Now that President Donald Trump has suggested that wearing a mask during the pandemic might be the smart thing to do - and maybe even the patriotic thing to do - it's possible some of his supporters will change their minds.

And then again, maybe not. Some people will adhere to the trappings of "junk science" as proof that masks aren't viable ways of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some will even argue that social distancing isn't necessary, and that would be a laughable proposition if it weren't such a serious one. Common sense tells us that staying clear of people who have any kind of transmittable disease is the best way to protect ourselves.

What's most troubling about masks - as TDP and many others have already said - is their politicization. This probably started with Trump's initial eschewing of them, and even poking fun at them as protective devices. But the controversy has been exacerbated by what some are referring to as "mask bullies" - those who attack bare-faced folks without even knowing whether there's a reason for them to eschew masks. And of course, the same is true in reverse; we've heard dozens of reports of unmasked customers in the larger local stores calling their masked fellow shoppers unprintable names.

As Mayor Sue Catron suggested in her column Friday, the trend that has something as mundane as a cloth face mask causing a rift in a community is disturbing. Since 2016, people have been severing long-standing relationships over the support of President Trump, or lack thereof - and now, the issue of face masks is rending families and friendships. This makes absolutely no sense, in the overall scheme of things.

Though the controversies surrounding Trump may still hold firm for another four years, eventually, they will die down. And although the pandemic is forcing Americans to deal with changes that in some cases are nothing short of catastrophic, this, too will pass. But the destruction of families and friendships may never heal.

Cherokee County has always had to endure its share of controversy, and as former Sheriff Norman Fisher sometimes referred to it, people would "take to fussing" at one another. But at the end of the day, people could still come to the table - either literally or figuratively - and get along. There's a legitimate fear that today's overheated political climate could render the spirit of compromise a thing of the past.

The riots and public violence that have plagued many cities have not been part of the Cherokee County landscape. We should reach across the aisle to those with whom we disagree to ensure we continue to be free of this scourge. A good insurance policy is to keep hatred out of any discussions over masks, pro or con.

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