By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
“Wear your mask, save a business” – that was the motto, the organizing principle, of Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber for most of 2020 and much of 2021.
It’s a simple, yet powerful, even empowering, statement.
It would be difficult to come up with, or even imagine a simpler, cheaper, less intrusive act with greater impact.
Wearing a mask, after all, costs very little, is painless and, at least according to the Chamber, has massive, over-reaching, long lasting repercussions.
In other words, the ROI (Return On Investment) is unparalleled – and huge.
There are many principles at work in this deceptively simple phrase.
The Harvard Business Review, for example, has a recent article titled “The power of small wins” – https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins?.
One aspect of this thesis is that of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress, however small, in meaningful work.
The Navy SEALs have a similar core principle – set achievable micro-goals.
Even making your bed each morning, they say, leads to, or at least initiates, a sense of accomplishment that sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Besides being a concrete act, wearing a mask (or even making your bed) is a job (however small) completed, a task finished and set aside.
Wearing a mask is also, in more ways than most of us could ever have imagined possible, a statement of solidarity, a sense of community.
And with that sense of community, there is the underlying sense of feeling that those wearing masks are contributing to a resolution that everyone, it is presumed, wants to work toward.
Who of us, after all, would not prefer to be part of the solution, rather than one who perpetuates the problem?
In other words, a simple, personal, individual act is a direct, concrete step toward what we all want – to save as many business as possible.
A business, after all, is more than an economic unit – it is a vision, a dream put into action, a collaboration of energies, passion and yes, resources – and of course, a provider of essential goods and services to a community.
The end of a business is the end of much more than the evaporation of jobs and economic stability.
The end of a business, especially a local business, impacts neighborhoods, networks within the larger community, nearby schools, possibly first jobs or learning experiences for young people.
Get vaccinated and wear a mask
Save a business and protect our community
The Chamber has since (in the past few months) changed its website byline to “Get vaccinated and wear a mask- save a business and protect our community”.
This is a similar message, of course, but not one that is as immediately visible as wearing a mask.
The irony, of course, one that will be studied and analyzed for many years to come, will be why so many refused even this simple, no sacrifice solution to preserve even their own financial well-being.
An economy, local or national, depends upon thousands, if not millions of willing, individual personal decisions.
There was a time, not so long ago, when a common threat inspired us to put aside our differences and unite against a shared enemy.
We have at least one threatening our lives and livelihoods today (climate change is, by any standard, at least as much a threat as any pandemic).
But contrary to our history, if not human nature, we have taken this threat to split even further into warring ideological camps, each with their scripts, arguments and “alternative facts”.
In a saner era, in the face of a severe flu or other highly contagious (and dangerous) disease, parental instincts would kick in and parents would clamor for the highest level of protection for their children whether that might be vaccinations or any other medically authorized procedure.
We’ve been through this as a nation with mumps, Chicken pox, measles, polio and a host of others.
We took care of our children and, in some cases, as with smallpox and polio, effectively eliminated menacing and destructive diseases.
To put it bluntly, those policies were good for families, good for our country and, not least, good for our economy.
Students need to go to school, and, as we have all noticed lately, those “essential workers” really are essential.
Just a few sick people can, as we have all experienced recently, mess up our supply chains in every category from lumber to car parts, or as many of us have seen here in the Puget Sound area, disrupt ferry schedules.
It’s not that complicated.
In fact it’s very close to the near universal “Golden rule”; treat others as you’d like to be treated.
As we take care of ourselves, we take care of our community, and as we take care of our community, we take care of ourselves.
I listen to the arguments against the mandates. Personal freedom and freedom of expression is very important to me – and who we are as a nation. But there is no such thing as a “right” without responsibility.
There is literally no excuse for disrupting an airline flight, or assaulting a store employee or threatening a political figure over masking or vaccination policies.
I must admit that it is embarrassing to even say this; medical professionals with years, if not decades, of experience are more reliable sources of health impacting information than breathless, ranting Youtube videos.
For many years after World War II, a common question by children, usually directed at their fathers, was “What did you do in the war?”
The assumption of that question was that we all would do our best to fight a common enemy or make a difficult situation a little more tolerable – maybe even better.
The idea that anyone would make a difficult situation worse, or would “profiteer” from anyone else’s pain or even death was appalling if not disgraceful.
Prolonging the difficulties was certainly not what any respectable person would do.
Some day this pandemic will be over.
And the question we will all have to live with is “What did you do during the pandemic?”