Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney has issued another edict. As of Monday, everyone who wanders into a public indoor space in the city must wear a mask. Or to put it in Biblical terms, So Let It Be Fastened, So Let It Be Worn.
There really is no middle ground on mask mandates: either you think they’re fine, or you think they violate your freedom. There’s no ambiguity when it comes to telling people what they need to put on their faces if they want to operate in society. There is no demilitarized zone.
I’ve been on the “Let My Nostrils Go” side of the divide since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I never saw the need for masks, I’m not convinced they made much of a difference unless they provided hospital grade protection, and I’m convinced that the ones who “believe in science” are the same ones willing to jump off of the Cliff of Gullibility every time an elected official or CNN commentator screams “Cases!” That cliff is right next to the Valley of No Hospitalizations.
Here’s the thing. The folks who want to keep us masked – even when the CDC thinks it’s unnecessary and even when virtually every other major metropolitan center has abandoned mandates – have decided to ignore the actual science. It’s no longer about numbers for them. It’s about morality.
Their opinions run the gamut from “Oh it’s no big deal” to “Shut up whiner” to “It’s such a small burden in exchange for saving lives” to “Republicans want us to die.” The only thing dead here, is nuance.
Two years ago, I wrote widely about my problem with masks, particularly when it came to children in schools. At the same time, I conceded that it was better to be safe than sorry. Now, however, times have changed. The newest variant, what I like to call Baby Omicron, is highly contagious. Guess what else is? The common cold. No one dies of the common cold. Very few die of the actual flu. We wheeze, we sneeze, we get headaches, we spend our nights in the bathroom, we use Vicks Vapo Rub, and we feel better.
But mask obsessives do not care about this simple fact. They equate “cases” with “funerals” and make it seem as if we left COVID a few miles ago as we motor toward Ebola. I’ve read the CDC reports, I’ve listened to Fauci. The thing is now an “endemic,” something that will always be with us. The science has spoken, and it’s saying “get a grip.”
Those who support Kenney and his mandate don’t want to get a grip. They want to continue to paint their opponents as immoral creatures who are so narcissistic and concerned with their own “freedom” that they’re willing to see their neighbors die. Only their neighbors are not dying. They are sneezing.
If you support mask wearing because you’re still afraid of the virus or because someone in your family became violently ill (or God forbid, died), I respect that. I don’t agree with you, but I understand where you’re coming from.
But if you’re in favor of masks because you see it as a way to mark your “woke” territory, like a pugnacious pup that just peed all over someone else’s lawn, I don’t respect you. If you like masks because you think it distinguishes you from people like me, I don’t respect you. If you like masks because it’s just one more way to signal that “hate has no home here,” I don’t respect you. If you like masks because you see it as a sign of virtue, I actually pity you.
Columnist John Podhoretz made the interesting observation that “One of year’s few saving graces has been the pandemic’s retreat. Eastern Pennsylvania’s voters have been robbed of that small blessing.”
Yes, we have. And to make one final reference to Moses and Pharaoh, the insistence on this sort of virtue might find us swimming in a Red Sea come November.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.