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Reblogged:Masks and Intellectual Activism

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A Politico story confirms something I already strongly suspected: The calculus behind the decision to wear a mask (or not) may, for many people, be mainly about indicating one's support for (or opposition to) the government policy of universal, indefinite home confinement, which began soon after the coronavirus pandemic reached our shores.

For example:

I don't care to have writing on my clothing, but even I would consider a face mask that says, "I value health and liberty." (Image by Pavel Anoshin, via Unsplash, license.)
But there is clearly a growing partisan split. Democratic leaders in the House have made more of a point about wearing masks on camera than Republican leaders. Democrat Jim Clyburn donned one at a news conference on Thursday with Nancy Pelosi, who generally uses her scarf as a mask. None of the top three House GOP leaders wore masks at an outdoor news conference at the Capitol last week.

The mask divide is spilling into policymaking. Congressional Democrats, backed by flight attendant unions, have been leading a campaign to force the use of masks on airplanes, which the Trump administration has resisted. (In the absence of a mandate, Delta, American, United, JetBlue and Frontier have all recently adopted a mask policy for passengers.

Some people seem as worked up about face coverings as others are about tax policy or abortion. In response to a recent POLITICO report about the Pence imbroglio, one person on Twitter wrote, "Get over it, I don't wear a mask either and I NEVER WILL!" [links omitted]
This (sometimes) mask-wearing opponent -- of the immoral and ruinous "lockdowns" improperly imposed by so many governments -- sees an opportunity. And it exists for anyone else -- mask-wearing or not -- who is concerned about the shocking degree of power our governments have exercised lately, and the consequences.

Note that, although I wear a mask in some situations, I am aware that the matter of how useful they are is debatable: Procedure masks, bandannas, and the like offer very little protection to the wearer, but may help prevent coughs from the wearer from infecting others. (On the other side of the coin, many people seem unaware of this, and gain a false and possibly dangerous illusion of protection from wearing them. Only a properly-worn N95 mask (or better) can do that for the wearer.)

Partly because I don't want to send someone to the hospital, and partly because keeping hospitals from filling up is in my best interest, I wear a mask when out shopping or in other public areas where I am likely to encounter lots of strangers or inadvertently get closer to someone else than I'd prefer. (If I want to protect myself, I may also wear gloves, depending on what I am doing.) I don't wear a mask when I'm outdoors to walk or bike.

That said, I realize that, for the people who have made the visible evidence of my best judgement into an opportunity to lecture (or commiserate with) me, there is a chance to offer a thoughtful and corrective opinion. And there would be, but often at different times, if I chose not to wear a mask.

As the stereotypes of the dictatorial mask-wearers and the reckless bare-facers indicate, there will be chances to argue for freedom sometimes. At other times, there will be a chance to make the point that caution needn't include (or imply support for) a nanny state or virtue-signaling.

And experience has often taught me that I'll probably even get to make both points often enough!

-- CAV

P.S. It also occurs to me that many people on the two sides of this "divide" are ignoring or failing to consider the fact, that like anything else, the appropriateness of an action, like wearing a mask, depends on context. If, for the sake of argument, we assume that there is some small benefit to wearing a non-N95 mask, it just as ridiculous to wear one all the time as it is to not wear one at all. This is a point that governments forcing people to do things during this pandemic is burying, and at a time people need to be thinking carefully.

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