Chalk Signs

By Steve Bennett | August 3, 2020

Writing in chalk on the sidewalk is common in my neighborhood these days. The statements are mainly about “masking up.” This one is perhaps the most succinct I’ve seen.

Chalk signs in Cambridge

Mind-boggling how a utilitarian public/personal health recommendation became a politicized lightning rod and a symbol of personal autonomy and power. But it’s not the first time. In an excellent article in The New York Times today, Christine Hauser describes how masks quickly became a political football during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic that claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. alone. One of the most poignant stories from the article relates the statement of an individual who appeared before a judge after being arrested for non-compliance. As reported in a contemporary Los Angeles Times story, the anti-masker “…told the judge that he ’was not disposed to do anything not in harmony with his feelings.’” That sums up the situation today, and gives teeth to the old saw (unofficially attributed to Mark Twain): “History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.”

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