Six feet apart, or six feet under?

                  Isaac Asimov


I begin this with the words above for you to ponder and share as you reflect on the frightening prediction of the spread of COVID-19 that’s ahead of us.

I repeat them here with emphasis……Six feet apartor six feet under

Like chewing gum that keeps getting stuck on the sole of your shoe, mask-wearing or, more to the point, those who opt not to wear masks in the midst of COVID-19, continue to get under my skin. Hey, tell me if I’m alone on this?

“Dude, what on earth are you thinking?” is the “polite” question that enters my mind when I see people in public without masks these days. But since wisdom (let alone physical disadvantages) always prevails, I choose not to say anything since, as reports go, some people will completely lose it and get violent if you – you’ve heard this before – “how dare you infringe on my personal rights?” 

Now in all fairness, let’s give air time to those who refuse to wear masks in public.

“People naturally rebel when they’re told what to do, even if the measures could protect them,” said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Psychology of Pandemics.”

“People value their freedoms,” he said. “They may become distressed or indignant or morally outraged when people are trying to encroach on their freedoms.”

“To some, wearing a mask means admitting a fear they may not have consciously confronted yet,” said David Abrams, a clinical psychologist and professor of social and behavioral science at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. 

“Many view the mask as a walking symbol of vulnerability that tells others you’re scared about contracting the virus. So to compensate for that fear, and as a show of strength, they may reject masks entirely,” he said

Now quick! Read the following quote, then take a wild guess as to whether it was published before or during the COVID-19 epidemic:

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”   –Isaac Asimov

Now if your reaction was in any way like mine, you may have concluded that Asimov had to have written this recently, and clearly with COVID-19 in mind. 

Well the fact is that Asimov, an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University known for his works of science fiction and popular science, died in 1992, almost 30 years before COVID-19 took control of present-day reality.

The other fact is that written words like Asimov’s often carry their relevance many years and decades after they’re actually written.

Okay, let’s push ahead with scientific knowledge:

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued this recent sobering forecast: “…the nation is facing a devastating winter, predicting that total deaths from COVID-19 could reach close to 450,000 by February unless a large percentage of Americans follow precautions like wearingmasks. (emphasis mine)” 

Next, researchers in November analyzed coronavirus infection rates in Kansas following a statewide mask mandate. They found that counties that chose to enforce the mandate saw their cases decrease. Counties that chose to opt out saw their cases continue to rise.

“The time for debating whether or not masks work or not is over. We clearly have scientific evidence,” said CDC’s Dr. Redfield.

 No mas! Case closed! End of discussion!

Unlearned lessons from history?

Years ago, when wearing seatbelts in automobiles became the law of the land, there was some bellyaching and complaining. Some of you may remember that pushback. However, undeniable knowledge that seat belts saved lives (helped along no less by $50 fines) led to a national behavioral change. 

Still unconvinced? Well, how about those times when smoking cigarettes in public was no big deal; that is until scientific evidence that tobacco can kill (and hefty fines) got people to change their behaviors. 

So, I’ll end by repeating the question posed at the outset:

Six feet apart, or six feet under?

Well I don’t know about you, but I choose the former. 

“The saddest aspect of life right (year 2020) now is that science gathers knowledge (masks, social distancing, hand washing, etc.) faster than society (mask and social distance deniers, etc.) gathers wisdom.”   –Isaac Asimov (amended) 

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel,, The Echo World, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. 


3 thoughts on “Six feet apart, or six feet under?

  1. Terry, Good message to us all. Freedom comes with a responsibility to others, other wise, we have total anarchy. Keep reminding us of our responsibility to each other. Stay safe.

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