Store mask policies guide my shopping. Plus: Bridging the political divide. And, on 'Talkline'

By Gary Abernathy

Stores’ mask policies guide my shopping choices

Since the Centers for Disease Control announced May 13 that it was ok for vaccinated people to forego masks in most situations, including indoors – something I argued for back on May 5 because it made common sense based on vaccine data that it didn’t take a scientist to understand – I’ve been letting stores that have been slow to get with the program know that I’ll be back when they drop their mask requirement.

Several big chain stores this week announced they were dropping mask requirements for people who are fully vaccinated, but it’s mostly operating on the honor system. No one is apparently asking to see proof of vaccination. Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Target, Meijer and many others have dropped the mask requirement. One major grocery chain has, for whatever reason, refused to do so. I shop there often, but on my way out Monday I politely asked a customer service clerk to let his manager know that as a fully vaccinated customer I wouldn’t be back until they dropped the mask mandate. He was very nice, said he had been hearing the same from others, and would pass it on.

There are likely customers who are happy with some stores maintaining the outdated mask policy (for many of us, it was always outdated), so the shoppers who choose the dwindling stores still requiring masks might counterbalance those of us who only patronize stores where we can ditch the face coverings. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

UPDATE: Kroger (yep, that’s the one) announced Wednesday afternoon that it was getting in line with Walmart, etc. Read it here.

‘America Talks’ event June 12-13 brings sides together

One of the topics I often write about and discuss during visits with students is our need to better communicate across the political divide. People of polar opposite viewpoints and political persuasions need to respect each other, even as they strongly disagree. Our social media landscape and cable news models do little to bring us together; in fact, they are among the main reasons we are pushed into our extremist camps.

There are people and organizations who recognize what a big problem this is, and they’re working to bridge the gap. One big event is coming up the weekend of June 12-13, organized by America Talks. From the promotional material:

“In America today, it can feel difficult to bridge our divides. We might feel tempted to give up or not even try. But this puts America on a shaky path, as we increasingly demean, demonize, and dehumanize each other. Political gridlock and dysfunction, as well as societal and cultural rifts, are only deepening. America Talks is a powerful two-day event that invites Americans to connect one-on-one, face-to-face on video across our political divides. By doing so, we remind ourselves that the “other” is – just like us – a person with family, friends, hopes, fears, values, beliefs, and intrinsic worth.”

It's “a powerful two-day event demonstrating that Americans can and want to engage across divides and mend our social fabric,” using “a proven technology platform that matches Americans across difference, recruiting through news media and social media sites.”

Event organizers include leaders from AllSides, Civic Health Project, Listen First Project, National Conversation Project, Living Room Conversations, Unify America, YOUnify, and the Europe-based My Country Talks.

For more information, and to sign up to participate, check out the America Talks website. I’m excited that there are people and organizations taking concrete steps to get Americans talking to each other in a civil and productive way, rather than screaming at each other and demonizing anyone who disagrees.

Enjoyed being on ‘Talkline’ with Hoppy Kercheval

I enjoyed being a guest again Tuesday on Hoppy Kercheval’s “Talkline” show, a statewide daily broadcast on West Virginia’s MetroNews network.

Hoppy is apparently taking a lot of flak from West Virginians – who voted for Trump at a higher percentage than any other state – for shooting down the claim that the election was stolen, and for criticizing Trump for his part in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot (sound familiar, regular readers?). Hoppy trends center-right in his own opinions, and he has many conservative Republican listeners.

We discussed the blowback he’s getting, the subject of reparations, and the upcoming America Talks event described above. Check out most of our conversation on the Twitter clip below, and the full show can be found at this link.

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