Face coverings & ‘cancel culture’

What do my pet store and the great-grandson of Theodore Roosevelt have in common?

Quite a bit, actually.

First, my pet store. It’s a big chain – no surprise – and therefore nothing unusual. However, its devotion to people’s safety is remarkable – so much that it offers a 10 percent discount to get goods curbside.

Hence customers don’t infect each other or store employees inside. Our cat and dog food are handed over from a gloved hand with a smile beneath a mask.

Now to Teddy Roosevelt’s great-grandson.

In a commentary on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Mark Roosevelt said that the statue outside New York’s Museum of Natural History of Teddy astride a horse while a head-dressed Native American and a bare-chested African hold fast at his stirrups should go away.

“If we wish to live in harmony and equality with people of other races, we should not maintain paternalistic statues that depict Native Americans and African-Americans in a subordinate role,” he says.

Wait. Doesn’t Mark Roosevelt care about his family name?

It depends on your definition of family. His is bigger than the House of Roosevelt. He is president of St. Johns College in Santa Fe, N.M. As such, he serves all cultures and colors, something anyone who subscribes, say, to the Christian faith would do as well.

That would apply to my pet store.

This has been a grim period in so many ways, particularly with a president whose sole concern appears to be serving his base and, not coincidentally, his race.

By contrast, credit businesses and their employees for showing concern for everyone. File for history’s keeping the photos of store clerks in masks and gloves. They are among 2020’s heroes.

At the same time, file for history’s keeping the image of Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert mugging and sulking about having to act responsibly in a pandemic. Now he’s infected, and he wants to blame the mask he mostly shunned. Right.

Back to that Teddy Roosevelt statue, and what defenders of gray eminence deride as “cancel culture.”

Gohmert wouldn’t cover his face and protect others from a virus that often doesn’t show its own. Similarly, those who venerate symbols of racism and white supremacism don’t see that governments, like colleges and pet stores, serve every race and creed.

Face coverings and “cancel culture” are one in the same. Both are discreet means of siding with smart over the opposite.

True, not all of the grievances related to the latter are about racism. Some “cancellations” are about rank stupidity.

Twitter said it was stupid for Donald Jr. to retweet a video promoting COVID medical theories that would make colonial-era bloodletters blush.

I won’t call Ivanka Trump stupid. However, the administration of Wichita State University Tech realized it was stupid to have her speak to 2020 graduates once faculty and students asked what in the world she’d done to merit the honor. You mean being born to the House of Trump is insufficient? Oh, woe.

In most cases, “cancel culture” is a grievance only for the hyper-privileged or the hyper-ridiculous, or both. And it’s most assuredly not about free speech. (Just as wearing a mask is not an abridgement of your freedom.)

In the Washington Post, author Eve Fairbanks writes that when it comes to getting “canceled,” the argument from the aggrieved is not so much about speech but a protest from “people worried their points may be weak.”

As with pet food, this is about the marketplace of ideas. Some win; some lost around the time we emerged from the ‘50s. Sorry, Don Jr. Sorry, Ivanka. Get a sign and stand out on the sidewalk. No one will abridge that freedom, unless your daddy has a photo op nearby.

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