By L. Scala
“Masks don’t work”, “masks are a fraud” are all statements which are proven to be fake, but then why do we hear them so often from so many people around the globe and how does this connect to human history? Refusing to wear something for your safety isn’t something recent, it has happened throughout history. But in the last few days, anti-maskers are on the rise, and mad that the COVID-19 vaccine is finally being distributed to the world.
Firstly, on March 17th, there was an incident with anti-maskers at a KFC restaurant in the United States. KFC employee, Laura Amaro, was shot with a BB gun after asking customers to put a mask on before entering the establishment. Amaro later filed a complaint, claiming that she was a victim of violence and disrespect at her workplace several times. Laura Amaro said in the complaint "When you say, I'm sorry, you can't come in here if you don't have a mask ... they get mad." She also added that violence isn’t the only way customers react to being asked to put a mask on, but that she was commonly cursed for asking others to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. How does this demonstration of people ignoring safety regulations connect to past events? First, there is a need to analyze anti-maskers, their reasoning, and similar incidents.
On March 19th, a 65-year-old Oregon woman named Terry Wright went to get money from her local bank at Galveston, Texas. But what she didn’t expect was that she had to wear a mask to enter the building. There already was a warrant out for her arrest after she refused to wear a mask in a Bank of America branch in Galveston. Police officers had to be called in to arrest Wright, officers were also wearing a body camera, and the whole incident was recorded. In the video, Wright taunts the officers asking if they are going to arrest her, after officers say “yes, for intruding on-premises” she laughs and says, “that’s hilarious”. She claims that she does not have to wear a mask in public spaces, something that is true after Texas Governor Greg Abbott ended the state-wide mask mandate. However, officers debunked her claim after informing her that the bank was a private business and, therefore, is not a public space. Her final charges were trespassing and resisting arrest. Terry Wright’s bond was set at $3000 on the misdemeanor charges. There are several incidents of disregard to health protocols around the world now due to COVID-19, but some people have disregarded and mocked safety protocols for as long as they’ve been around. Some things we now consider part of our daily life were highly resisted when they were first introduced, using seatbelts is a common practice in the world we live in, but what about back in the day?
Seatbelts were first introduced in 1885 by Edward J Claghorn as a way to help tourists in New York not fall off from the cabs, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that cars became popular. The number of people who died in car accidents doubled between 1920 to 1960, it went from 11 fatalities out of 100000 to 22. In the mid-1950s, car manufacturers offered to add seatbelts as a safety precaution, however, most customers refused. Only 2% of Ford buyers accepted the seatbelt option. With this worrying resistance to seatbelts, an American politician named Daniel Patrick Moynihan described the situation as “the epidemic on highways”. In 1965, Ralph Nader wrote a book named ‘unsafe at any speed’, where he analyzed how people and manufacturers disregarded seatbelts. His investigation caused a debate in Congress which eventually led to the creation of what we know today as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These decisions made by congress forced every vehicle, except buses, to have seatbelts. However, it was clearly stated that the use of seatbelts was strictly voluntary. These new laws did little to help, as by 1983 only 15% of Americans admitted to using a seatbelt consistently. A survey in 1984 revealed that 65% opposed mandatory belt laws. Drivers also said the restraints were "ineffective, inconvenient, and uncomfortable." Some also argued against experts that it was better to be thrown out of a car during a crash instead of staying in the car. Does this ignorance towards experts and science sound similar?
This all shows how history sometimes repeats itself. Ralph Nader, writer of the book ‘Unsafe at any speed’ also commented on his thoughts on the resistance to masks. "The same people who don't want to do social distancing and face masks get in their car and put their seat belt on," Nader said. "Nice irony, huh?". It takes time to get used to safety protocols, for seatbelts it took 105 years since its introduction for people to start using it in mass, but for an age as modern as ours, an age in which science can explain almost everything, people still refuse to do the basic and wear a mask to save lives. What arguments do people have to prove a mask is restricting their freedom or that masks aren’t efficient? Well, that’s a question science can’t explain.