As the COVID-19 body count continues to rise around the world, a segment of Americans have taken pride in defying basic safety protocols on the pretense of protecting freedoms.
Count Kerri Walsh Jennings among them.
The groundbreaking beach volleyball player and three-time Olympic gold medalist wrote a lengthy Instagram post on Sunday bragging about not wearing a mask while shopping.
Mask rules have ‘crushed our society’
It’s rambling post in which Walsh Jennings makes claims abut standing up “for my rights & for the freedoms our constitution has granted us.”
Walsh Jennings also wrote that “consenting” to simple safety protocols that prevent others from getting sick and dying “has crushed our society, people’s livelihoods, our children’s spirits and the fabric of our world.”
Experts promote masks as vital safety measure
None of these things, of course, is true. Wearing a mask is a basic safety measure that causes no harm to users and experts agree will mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic if widely adopted.
In July, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield said that if everyone wears masks “for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground.”
Mandates by businesses and local governments to wear them don’t infringe on the U.S. Constitution.
Here’s Walsh Jennings’ post that attempts to explain her reasoning for promoting unsafe public health practices and includes an unrelated quote from 19th-century author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Backlash toward mask post
Not surprisingly, Walsh Jennings’ post received some backlash. Her comments were filled with people calling her selfish and her point of view dangerous.
“A mask allows us to open society while protecting the vulnerable,” user meranda.masse wrote. “Being ‘brave’ does not mean putting others at risk. ... I’m very disappointed in you. I’ve followed you a while and looked up to you as a fellow volleyball athlete. Now as a scientist and someone who loves my community, I can’t look up to you anymore.”
Another user that goes by sasspottss echoed several comments describing Walsh Jennings’ stance as selfish.
“I can’t believe I used to idolize you,” sasspottss wrote. “This is the most selfish thing I’ve read yet. So unbelievably hypocritical. Put a f---ing mask on and take care of others not just your ‘freedom’. Wow.”
Walsh Jennings responds to critics
The criticism prompted a Tuesday response from Walsh Jennings calling for a “truce” with her followers and written behind the veil of an apology.
In the followup post, she equated engaging in public health measures to the “FACT that our freedoms have slowly been taken from us without our consent,” continuing to stoke false fears that mask measures are a danger to civil liberties.
While continuing to promote her anti-mask stance, Walsh Jennings bemoaned “a world where a differing opinion equates to evil and hatred,” a common refrain of a both-sidesism philosophy that promotes a false balance in public discourse between things that are true and things that are not.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. claimed 6.3 million of the world’s 27.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 189,000 of the 894,000 global deaths attributed to the pandemic.
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