California Shaming

By: - April 28, 2020

Infant onesie pulled over nose and mouth – a comical, but effective makeshift face covering – my husband felt eyes burning into him.

“You got enough in there?”

Glancing up from the bok choy, he saw an elderly woman gesturing disapprovingly at his grocery cart. The yellow dachshund at the collar of the onesie conveniently covered his frown. He was buying a small amount for our family of four – much less than we usually purchase to get through a few weeks in our remote location.

We’ve all heard the stories – surfers being escorted off the beaches, banned from surfing – a healthy, lone activity that immerses a person in one of the most curative of mixtures – salt water.

Mountains covered in fresh snow from the recent rains make the perfect spot for sledding and skiing, breathing the crisp air and getting much-needed exercise out in the open. But some counties have now issued orders banning snow play on the mountains.

At least one Southern California county has enabled an app with the ability to report neighbors who dare to go outside. Snitching on neighbors for perceived violations of the rules? When and where have we seen this before?

In our small town, people have been taking to the community Facebook page to shame fellow residents who dare venture out into the fresh air on the first clear and dry day in a week. Pictures of parents playing baseball with their children in open-air baseball fields are being posted, followed by angry-faced comments about children daring to play outside. Face mask-covered selfies are being taken and shared, people basking in the glory and seeming to embrace the face-covering orders being made by overreaching county governments. These same individuals cringe and practically shriek in fear at the mere mention of plans to get back to normal one day.

These sudden converts to law and order somewhat surprise me. In many cases these are the same individuals who partake in illegal drugs on a regular basis. They choose the rules they like that conform to their politics, but everything else criminal is fine with them. It seems they don’t understand the rules anyway.

Now there are complaints that funny memes about COVID-19 or the lockdown should be forbidden because it is insensitive to the families of people who have lost a loved one. It doesn’t matter that nobody seems to actually know anyone who has lost someone. Is there no end to their attempted mind control and online bullying of so-called violators?

If you dare post your opinions or actual facts and data these newfound social-distance shamers all seem to be quoting from the same script. Quotes such as, “I know you think this is a joke”, “You’re being irresponsible”, “You’ll have blood on your hands” abound. The urge to try to control others is indeed very powerful.

Articles with provocative or misleading headlines are surely adding to this plague mentality and chicken little-like behavior. There is no end to the erroneous information being circulated and propagated in the media, online and on social media. In a time and place where many people’s attention span cannot exceed 250 characters, these clickbait headlines are irresponsible. The spread of bad information is worse than the virus itself. In a place where there is very little for children to do outside during a normal time, this stirring of frenzied fear and extreme overreaction is harmful to everyone’s well-being.

It doesn’t seem to matter that there is no justification for these tighter rules and restrictions on people’s rights, as the numbers have leveled off and some of the models used in the beginning of this nightmare have proven to be wrong. These mere facts and figures do nothing to assuage the doom merchants. When we do get back to normal, and we will, I just hope we can begin to treat adults as adults capable of making their own decisions. I also hope that we can have a return to the use of critical thinking and logic.