanding).

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