Babies born in February of 2020 are now nearly seven months old, taking in the world with their eyes, and hearing language with their ears. They should be cooing and drooling and learning how to be human.
They are learning how to use their personalities and expression to change the world around them. They are learning how to flirt with their adult caregivers to get positive feedback, and maybe a spoonful of applesauce.
What babies are seeing since birth in the Year of the COVID is a world of faceless humanoids who do not make eye contact with others. What they are hearing are muffled and garbled sounds from behind masks.
Our children are being robbed of normal cues that contribute to healthy social development and it's happening at a critical time in their development — their first two years. The only complete faces they see are their caregivers, and for some in daycare, they are not even seeing those faces.
They are not being exposed to the wide variety of human expression. Babies are not seeing how words are formed with lips and tongues. All of the visual clues are gone for how language is expressed.
Babies from 3-6 months respond to facial expressions of people, and they recognize sounds and begin to imitate facial expressions and sounds of others.
If all they can see are the eyes of people around them, and if those eyes are frightened, or dull, or angry, the babies are learning something about our world. If there is no sparkle of eye contact, no one chirping, "How are you doing there, young fella?" then that baby is learning that the world is an aloof place, where people do not interact, and where strangers are avoided.
People who wear masks all day behave differently. They just do. They are not as open or friendly with others in stores, at bus stops, or even in a doctor's office. Those in masks don't speak as many words as those who are not in masks.
Words they do speak are curtailed to only what is needed. Many more hand expressions are used to complete a communication — there is a lot of nodding and head shaking where just eight months ago, you might have heard a "Good morning!" or "How's your day going?"
The effect of this on the children of America may be far more grave than the coronavirus that we are trying to keep at bay. The children of 2020 are growing up in a painfully unhappy America, where "I can't breathe" is literally true for the many who are dutifully masking themselves for the sake of their health and the health of those around them.
Those of us who fly back and forth for work notice that cabins of jets are quiet now. No one strikes up a conversation, and many passengers just doze off behind their masks. Already the air is thin at 30,000 feet, and the mask just seems to make it more difficult to stay awake.
We hear experts say our oxygen is not being cut off, but that is not our experience — not while flying. Our experience is that we cannot fully breathe behind our masks, and we are being suffocated.
It cannot go on for long. Already, there is a dividing line, not drawn by politicians so much, but drawn by Americans themselves. Those who obediently don masks are not always, but often liberal Democrats. Those who wear them out of courtesy for others, but who doubt their efficacy, are more often conservatives.
And then there are the anti-maskers, who comprise as much as 20% of the population — a sizable number. They are the more libertarian contrarians among us, the ones who believe this mask mandate business is fake science and government out of control.
The anti-maskers believe that masks, if worn properly in a surgical bay, are effective to an extent in keeping a surgeon's oral bacteria from entering a wound, thus preventing infection. But the anti-maskers don't believe that the general population wear the masks properly or handle them with the kind of care one would handle a toxic item of medical waste, which masks most certainly are, if we are to believe they are catching droplets filled with virus.
The anti-maskers don't believe that masks are confining enough of the coronavirus to do much good.
The anti-maskers are also hyper-aware of the contradictions and pure silliness: Pets can spread the coronavirus, so we are told, but emotional support animals board airplanes without masks and no one blinks an eye. Restaurant patrons wear masks to their tables but then may remove them once they are eating and drinking.
None of this makes any sense to an anti-masker who doesn't believe it's settled science, but is convinced it's the behavior of obedient sheep.
The division makes sense because of the basic wiring of these two sides of the political spectrum: Democrats typically believe in the collective good, while Republicans believe in the strength of individualism.
Joe Biden does believe in masks. Biden says that if elected he will mandate masks from the White House for everyone in the country. Not wearing a mask would become a federal crime, and require federal enforcement, something that will cheer the pro-maskers and make anti-maskers even more suspicious and anti-government.
But back to the children. We are shaping a new generation, and we should be very cognizant that their social, emotional growth and very humanity is being altered by our rush to save humankind.
It's a big risk to take in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Suzanne Downing is the publisher of Must Read Alaska and Must Read America. She is a former business owner, longtime journalist, and political adviser who worked for Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska. She was raised in Juneau, Alaska and is based in Anchorage. Where she writes on current events and politics. Read Suzanne Downing's Reports — More Here.
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