Originally posted December 9, 2020
For the better part of a year, there has been a growing political divide between those who would wear a mask and those who wouldn’t. Each side of the divide is boggled by the rationale of the other side, and there seems to be little actual debate between the two. For Democrats, wearing a mask is a small sacrifice for the greater good. For Republicans, it’s just one step on an increasingly slippery slope that America is tumbling down.
Let’s make one thing clear: While masks should be worn indoors and in close-quartered spaces, the efficacy of masks is unproven in the real world. In laboratory environments, when subjects don the appropriate gear with the appropriate training, of course masks and PPE are effective. But we don’t live in a lab, and not all masks are the same. Neck gaiters, for example, actually are shown to do less than no mask at all, as particles become aerosolized and dispersed farther when wearing a neck gaiter. No amount of public service announcements will stop people from allowing masks to slip beneath their noses or above their mouths. The most effective masks, the N95s, are usually only available to hospital staff.
So when Joe Biden proclaims that on the day he enters office (assuming, of course, that President Trump’s legal challenges are unsuccessful), he will ask people to wear masks for “just 100 days,” it is incumbent upon any freedom-loving American to ask a few questions.
First, where did that number come from? After proclaiming for months that he would “follow the science,” he cannot provide the scientific evidence that shows that 100 days to slow the spread will be any more successful than the “15 days to slow the spread” that’s been occurring for the past eight months. Second, what is the success criterion for Joe Biden? Can he explain the numbers that would have to occur before he declares victory? Will Wyoming still be forced to wear a mask if New Jersey has a high level of infection? Third, what is the limiting principle? If the mask mandate is to prevent disease, will this be commonplace every flu season?
Republicans are clearly skeptical of a government that seems to have a small request but is obviously getting drunker on its own power. New York City shut down its schools, despite not being a vector of transmission, because of pressure from teachers’ unions. Los Angeles shut down outdoor dining, even though that, too, is not a vector of transmission. A viral video this past week showed a restaurant owner sobbing as she displayed her “dangerous” outdoor eating area, which was shut down by the city, next to a “safe” eating area, which looked identical, approved by the city. The approved area was for cast and crew of a television show that was filming on location.
That double standard pales in comparison to the hypocrisy displayed by Democratic mayors, council members, and governors regarding their own COVID orders. Newsweek compiled a list of a few examples. Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a dire warning about leaving your home…while on vacation in Mexico. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock wrote, “Pass the potatoes, not COVID… Avoid travel”…while sitting in an airport on his way to Mississippi. Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser violated her travel regulations when she traveled to Delaware to congratulate Joe Biden in person. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot shut down salons, yet in April she got a haircut. Her excuse was, “I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.” Her appearance is necessary, while everyone else’s is not.
But wait, there’s more. California Governor Gavin Newsom violated his lockdown to attend an indoor, maskless, $350-a-plate dinner with Californian healthcare officials. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to have his 89-year-old mother along with his daughters for Thanksgiving after he told everyone else to eat Thanksgiving alone. Nancy Pelosi got her hair done in a closed salon and then blamed the salon owner.
Hypocrisy may not be the right word, as they are not being hypocritical; they are simply lying to the public. When they say that it is too risky for these activities, and then they embark upon them, they are really saying that they are capable of assessing risk, and the public is too stupid to assess risk.
Democrats may look around and think that’s an accurate statement: People are too dumb to assess risk. That is the essence of the political divide around masks, and all COVID-related mandates. Conservatives, by nature, view people as individuals, and individuals can be reasoned with and can make the correct decisions for themselves. Those on the left view people in terms of groups, and determine that the group must be disciplined as one.
The slippery slope does not occur when states ask you to wear masks; it occurs when they mandate masks. Then they shut down the restaurants, bars, barbers, and other small businesses while allowing the large ones to stay open. Then they write unconstitutional laws about how many people are allowed in homes at a given time, close travel, close schools, close offices, and any number of other infringements that have already happened and continue to happen.
So when a politician or pundit says, “It’s just a mask, what’s the big deal?” realize that it’s much more than a mask, and be skeptical of the request. Because while a vaccine is in the offing, and there’s an end in sight to this pandemic, there is no end in sight for those in power to want to wield that power, any way they can.