"Who was that masked man?"
"I don't know. I've heard him called the Lone Ranger."
If you're old enough to remember exchanges like that one, you're too old to be in crowded bar for at least a while longer.
So who was that masked man? Well he wasn't called the president. That much we know.
And now Trump's refusal to wear a mask presents just one more reason for people to take sides in the battle against the battle against Covid-19.
Yes, the battle against the battle—that's not a misprint, for a good one-third of the country has declared victory in the war with the novel coronavirus and turned its attention to fighting the people who know the war isn't over. That one-third is busy breathing on each other at bars, on beaches, in restaurants. Many are no doubt lamenting the disappearance of phone booths, because they'd like to crowd into some and spread some droplets there too. (Note to those folks: clown cars are still available and wonderfully appropriate. They may even be available for contactless delivery, not that such a nicety would matter.)
So three months into the crisis the mask has become a symbol. Wear one and you trust science, have some awareness of the spread of the disease, understand that close physical contact is still a dangerous behavior. Refuse to wear one and you refute science and trust your president, he of the Lysol cocktails and the self-prescribed (and purportedly prophylactic but really just toxic) hydroxychloroquine.
Wear a mask and you worry about the deaths of another 100,000 people when the virus spikes again because we have declared it dead. Refuse to wear one and you worry about Wall Street. (Note two to those folks in the clown car: Wall Street is not worried about you.)
Admittedly not all people who spurn the masks are necessarily ignorant and witless: but their actions belie that assumption. Instead of seeking herd immunity in some methodical and scientifically appropriate manner, they're falling for herd mentality like middle-school children rebelling against authority for no particular reason and, breaking into their parents' liquor supply, putting themselves in danger. And the concepts of humanity and brotherhood escape them. They are wont to say "If I get sick, I get sick—that's my concern" without giving a trace of intelligent thought to what happens to those around them—when the disease they picked up tanning on the beach with friends is spread to their spouses, their children, their parents, their favorite nephew, the aunt who babysat them, the cashier at the grocery store, people with whom they work...and all the people who come in contact with all those people.
It must be fun to live in a world where only one person counts. That's the world Trump lives in, and it has taken him less than four years to spread his particular brand of malignant self-absorption to those who admire him. Millions. Hundreds of millions. They either refuse to acknowledge or refuse to accept the fact that Donald Trump isn't the guy draining the swamp or shaking things up; he's the guy bartering the lives of all Americans—in red and blue states alike—to win a second them.
He has said as much in speech after speech over the past month; and yesterday he issued a cynical and bafflingly absurd command that all houses of worship be opened. Note three—Trump supporters: this man who has been married three times and paid hush money to a pornographic film star cares nothing about God, little about this country, and even less about you.
Oh, and the Lone Ranger? (He predates Superman and debuted in a radio show during the 1930s) He was a lawman who wore a mask over his eyes to hide his identity as he rode to the rescue week after week. Rumors abounded as to why he chose the disguise, and it became the goal of the bad guys to remove the mask. They never did. But times have changed: we don't have to unmask the president; we know exactly who he is. And don't wait for him to ride to our rescue either, for in his universe, only Donald Trump matters.