Before I comment on the main point of my column, I want to give an update to last week’s Queens Jewish Link article. I criticized the politicization of sports, referencing the National Football League and the National Basketball Association and called for a boycott. You can now add the WNBA to the list. After I wrote my article, Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, who is a part-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), argued against politicizing the game and gave an alternative of putting an American flag on every jersey. The WNBA is planning to have Black Lives Matter on warm-up jerseys, each with the name of a woman killed by police, and Black Lives Matter printed on the court.
The league threw her under the bus and defended the plans, stating, “The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people, and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not served as a Governor of the Atlanta Dream since October 2019 and is no longer involved in the day-to-day business of the team.” The players of the Atlanta Dream wrote in a tweet: “Our team is united in the Movement for Black Lives. It is not extreme to demand change after centuries of inequality.” Many other players attacked Senator Loeffler, and the players union demanded that she sell her share in the team.
Now to the main story. Every day, my admiration grows for my parents’ generation. They went through a horrible period from the stock market crash and Great Depression in 1929 through the end of World War II in 1945. Some of those who were in Europe and went through the Holocaust had troubles that did not end with the war but lasted for a few years, when they were finally able to leave Europe. Even those who were in America lived a hard life. There was extreme poverty from 1929 until the war in 1941. From 1941, there were shortages of basic goods. People stepped up and helped the war effort. Those in the military helped save the world. The United States before the war was still a second-rate power. By the end of the war, we were the greatest country in the world.
Many see COVID-19 as being the biggest test for America since the war. Just like during World War II, we led the world. In World War II, we helped lead the free world to defeat Nazi Germany, and now we are leading the world in COVID-19 deaths and cases by a large margin. In 1945, the world looked to the United States as a country that can do no wrong dealing with a crisis, and now we are looked at as a country that can do nothing right.
It is easy to blame the president. His response in dealing with the virus has been a disaster, and polling shows that two thirds of Americans disagree with his handling of the crisis. There have been other mistakes made by elected officials and some medical experts. Hopefully, there will be a commission appointed, as was done post-9/11, to investigate the systematic failure in the government’s response.
However, the main culprit is the American people. My parents’ generation went through 16 years of misery and rose to the occasion.
Today, it has only been four months, and people cannot follow a few simple steps to help save lives. People are asked to engage in social distancing and to wear masks, especially if not social distancing. It is recommended that people should wash their hands frequently. These are not onerous requests, yet so many people have had a problem abiding by them. This is a nationwide problem. However, since this is a Queens newspaper, I want to address the situation in our community.
I have noticed that, as the weeks go by, fewer people are wearing masks or other face coverings, even when they are not social distancing. Another phenomenon is that when people are in a place that is strict about mask-wearing, such as in a shul or a store, some people are not wearing their masks correctly. I see people with masks by their chin, only by their mouth or partially covering their nose. I have been to at least two shuls where some individuals did not put on masks. What made it worse was they were not social distancing.
This pandemic has given us an opportunity to do a mitzvah every step we take. All we must do is wear a mask. The health experts have advised us that wearing masks helps save other people’s lives. Therefore, by wearing a mask, we help save others from contracting the disease. This is self-sacrifice through the minimum effort of wearing a mask.
In contrast, those individuals who do not wear a mask or engage in social distancing could lead to others dying or otherwise suffering physical damage as a result.
After 120 years, I’d rather be in the position of having the merit of not causing any harm to others and not trying to defend why I didn’t care enough about my fellow man to wear a mask, which led to someone’s death or serious injury.
People look to those with special expertise in an area to give the proper example of how to act. I call on our health professionals and EMTs to show by example and in public pronouncements the importance of abiding by the mask and social distancing requirements.
If other people see these professionals acting properly, they are more likely to follow them. Conversely, if they see them being lackadaisical about wearing masks and not engaging in social distancing, then it is more likely that people will act the same way. They will figure that if these requirements are not important to people with the training, who are in close contact with sick people daily, they why should they follow it.
We say every Rosh HaShanah that it is never too late to do t’shuvah. Likewise, it is never too late to change our approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and start abiding by the requirements.