It's come to that, though as of today no one has been killed for wearing or not wearing a mask. But weapons have been raised and threatening gestures have been made and more than one person has been hit in his non-masked face by someone who could not be identified because he was....you know...wearing one of those masks.
The decision to wear a mask or not has fallen mostly along party lines, and while neither party has cornered the market on stupidity, the Republicans have a monopoly in their sights. Yesterday Rand Paul, the party's Kentucky senator who, in an unrelated incident, was beaten up by his neighbor in 2017, proffered his cure for the pandemic. "We just need more optimism," he said. "There is good news out there, and we’re not getting it."
Whether he was referring to the United States daily breaking records for Covid-19 infection, or the fact that the United States had been banned from Europe (where many of our forebears used to live for goodness sake) nobody was sure. But in his debate with Dr, Anthony Fauci, Paul, himself a doctor, contested the science of it and pleaded, ""When are we going to tell the people the truth, that it’s OK to bring our kids school?"
Well it isn't OK, and when it is school will look different. Hidden in the senator's question, though not very well, was the implication that if kids get sick, they won't die, this despite the growing body of proof that Covid-19 leaves lasting scars that affect the lungs, the heart, and the brain for starters. Why anybody would want to take children with long lives ahead of them and expose them to the possibility of chronic ailments is beyond me. Not even the Republican quest for universal stupidity answers that. And Rand is a doctor—irony, however, does not appear to be his special field.
But this isn't about a senate buffoon—or it wasn't supposed to be—it's about masks and how several restaurants have closed their doors rather than deal with angry customers who feel their rights are being violated by requests to wear a mask. It's about how the training of new employees (and the retraining of veteran workers) includes conflict resolution, not between employee and customer, but between customers.
One woman in a grocery store pretty much summarized the idiocy of the anti-maskers. "I'm not afraid of getting sick," she said.
And there you have it in microcosm—the America-first, me-first, damn-everyone else attitude that left us with an imbecile in the White House and 53 more of them in the Senate. The woman doesn't get it and probably never will, so in her defense let me say this: I'm not afraid of her getting sick either. It's me—it's my family that I'm concerned about. People who wear masks do so for others as part of a tacit, humanitarian, eminently Christian (are you listening Bible thumpers?) patriotic (you too, flag-wavers) and reciprocal agreement: I won't get you sick and you don't get me sick.
Look, if you're uncomfortable wearing one, I feel your pain. And your discomfort. But we have so many opportunities during the day to do what's right, why not use this easy one for practice?
And as Covid-19 victims ands positives continue to mount in Texas, California, and Arizona, Mike Pence—who for his part has begun to wear a mask—offered another solution: prayer. “Just continue to pray," he said last Friday, "that by God’s grace, every single day, each of us will do our part to heal our land.” If that comforts him and any others, fine. I'd rather he just asked God for a flat-out miracle, because putting the pressure on that woman in the grocery store to do her part to heal the land may just as easily result in weaponized cantaloupes and real surgical masks.
That woman is working on that stupidity monopoly. Give her room.