Bob Franken




In the United States these days we fight about everything, even about wearing face masks, where the advantages are obvious. In addition to protecting others from your coughing and sneezing, which can spread the deadly coronavirus, it has several cosmetic benefits. Personally, I don’t shave as often as I used to; the stubble is hidden. This concept is also true for women, with any blemish from chin to above the nose hidden from view. As for bad breath, who will know?
But President Donald Trump has convinced his unthinking followers (pardon the redundancy) that the face mask, or lack thereof, is a cultural statement, or lack thereof. He has convinced his people that the mask is a sign of elitist liberal cream puffiness, as opposed to going barefaced to prove one is a macho man or macha woman. To lead the way, the president refuses to be seen in public wearing one. To get personal for once, if there is any man who should cover as much of his face as possible, it is Donald Trump.
But Trump’s followers wouldn’t be caught dead in a face mask, in spite of the experts warning that they and all those they are close to will in fact be caught dead soon enough, struck down by the coronavirus they spread by their vanity or selfishness. You could see them by the thousands, crowded on so many beaches the moment they got permission to be stupid by the water. There they were, crammed together, anti-social distancing inches apart, flirting, drinking, spreading disease. As everyone knows, they finally leave the beach or resort and go back to society, hungover and possibly contagious. By rights, they should all be required to isolate in self-quarantine, but rights are distorted in this country, particularly with its current government led by the maskless man who fancies himself as Superman.

Part of the problem is that liberals are lousy marketers. They are too busy overthinking everything instead of creating an effective message that face masks are cool. Some of the most successful ad campaigns have re-branded products that were considered wimpy, like hair spray, for instance. They now sell millions of containers of men’s hair spray (which is exactly like women’s hair spray). They paid famous athletes to tape testimonials for the manly version. The same was true for low proof beer, sometimes called “near beer.” They renamed it “lite beer” because of its lower calories and got jocks to do TV commercials for it.
Men smoked, but most women didn’t. Enter Virginia Slims and the slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby.” The number of female smokers jumped, which was certainly not good news. But the idea still is to position face masks as hip, and people like Donald Trump cloddishly unhip. For all his bluster, he’s fragile, and if he decided that everyone was laughing at him, he’d suddenly come around.
Thin skin is the narcissist’s weakness. Trump, as you might have discerned, is thin-skinned. Any criticism causes him to break out into a Twitter rage of name-calling, murder accusations, lying through his tweets or other forms of Donaldalactic shock.
Of course, it would help if his opponent Joe Biden was more stylish. To be honest, when Biden emerged from his bunker on Memorial Day, the black mask that he was wearing, topped with his aviator sunglasses, was decidedly not chic. Surely he has some consultant who can advise him on how to wear a face mask and sunglasses that don’t make him look like a grasshopper. He will need to not become a fuddy duddy joke like Michael Dukakis was in his tank helmet. (For those too young to know about Dukakis, go to your favorite search engine.) The point is, someone will have to convince people that face masks might save thousands of lives. Including theirs.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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