We’re having a great debate in this country, and as per usual it’s about the wrong things.
When I say the words “great” and “debate” in this context, I’m being misleading. It’s more of a drunken argument between ignorance and stupidity somewhat reminiscent of politics and religion over post-Thanksgiving football between the crotchety bachelor uncles you never should have invited on the same holiday but did anyway and now bitterly regret. Except you’re not the host. You’re one of the uncles.
It’s about wearing masks in public.
“Wait a minute!” I hear you shout. “I’m in favor!” (Or some of you are opposed. Whatever. Work with me here.)
Look, a lot of smart people have talked about masks and PPE, and whether they work. They’ve written learned articles on why you can’t crochet or use t-shirt fabric. There’s discussion about why N95 is superior to cloth or filtered paper. You’ve probably even seen a guide on why the ones that fasten behind your ears don’t work so well. And all that’s fine so far as it goes, but it’s academic.
The fact of the matter is, there’s not enough high-end masks for everyone to wear them and there never will be, and they’d be wasted on us anyway. Most of us wear them wrong, and we who absent-mindedly rub our eyes even with gloves on are picking up contaminants. We’re not trained in PPE and unless we work with it professionally every day we’re apt to screw it up, increasing rather than decreasing our risk thereby. None of which matters either, because unless we work in health care, that’s not why we wear the damned masks in the first place.
I hear the tinfoil crowd perking up and I’m gonna shut you down right now. It’s not about the government controlling us, or habituating us to take commands. That ship sailed in 1972 with the War On Drugs. Legalize or learn to goose-step already.
Wearing a mask won’t help me, but it turns out it might marginally reduce the chance I’ll infect someone else even if I don’t know I’m sick.
We wear the masks not to keep us safe or to keep other people safe but because it’s a way to show solidarity. On September 12th, 2001, stores across the country sold out of American flags. Today, the hand-made mask is our new flag and we’re waving the hell out of it. The caption reads “I Won’t Tread On You”.
Are you a patriot? Wear a mask and prove it. Not because you have to or because people told you to; you’re doing it because you’re shouting with the rest of us in one voice that we’re all in this together. Black and white and red and blue for all I care, every color of skin that’s been invented and all those that haven’t yet — we’re all one. We stand and die together, because we’re all Americans and when one of us dies we all lose a tiny bit of ourselves. When one of us panics or cries or shoots ourselves or can’t get a job it hurts us all. This is bad for everyone, and there’s only one way we can pull together.
For weeks now I’ve been shouting as loud as I can that we’re gonna have to reopen before there’s a vaccine because there’s no vaccine coming any time soon. We’ll do it in degrees; we’ll do it a little at a time. It could be two years before Manhattan or D.C. opens back up; if you live in East Overshoe, go out, have a beer, and pity me in Antfarm Condo Central. A lot of people are about to die, and that sucks, especially since you might be one of them — or me.
So, for the love of God— No! For love of your country! Wear a mask, social distance, and do whatever you’re asked (Editor: Short of surrendering your guns — those aren’t contagious). Do it because you’re a patriot. Do it because you’re an American and proud of it. Do it because you don’t want grandma to get sick.
And wash your hands under hot water. Use soap. Lather and rinse. Because masks won’t do much by themselves and you know it. You don’t wear the mask because it protects anyone; you wear it because it’s like the flag patch on your uniform as a proud American civilian. Wear it and be proud.
God bless you, and God bless America.