So, here we are, ready to reopen, some think -- or not, others think. Hmmm ... what to do?

Across the country, the president, Do Nothing Don, has been trying to shake that label and get the economy roaring back to life -- like a giant dose of Alka-Seltzer. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, instant relief. Instant relief for him, that is- - because, apparently, appearance is way more important than reality.

But speaking of oxymorons, a new New York Times/Sienna College Research Institute poll has revealed that the main reason people don’t want to come back from sheltering and reopen their economies is fear of the other people who won’t wear a mask, social distance or practice safe public behavior. And why would they think any differently? Do Nothing Don has done one thing at least -- he has mocked, belittled and made unmanly the practice of wearing masks. He has set the example for the tide of No Maskers who see the issue as a political statement, not medical. Do Nothing has mocked his opponent, Joe Biden, the Democratic governors, even reporters at news conferences for wearing a mask in a crowd. He has said a mask makes him look weak and he won’t give reporters the satisfaction of seeing him in a mask. Satisfaction? Glad to see his eye is on the prize: putting a stop to COVID-19 and not making it all about him.

But his behavior is counterintuitive. His mask-o-chistic modeling of the macho put-down is contributing to a slower opening, according to the Sienna Poll.

The more people disregard the masks, the longer it will take for the silent majority to venture back into the old ways of doing things in groups, crowds, restaurants, theaters. Making fun of the cautious will continue to reinforce their caution and put off the pace of the recovery.

People won’t go out until they know others can’t infect them. I won’t. Same with the testing. Do Nothing has eschewed the importance of mass testing but when else will you sit for dinner with your friends, get in a car or work with people in person? It’s either testing or prevention. And the prevention has resulted in an extremely low percentage of infected Americans by an extremely infectious disease. The efforts have worked by and large to mitigate the damage. So is now the time to mock the masks and encourage others to not comply as a political statement? If divide, divide, divide is your main strategy, it is. Us vs Them. Red/Blue, governor vs governor. Masks bad! Liberate! Live Free or Die! Oops . . .

I saw a young, pumped-up male on TV during an overcrowded Memorial Day Missouri lake party and his mantra summed up the debate: “If you don’t want to catch it, stay home!” I assumed by that logic that he wanted to catch it because he hadn’t stayed home and was surrounded by hundreds of shoulder-to-shoulder revelers. “It’s a hoax, anyway!” he ended. He was at the Lake of the Ozarks party central, elbow to elbow with hundreds of maskless others in imitation of their fearless leader. Local medical folks, specifically the head of the Kansas Department of Health, bemoaned that the gatherings had “set back our efforts” to beat the virus and reopen. But they didn’t care -- they were only imitating you-know-who.

Here in Gloucester, yesterday this truck-bound observer watched as two unmasked males passed on a crowded sidewalk, mostly filled with mask wearers. The two appeared to be strangers, but as they passed, they signaled each other their defiance. No wussy governor was going to make them knuckle under. They were young and immune and what did they care. They were a little bit of red state in a pathetic blue state head state. More of them around here than you might suspect. It was just the way Do Nothing wants it: always red vs blue. Maybe he’s thinking of pitting the blue and red states to boycott each other in his second term -- just like the Civil War all over again. He repealed Obama, he could do Lincoln too. Trump loves boycotts and sports. He could bet the winner.

So is his mask strategy aiming in the wrong direction or is it instead just another hydroxymoron?

Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.


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