This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. I watched a documentary about it today with my kids. The similarities between what happened back then to what is happening today with “reopen” protesters and “anti-maskers” was really interesting… Before the mountain exploded, scientists and experts in the fields of geology and volcanology warned residents of the impending eruption. Many of the people around Mt. St. Helens were very angry at being told they had to evacuate their homes & businesses. The mountain was calm for a couple days, so (feeling pressure from people demanding to go to their cabins) the Governor — the day before the eruption — allowed a caravan of people into the restricted area to check on their things. They were planning another trip into the danger zone on the day of the eruption… Luckily the mountain exploded early in the morning, saving hundreds of lives. Still, 57 people lost their lives on that day 40 years ago.
I imagined if — in 1980 — everyone had a cell phone in their pocket… Reading and sharing articles about the ONE geologist out of 100 who says that there is nothing to worry about… Accusing the other 99% of geologists of being funded by some liberal billionaire… The SAME billionaire who supposedly controls all the media and pays all the journalists to lie about what is happening. I could almost see them standing there with their “Don’t Tread On Me” flags at the “Reopen Mt. St. Helens” rally as the pyroclastic flow storms down the side of the mountain…
Today, we are living in a time where scientists and experts warned us IN JANUARY of the impending explosion that this virus would cause. Yet an incompetent administration in charge of leading this country ignored the warnings of the experts for two crucial months, they politicized the science behind the warnings, and they fanned the flames of anti-science conspiracy theories. Yesterday alone, 1403 people in this country died from this virus… And that’s considered a pretty good day. A country with 4% of the world’s population has 29% of the world’s COVID19 deaths, and still we’re forced to endure a blustering idiot bragging daily about what a great job he’s doing. Not ONCE has he even attempted to fake a moment of compassion or sorrow for the tens of thousands of Americans who have died or lost loved ones to this disease.
After Mt. St. Helens exploded, the nation MOURNED those 57 people who died. After four planes crashed and two towers fell on September 11th, the nation MOURNED the loss of those 2977 lives. Right now in America, OVER 95,000 PEOPLE have died from this virus — the equivalent of the deaths caused by Mt. St. Helens erupting every day for four and a half years… Or roughly one 9/11 tragedy every two days for two months. And still there is a significant portion of the country who are like, “Yeah, but most of those people were old.” There is this callous, “Yeah, people die — Get over it” attitude about these deaths that is grossing me right out… As if having an underlying condition makes a person more expendable. These are mothers and fathers. These are brothers and sisters. These lives are families that have been shattered. And folks are like, “Yeah, but people die every day in car accidents too… You don’t see us getting rid of cars.”
There used to be a lot more people dying in car crashes than what we have today… Do you know what we DID when we saw how many people were dying in car accidents? We did things to try to prevent those deaths… Things like enforcing speed limits and seatbelt laws, and making airbags and safety tests mandatory for car makers. People didn’t diminish automobile deaths because “People also die from trees falling on them… We don’t make everyone walking outside wear a hardhat” (or if people DID say something like that, they were properly identified as sociopaths). And if a hundred people died in a factory fire, we’d do things like enforcing regulations for fire escapes & sprinkler systems, and limiting on the number of people who can be in a space at once. Compassionate, accountable, rational leadership tries to make things safer, and good government works to protect its citizens… And it BASES those decisions on research, and science, and the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the desires of the few. And so the desire of a business owner to cut costs on building his factory is outweighed by the needs of the workers to not be working in a deathtrap.
Government, at its best, is a safeguard for the rights of the many over the desires of the wealthy and powerful. People are like, “IT’S A FREE COUNTRY!” but not everything is as simple as just invoking the word “freedom.” A corporation’s “freedom” to save money by dumping toxic chemicals on their own property is outweighed by the right of people in the area to not drink water that gives them cancer.
Right now, the best ways that we can keep this virus from spreading and killing more people is to distance ourselves from others, and to wear masks when we need to go out. If you are sick and you don’t know it yet, wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of the virus to other people — People who might get sick and die because you transmitted this virus to them. A new study has found that wearing a surgical mask reduces the risk of infection by up to 75%. The world is in the middle of a pandemic, with a highly contagious virus killing hundreds of thousands of people. There are folks who have high-risk jobs where they are exposed to lots & lots of people… Wearing a mask is just a simple act of kindness we can do right now to help keep those workers from getting sick. For those who are confused as to how masks can help, here is an effective visual aid:
By June, there will be over 100,000 dead Americans — PREVENTABLE deaths — because of a spirit of anti-intellectualism, fueled by ignorant masses who feel like the “experts” now because they each have a Magic Answer Camera in their pocket. Listen — The science that makes it possible for you to watch some discredited doctor on YouTube while driving in a freaking car is the SAME science that testifies of your total delusion. It’s like Flat Earthers reading articles “proving” their suspicions are right… Articles that are literally being beamed to their phones from outer space by satellites ORBITING THE GLOBE… Idiots using GPS to give them directions to the Flat Earth Rally.
The science that warns us in advance of tornadoes is the same science that tells us that Global Warming is real. And when scientists tell us that the things we are doing are CAUSING this warming, and they warn us of the impending doom that ignoring the problem will cause, it’s because they are experts who know what they are talking about… Not because Bill Gates is paying them off. And if leaders take that that data from those experts, and they decide to pass regulations enforcing lower emissions on cars, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION HERE: It is NOT tyranny.
This same science warns us that we’re trying to reopen before the country is ready, and tells us that masks work in stopping the spread of coronavirus. And yet, there are still folks who think that being asked to wear masks to help save lives is some kind of attack on their freedom. There are people out there who classify every rule or regulation they don’t particularly like as “tyranny.” The far right has successfully turned “regulations” into a dirty word for many of their followers. A regulation by definition is a limit to personal freedom. Still we have to deal with dip sticks talking about, “I woke up in a free country!”
“No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” is not tyranny. You not being able to smoke inside restaurants anymore is not oppression. They just figured out that your cigarette smoke was actually hurting the people around you too. Your freedom to do something destructive ends where the public’s right to not be hurt by you begins. Now. Take a moment and think about the parallels between THAT situation, and a highly contagious virus which has killed 100,000 Americans in three months…
There are a lot of similarities between the public’s reaction to this virus and our reaction to mass shootings. If you’re old enough to remember, think of the way we collectively mourned as a nation in 1999 over the loss of 12 high school students and one teacher in the Columbine shooting. When nothing was done after a deranged young man murdered 20 first graders and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook in 2012, we had basically decided as a nation that an individual’s “right” to have a high-powered, highly efficient military-style weapon designed to kill a lot of people in a very short time was more important than our kids’ right to go to school without being afraid of being murdered. By the time a madman killed 58 people and wounded 413 others at a concert in Las Vegas in 2017, something like that barely catches our attention. Weary, hopeless people are like, “Yeah, that’s about right…” And for people who can’t handle the world being the sort of place where chaos like this happens and no one does anything about it, they’ve been given an out: They can believe it was all faked. This had already started with Sandy Hook, but by 2017 there were a SIGNIFICANT number of people willing to believe that the Las Vegas shooting never took place… That it was staged and faked to “try to take our guns.” Now those seeds of conspiracy theory that were planted are bearing their poisonous fruit.
Meanwhile, people who are okay with our babies crying through active shooter drills at their elementary schools (because they value their right to have military-style weapons over our children’s right to feel safe at school) are talking about “tyranny” because they have to wear a mask to Costco.
When I see these people carrying their signs and guns and confederate flags at state capitals talking about “tyranny,” I see people demanding to be allowed access to a mountain that 99 out of 100 geologists are saying is getting ready to explode. EXCEPT IT’S WORSE THAN THAT, because in the volcano analogy, the only ones dying are the ones dumb enough to ignore the warnings of the experts — Like people “fighting for the freedom” to not wear helmets on their motorcycles. This is more like calling seatbelt laws “tyranny,” and fighting for the “right” to not have to put your kids in carseats. Just because you think “freedom” means that you should be able to drive down a highway in the wrong direction, that doesn’t make it so. We also have the right not to have some asshole cause a head-on collision and kill a bunch of people on the highway because he was going the wrong way in the name of “freedom.” Believing that mask regulations are “tyranny” is like thinking that drunk driving laws are some sort of attack on our “freedom to drive drunk.” If it was only your dumb ass that was getting hurt, we’d be fine with it… But there are people in the other cars.
No one was screaming about “taking away our freedom” because they started making people take their shoes off before they get on a plane. You might find it annoying, and you might think it’s a little overkill, but it’s accepted as something designed to help keep us safe. And your right to bear arms doesn’t mean you have some “god-given right” to take box cutters onto your flight. This isn’t tyranny. You’re not fighting for “freedom.” You’re fighting for the right to put your desires over the needs of the group. It’s not freedom you’re fighting for… It’s selfishness. It’s the “freedom” to allow your ignorance to hurt other people. But I’ve got some news for you: Other people have the right to not get hurt just because you are dangerously ignorant or indifferent to their health. Either way, wear a mask.
Thank you for reading. I have something to admit: I wore a mask the other day to my mechanic, but there was just one other guy in there working, and he wasn’t wearing a mask… So when I went back there to pick up my car, I didn’t put my mask on… I think because I didn’t want him to feel weird? Now I feel stupid about it. We need to normalize it. It’s easier if I look at it as an act of kindness, rather than feeling any sort of “I’m following the rules, and you’re not” vibe. I don’t know… I don’t want to get sick, but I REALLY don’t want my carelessness to get other people sick. This time is hard…
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I wore respirators for a good part of 40 years inside boilers, confined spaces, and other hazardous locations, millions wear them every day in toxic work environments. I was always amazed but not surprised when a person that knew better would enter with a hole drilled through his respirator (3M half mask) smoking a cigarette. It doesn’t surprise me much that stupid people do stupid things. Americans are not real smart, it’s part of our culture.
Yeah… And the way this virus is going to negatively affect public education is going to have effects that are longer than any economic effects.
Nice correlation with Mount St. Helens, Chris. I remember that well — especially the old fellow who wouldn’t leave his place on Spirit Lake — and you’re right: there’s a major don’t-tread-on-me through line.
Love you, bud.
The folks who don’t want to use a mask are REALLY going to hate the ventilator…
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