As face masks became more mainstream and mandated in many areas, I learned
from an acquaintance living in Key West that its mayor's office had taken
by issuing badly-worded "rules" posters for businesses to display
at their entrances.
About eight minutes into this
the Mayor refers to it as a "lighthearted ad campaign", except that it
once again expresses the same old discriminatory attitude that I keep
hoping can one day be eliminated.
This email to the Mayor is in response to that.
Date: Wed, 3 Jun 2020 16:21:11 -0500
Subject: The poster effort misleads
News of the "mask up!" poster distribution to Key West businesses came
to me from a friend who lives there. Even though I live in Boston, I
was dismayed by the content and wording of those posters. It is
discriminatory rhetoric that reminds us of some previous conflicted
and upsetting times in our country. Referencing your own words, as
a "lighthearted" ad campaign it *is* overly draconian and sends the
wrong message, and whoever directed the design of the posters needs
to understand why.
A small but nonzero segment of our society chooses to avoid wearing
shoes as much as possible, for their own health and mobility and other
personal reasons. I have been a "barefooter" for many years, and
know I'm a better person because of it. I routinely go hiking in the
woods and climb mountains and stride confidently across rugged outdoor
terrain and urban spaces alike, without any need or desire to encase
my feet in something artificial. My feet are quite good at taking care
of themselves as nature intended. I'll grant you that the lifestyle is
not that common, but there's nothing wrong with it and it certainly
does not harm anyone. There is, however, a lot of old and quite false
mythology against the practice. It is often an uphill battle to gain
acceptance, especially here in the US where many years ago, human feet
[of all things!] became politicized.
Please google these words together: "shirt" "shoes" "service" "origin"
and read about why the unwelcoming old signs started appearing in
storefronts back in the day. Later excuses were added about "health
code" and the like, which were never true. The only intent was to
exclude "undesireables", notably blacks and hippies at the time, on
no rational or scientific basis. Sixty years later, we're stil living
with this and it's just as irrational now as when it began. In a way
it sprang from and represents the same underlying syndrome that is now
tearing our cities apart -- exclusion and marginalization of "the
other", for whatever arbitrary excuses can be dreamed up. Fortunately,
many high-profile retail companies have realized the business folly
of sending such discriminatory messages and no longer have such signs
in place if they ever did; some others still cling to the notion that
the sky will fall if there are a few happily bare feet in the premises.
In factual reality, there is no point in demanding footwear inside
a store or restaurant.
Face masks, on the other hand, have solid scientific reasons behind
their use to mitigate virus transmission risk, and I'm personally
surprised it took the CDC as long as it did to issue the statements
now in effect. We have similar directives up here in Massachusetts --
masks on whenever we're near other people, especially in enclosed
spaces, to help protect each other.
Nothing in Directive 2020-05 mentions anything about footwear, and
rightly so, because it would be irrelevant to combating the pandemic.
But now your posters have conflated these unrelated things, and the
message they and your accompanying letter send is confusing. Your
public could wind up thinking they'll be cited and fined simply for
being barefoot. Someone probably thought that wording was "cute", just
like someone thought it was back in the sixties. It was never cute,
it was simply unfriendly and bigoted. It is certainly not in keeping
with the laid-back, welcoming, "Margaritaville" atmosphere that you
presumably want to extend to your tourism business or even your own
residents. What if the posters are sent to a business that doesn't
care about footwear, and doesn't countenance discrimination over
their customers' appearance? Now you're asking places like Wal-mart
to believe they need to "enforce" something they actively do not
support at the corporate level. That's only one example of the many
national-level companies that have gotten wise about this. It's
unfair to the businesses and unfair to your populace, and only
seeds more divisiveness into society.
I hope you can implement a way to fix this, quickly, before too much
confusion becomes entrenched. If there is any chance and resources
to redesign and re-issue those posters, to only speak of masks, it
would be in everyone's best interest. Failing that, the businesses
they went to could be advised to modify them somehow -- obscure the
words that don't reference masks, or simply take the posters down
entirely as a failed experiment. A statement should certainly be
issued via your public channels to apologize and acknowledge that
someone really had the wrong idea.
I should also point out what *is* health-related about living unshod,
aside from the physical benefits we can easily read about. Do you
recall the news a while back about how shoes could easily carry virus
particles around, and how healthcare workers were tracking pathogens
out of their COVID wards? Coronavirus can stay viable for days on the
materials most modern shoes are built from, but is rendered inactive
in less than an hour on bare human skin. Virologists have studied this
and written papers on it. And it's far easier to disinfect bare feet,
as we do our hands -- in fact I personally do just that with an alcohol
sanitizing solution before I even get back in my own car to bring the
I've visited Key West a couple of times and quite enjoyed it, walking
barefoot all over the city and its attractions. I would not feel
confident to return someday if in the meantime all of its citizenry
has been trained to become foot-phobic by a few misplaced words.
*Science* is what's going to get us past this pandemic situation,
not fear and hate. Science is also why some of us live barefoot.
Thank you for your consideration and remediation if possible.