The fifth point of the Scout Law...
A Scout is Courteous.
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
I've been pondering the Coronavirus Crisis recently, as viewed through the lens of ordinary decency.
Without too much thought, most of you could probably envision Boston's reputation. Gritty, cold, recalcitrant to outsiders, and somewhat rude. Probably all of these things and more, but over the summer I noticed quite a change in behaviour. "Sidewalk Etiquette" has changed dramatically. Where we would rush and push and squeeze through a crowd - that no longer happens. People seem to be much calmer and respectful of personal space. Never mind the mask; the few non-mask wearers in Boston are given a wide berth and plenty of room.
Trail etiquette has changed, too. I've spent a lot of time out in the woods this summer, and where previously we'd always be watching out for somebody else on the trail - a cheerful smile and a polite "hello" were always part of the hike. But I'll be the first to tell you, I almost never wear a mask while out in the woods. (I have it with me, and I generally hike alone.) But not wearing one? Well, if I see you coming with one on, I take the trouble to step off the trail and turn my head. That polite "hello" is now replaced with a nod and a "thank you."
Here in the formerly bustling Northeast, I find this to be a dramatic shift from our ordinary M.O. It's curious for me as a lifelong Yankee to ponder what's become of the Southern states during this crisis.
"Southern Hospitality" is an equally big stereotype in these United States. So much so that it has its own Wikipedia entry.
Southern hospitality is a phrase used in American English to describe the stereotype of residents of the Southern United States as particularly warm, sweet, and welcoming to visitors to their homes, or to the South in general.
Given that definition, you would expect that common courtesy would also come naturally to a Southerner. But that would involve wearing a piece of fabric on your face.
Over the months, volumes of memes, instructions, and indeed insults, have flown around the internet about the reluctance of certain sections of the population to even make the slightest hint of following government recommendations during a national health crisis. To these jaded Northern eyes, it's just another manifestation of The Lost Cause.
It is indicative of the ongoing destruction of the United States. I simply cannot comprehend how a scientist, or a doctor, or some other expert can tell us all about something that affects everyone and how to prevent it, and then more than half the country will ignore them. I have a background in healthcare administration and emergency medicine; it's a matter of course for me to listen to a doctor and follow their instructions - usually without question.
The concept of "Shared Sacrifice" used to mean something. It's what got this country through the Great Depression, and WWII. That was true sacrifice - look up what life was like in those days, or check out some depression-era recipes just to see how bad things were. Simply wearing a mask and keeping your distance from others is child's play in comparison. But those instructions don't come from Donald Trump, so all those red states will tend to ignore it.
This election is about far more than we all think. While it was once the South that took exception to the Republican Party long ago and seceded after Abraham Lincoln won the presidency, it's not too far a stretch to think the North will take umbrage this time if Trump is re-elected.
As I often do in troubling times, I tend to turn to my lifelong Oath and Law that I have recited nearly every week of my life since I was 11 years old. You saw the reference to common courtesy. As we become increasingly divided, another point of the Scout Law increasingly has relevance.
A Scout is Brave.
A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.
But is it bravery to wear a mask? I would think that it might be in some sections of the United States. Here in the Northeast, not wearing a mask marks you as a pariah; transit systems, stores, restaurants, even some outdoor activities, will turn you away. I can't say the same for places south of the Mason-Dixon line.
There is perhaps a more powerful thought from the world of Scouting. Within our oath, there are said to be three "duties". Duty to God and Country, Duty to Others, and Duty to Self. I have always leaned towards Duty to Others, as it is my personal belief that there is no higher calling than service to your fellow man.
DUTY TO OTHER PEOPLE: Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.
If putting others before self would have reduced this crisis by one day, or saved one life, it would have been worth it. 210,000 deceased Americans would probably agree.