Yesterday’s news was dominated by the fact that the State of Florida broke the record for the most cases of Coronavirus in a single day. That outcome was the result of hundreds of thousands of people flooding back to beaches and crowding into other public places.
The pent up desire to break from protection measures related to the disease is responsible for much of the pandemic’s spread in Florida. People desperately want to get back to “normal” after a spring and early summer spent in austerity from Shelter At Home orders and a closed down economy.
There is also the move to resist wearing masks, the suggested method by which to prevent such rapid spread of the disease. But a significant segment of the population seems to be convinced that masks are both unnecessary and a symptom of government overreach. Proponents of that attitude refer to people wearing masks as “sheeple,” an insult intended to convey the idea that mask-wearers are unthinking denizens of a socialistic society.
A mask is a simple enough device. It’s a partial face covering to prevent potentially infected droplets of moisture from reaching other people. It’s also a way to help protect said droplets from reaching your own nose and mouth.
Wearing a face mask is not much different than wearing a bike helmet while cycling. The chances of having a crash may be slim, but in the event that you do get in an accident, bike helmets offer a measure of protection. They are not a perfect device in any way, but anyone that has crashed and bonked their head on the ground with a bike helmet on can testify, they do help. They can even save your life.
Athletes quite commonly take other protective measures during training and competition. The application of sun screen is highly recommended to block the harmful rays of the skin. That reduces the risk of skin cancer, a disease that can also kill you.
When it comes to diet and nutrition, athletes at all levels learn that eating certain foods can help maintain a healthy body weight, prevent problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and fuel the ability to engage in endurance sports that build muscle, strengthen the heart and lungs and reduce ambient stress.
Yet healthy competition also introduces a type of stress that can strengthen the mind for other challenges in life. Competition helps people learn to manage their emotions. That’s a helpful tool in other aspects of life.
Engaging in all these types of preparation and prevention is an integral part of being an athlete in many sports. Even professional golfers in the last ten to fifteen years have transformed their bodies to perform better on the course. They have learned that playing at a higher caliber requires some sacrifice and training to sustain the rigors of a long season.
Refusal to sacrifice
By contrast, it appears that much of America is disgusted with the idea of having to sacrifice anything about their lifestyle in order to enjoy the supposed freedoms of life in this country. Anti-maskers call the obligation of wearing a mask an impingement on their personal freedoms. Meanwhile plain old irresponsible citizens of many ages pour into bars and other public places to gorge themselves on the fat of the land.
This is perhaps no surprise in a country known for its massive rate of overconsumption and obesity. The Center for Disease Control reports that “from 1999-2000 through 2017-2018, the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.%” to 42.4%, and the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.”
These statistics tell us that there are a significant number of people out there who do not care about their health and who refuse to change their lifestyle to do anything about it. It also happens to be true that the segment of population affected by obesity are also those at greater risk of associated problems such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. These are the people at greatest risk of dire consequences from contracting Covid-19. That begs the question: Are the same people that refuse to take care of themselves in terms of body weight the same people protesting that wearing a mask is an infringement on their personal liberties?
Recently an ardent statistical Redditor produced a study that took a look at that potential correlation. And while it is not exact, it is a compelling perspective.
Obesity rates and Trump Approval Ratings
It is colloquially interesting that the percentage of those with obesity in America (40%) matches almost precisely with the average popularity rating of the current President of the United States of America (also 40%) who also happens to be obese, hates to exercise and claims that exertion can shorten one’s lifespan.
It is no mistake that these factors align so closely.
But there’s more. That 40% figure also generally lines up with the number of people in America whose biblically-literal worldview supports belief in creationism, the anti-science, anti-intellectual take on religion that denies fact in favor of ideology.
This isn’t about ‘fat-shaming or religious persecution or even political rivalry. This is about challenging ideas and habit that endanger the lives of others, and holding people accountable for the actions they take, or don’t take, in that regard.
A stubborn mindset
These aren’t precise alignments of course. But they are related indicators of a mindset that could lead one to refuse to wear a mask, or avoid exercise, or gather in crowded bars or on beaches out of stubborn refusal to believe that Coronavirus is a threat, or those who believe that it isn’t even real. This isn’t about ‘fat-shaming’ or religious persecution or political rivalry. This is about dealing with reality in good conscience and consideration for others. When the habits or belief systems of people dominating the culture dialect are causing others to get sick and die, we have every goddamned right to challenge them.
That brings us back to what athletes can teach the world about survival in a pandemic. There is nothing about participating in endurance sports that allows one to persist in the wish that something were true when it isn’t. Every workout is an exercise in profound reality. When an athlete goes out and runs ten miles, no amount of wishful thinking makes them go faster. One either works through the pain to make the gain, or gives up.
The same goes for cycling or swimming. The clock is empiric, and one only improves by putting in the preparation and work to improve.
Sacrifices to be made
That empiric reality includes all the things surrounding the effort as well. There are sacrifices to be made. Early mornings to face. Hot days. Cold, freezing weather. Giving up alcohol or sweets. All to focus on a health approach to performance, and to life.
Those willing to make such sacrifices are not “sheep” in the derogatory sense of the word. They are honest, hard-working people who care enough to take care of themselves. It should also be noted that a community of athletes is often grandly supportive of one another. That’s what being on a “team” is all about. Doing your best and encouraging others is the entire purpose of having a team in the first place.
Even ardent competitors hug after races because they know their rivals push them to go farther and faster. That is the nature of healthy competition.
So much “winning”
But some people claim that denigrating the efforts of those who make sacrifices is the real focus of “winning.” When the President of the United States ridicules a Senator who once suffered through years of torture as a prisoner of war by saying, “I prefer the ones who didn’t get captured,” there is something radically wrong and out of whack with the values system of those who support him. That same President also hid or ignored the fact that Russia has been offering bounties on the lives of our soldiers. He also sold our our Kurdish allies by removing our troops to allow Syrian forces to move in and slaughter them. Clearly he is not on the same “team” as the rest of our military or our allies. Yet he’s our designated Commander In Chief. This is a devastating problem, and it all hearkens back to selfish motivations and blaming others for the problems he creates on his own.
That is the worse kind of team member to have “on your side.” We’ve all dealt with such selfish individuals, who want all the glory yet make none of the required sacrifices. We want nothing more than to be quietly rid of their influence. They ruin the team, poison the locker room atmosphere and drag other people down with them.
And it is that same President who wants America to send its children back to school despite cases of Coronavirus soaring all across the country. His cynical Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos lamely claims that children are less susceptible to the disease. “There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.” Yet even the data she cited would lead to perhaps 15,000 kids dying, an untold numbers of teachers, staff and administrators being put at risk of contracting the disease.
But what should we expect. Much of her wealth was gained through a company whose business model depends on exploiting people from a top-down perspective in a network-marketing scheme.
In other words, the view of “winning” from the perspective of Trump and DeVos is to have people sacrifice their lives in order to give the appearance that everything is going according to their ideological plans. This is the opposite of winning in every respect of the word. It also encourages people already compromised by lack of concern for their own health to put the lives of others at risk. These are the anti-maskers, the stiff-necked religious zealots and the bloated worshippers of Trump that are literally killing America in every sense of the word.
Ridding the world of pet fantasies
A true patriot learns to sacrifice for the good of the nation. America could learn a few things from athletes in that regard. Giving up pleasures and indulgences and even pet fantasies of how to win is a crucial aspect of being both an athlete and a grownup in this world.
There is a sorry lack of both in America right now. The world recognizes it. Americans are banned from traveling to almost every country in the world because our fat-ass, disease-denying, golfing lard bowl of a President thinks he knows better than the rest of the world how to survive a pandemic.
And we’re losing that fight. Life by life, we’re losing it.