Updated: Aug 2, 2020
By this point, everyone has weighed in on the debate about wearing masks to halt or slow the spread of the dreaded COVID 19 virus. I have also shared my take, but as I backed away from the social media debates, a few thoughts came to me that I would just like to share here.
The consensus justifying wearing masks is that it is better than nothing, even if it helps “just a bit.” In this article, Utah's Summit County councilor Kim Carson tips the county's hand as to what is truly motivating their move to mandate mask wearing. She believes the requirement will create an environment where older generations will feel more comfortable getting out into the community. She acknowledges that they are more susceptible to the serious health effects of the virus, but wants them out and about anyway. Why? Because, even though they are more susceptible to the virus and are in the group experiencing the highest mortality rate of those who experience symptoms, they “also tend to have more disposable income.” Accordingly, if they are comfortable getting out in the community, they can help the struggling economy to recover. (The economy is struggling not due to the virus, but due to Summit County's draconian response to it.)
So what do we see if we go into business establishments where masks are being worn? I see a significant number of both store employees and patrons exhibiting the following behavior: masks worn improperly (either under the nose, or just hanging under the chin), and/or people of ALL ages constantly tugging and moving their masks around. Now, considering the issue of cross contamination, who is causing more risk to others, particularly the coveted (wealthy) elderly? Those wearing masks, or people like myself, who wash their hands regularly? When I touch an item in a public place, my hands are not contaminated after touching a dirty mask. The people I just described can't say the same, yet they are the ones virtue signaling and giving ME dirty looks (one even put a fist in my face) for not spreading germs.
When presented with criticism for the policy at a recent public hearing, Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough rejected the “herd immunity” argument presented by a resident. Director Bullough, according to the article, “indicated he found the idea of sacrificing older generations to be anathema.” Yet, that is what Ms. Carson seems comfortable doing, as she said they are needed to help the economy recover. So which is it? It appears the only consistency in their arguments is to order, “Wear the Masks! Just Because!”
So how is the mandate being enforced? Police involvement is said to be “educational” at this point, but enforcement would result in an infraction, meaning a fine but no jail time. What does this mean? There is no right to a jury trial, where mass non-compliance, combined with jury nullification would be an effective deterrent to such mandates.
The stores don't enforce proper use of masks among their own employees, yet they will confront you at their entrance if you don't wear one at all. So the reality is there must be merely the appearance of compliance, and that alone will get you in the door and left to shop in peace.
I went to a large retailer today and the cashier was an elderly and very overweight man who was attached to an oxygen tank. He was struggling as he breathed, even though his nose was above the top of the mask. As I approached, he pulled down the mask entirely and did a huge exhale, right in my direction. So given this man's situation, how wise is it to force him to re-breathe carbon dioxide? I understand he needs to work, but either the virus is so dangerous everyone must be masked to protect others, or it is not. In Lincoln County, Oregon, minorities were temporarily exempt from the mask requirement. When politicians decide that it is not harmful to attend a racially-themed protest, but going to church is forbidden, it is obvious that COVID 19 is being managed more from a political, rather than a public health perspective.
Signs on floors tell us how far to stand from each other, and what directions to walk down aisles, pretty much all of which I have seen ignored. Yet, the mask requirement is the most important means of protection, notwithstanding its lack of scientific support for preventing the spread of COVID 19.
Why is this the case? My guess is because masks are the most visible sign not of disease prevention, but of compliance. Many stores have signs in the entry describing those who wear them as “heroes.” Why not call people who wash their hands, a scientifically proven way of fighting the spread of disease, heroes? Why not people who take the time to keep themselves healthy, by watching what they eat, taking the time and making great efforts to keep in shape? A healthy lifestyle results in a strong immune system, another proven means of fighting disease; yet, these traits, all of which include personal responsibility are summarily dismissed. You simply must wear the mask.
Personal responsibility, not government micromanagement of our daily lives, should be the key to solving this and most other problems. But that leaves a key player out – government, and they can't stand that. So, you must wear the mask to: 1) protect others who are vulnerable 2) show respect to others who are either in category 1 or are simply fearful.
Absent from the debate is not wearing masks to show respect for those who are well-informed and take good care of themselves and have weighed the risks and benefits of their use. In other words, they, not government officials have decided what is best for themselves. I would never demand anyone wear or not wear a mask, I believe in personal choice based on one's own circumstances.
Government, on the other hand, does what it always does; it substitutes the individual for the collective, and this is where the gaslighting comes in, the major weapon against the non-compliant. Wear the mask or you are selfish. You are not a hero.
If you don the mask, particularly if you do not want to, what else are you implicitly saying? I recall a discussion that took place in my constitutional law class in law school. The cases being discussed were Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1977) and West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). The former concerned the placing of the phrase “Live Free or Die” on all New Hampshire license plates, the latter on the requirement that students recite the Pledge of Allegiance, even if it is against their religious beliefs. What struck me then, and I'm reminded of it now, was my professor's commentary: “The right to free speech includes the right not to speak.”
The Court in Wooley held that the New Hampshire statute forced an individual to be an “instrument for advocating public adherence to an ideological point of view he finds unacceptable,” and as such, “invades the sphere and intellect and spirit” which is the purpose of the First Amendment. Evidence supporting the use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID 19 is questionable. The social justice politicians' granting exemptions to certain classes based on race or political beliefs are clearly not scientific. The only logical conclusion is that the mandates are themselves capricious and politically motivated at best, detrimental at worst, given they give so many a false sense of security.
Regardless, we are told to Wear. The. Mask. When I put on a mask, I feel I am being forced to display my agreement with these nonsensical policies, and that any other attempts to prevent the spread of COVID 19 are irrelevant. I must openly display my compliance, and, by inference, my support for such policies, even though they fly in the face of common sense and my core beliefs.
I've been told by friends and family, “Just wear it when you shop, it's no big deal,” and, “Is it really worth the trouble you could get in, or getting hurt by someone who disagrees with you?” On the face of it, one could easily just comply and get along. But when I consider what I am really doing when I comply, that is tacitly agreeing with these policies, my only answer is, I simply can't take the easy route and comply. We have all had to make certain exceptions, but overall, wearing a mask to please others is sending a message I cannot and will not do.
There is to be no questioning the government. There is no thinking for yourself or making decisions on your own or on your family's behalf. The unanswered question is this: why are these people better equipped to run our lives than we are? Why are their decisions meritorious and ours, if we disagree, are selfish and irresponsible? Absent a mandate, would you tolerate your neighbor, John, telling you to mask up? Of course not. After an election, however, Neighbor John is now Councilman John, and says, “Wear the mask,” and, suddenly you comply. Clearly, John the Councilman can back up his decree with force, whereas Neighbor John cannot lawfully do so. In the article linked above, the Summit County council refuses to cite their lawful authority to mandate the masks, they just tell the resident they have the power to do so. And we allow it.
When the goal post is moved – again – it will become clear that this nonsense could have and should have been nipped in the bud.