I went to a store today that I had not been to in 3 months. I quit going before masks were mandated because it felt dangerous to shop in a store where people got right up next to me unmasked. Here in Oregon, we have a governor who has worked consistently and diligently to mitigate the deaths due to Covid. I appreciate Gov. Kate Brown and the wisdom she has used to protect our citizens. And the numbers bear out Governor Brown’s leadership, just as the Covid deaths and infections in Georgia prove Gov. Kemp’s lack of leadership.
Masks are mandated when in public in Oregon. Period. You are not to be in a store or a place of business without them. Not as a client or as an employee.
Yet, I was not in the store for five minutes when a white man about my age stood in the aisle by which I had to pass. His mask was pulled down on his chin. He was sipping a drink.
“Mask up,” I said as I passed by him.
“I’m drinking my coffee!” he yelled back. “Do you mind if I drink my coffee?”
“Drink it outside. Masks are required.”
Being the asshat he has probably long been, he cussed at me.
He cussed at the wrong woman. I’ll spare you the details but let’s just leave it at I love Jesus but these days I cuss a lot. I dare say few men can cuss better than me especially when you are talking about saving the lives of others.
My friend Peter lives in Vietnam. That’s not his real name, of course, but it is the name he asked me to call him when we met back in 2003. Like me, Peter lost his father to the American War in Vietnam. He was just a young boy. His father fought with the ARVN, and thus was regarded by the government as a traitor. Peter’s mother wasn’t even allowed to keep a photo of her dead husband in their home. When he grew up, Peter made numerous attempts to escape Vietnam but was unsuccessful.
When we first met, Peter was working in the tourism industry. He still does that today. “You would not believe how DaNang has grown. Lots of restaurants and hotels. It was flying high like a dragon in the sky,” Peter told me recently.
But that was before the global pandemic hit. Unlike too many Americans, the Vietnamese don’t regard Covid as a great conspiracy to rid the world of Donald J. Trump. They don’t regard the pandemic as a conspiracy at all.
Vietnamese regard Covid as the very thing it is – a virus for which we have no known cures; one that is killing hundreds of thousands around the world. A pandemic that is most rampant in the United States, killing 170,000 and counting.
But unlike our government, the Vietnamese government takes the threat very seriously. They test. They trace. And they isolate. “If you are diagnosed with Covid, the government sends the police out with an ambulance to take you far outside the city,” Peter explained. “Then they come in and disinfect your home. They spray it.”
Vietnam began screening for Covid among airline passengers on January 11th, the day after the first death was reported in China. Schools were shut down in January as well. In February quarantine was issued for all international travelers. Local lockdowns began in mid-February. A national lockdown was implemented in April. In that same month, Vietnam was processing 27,000 test per day. Over 11,000 public health centers assisted with the contract tracing. Every positive case was traced and tested within three degrees of separation. Schools reopened in late May. But early June there had been a total of 369 confirmed cases and no deaths.
This in a country of 97 million people.
As of today, there have been 962 confirmed cases in Vietnam and a total of 24 deaths. In contrast, the US deaths from Covid are averaging about 45 every hour.
Trump with the assistance of the Republican-led Senate are literally killing US citizens. The only thing we are leading the world in right now is the abysmal way that our leaders have failed the public health of this nation.
We could have schools open. We could be going about our work. We could be caring for one another.
But too many among us want to bicker and bitch about wearing a mask. Trump’s cult see mask-wearing as an allegiance to Heir Corruptness.
Like many of my friends who live elsewhere, Peter worries about America. “I know you are a Democracy and can’t do what we do, but our government takes this seriously,” he said.
Of course, he didn’t say what we were both thinking: If Trump wasn’t the president, thousands upon thousands of Americans would not be dead or dying from Covid.
Vote people. Wear your mask and vote. And feel free to cuss those who don’t do either.
- Read more about my 2003 meeting with Peter in AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (William Morrow/HarperCollins).