Like you, I have been watching the increasing friction between factions as people square off over the question of wearing masks in the face of a global pandemic.
If you ask me, the angriest participants in those arguments are framing the conversation incorrectly. Whereas one side says “masks for everyone all the time or you go to jail” (be it actual jail or the prison of social shame), the other side says “you’re not the boss of me and you can’t make me wear a mask.”
They’re both missing the point.
The point shouldn’t be about what we can MAKE one another do. Instead, we should reflect on what love and compassion CALL us to do.
When I was a boy my father smoked cigarettes like they were going out of style. No matter how much my mother, who can be very convincing, harangued him on the dangers of his habit, he rolled his eyes and kept puffing away. It was pretty clear that he was bound and determined to prove that she was not the boss of him.
However, one day, my dad quit smoking for an entirely different reason. He happened upon a TV commercial put together by anti-smoking organizations in which they simply portrayed a young boy seeing his father smoke, then reaching for his unattended pack of cigarettes and taking a drag, wanting to be just like his dad.
That visual hit my dad right between the eyes and square in the heart, given how much that boy looked like my brother, Gregory. In that moment, he realized that his pleasure and his “right” had been taking a front seat to the future health and well-being of his children. In that moment he decided to make a behavior change that lasted the rest of his life.
I hope and pray, somehow, that the people who are determined to avoid wearing masks because they want to prove no one is the boss of them, will realize that their devil-may-care approach could injure or kill someone less fortunate than them. Ironically, the mask-less behavior they defend so vigorously as an expression of their freedom could actually play a role in slowing the arrival of the thing they want most: the revival of our economy.
If we can all consistently take a simple, cheap, easy step that can protect those around us and accelerate our state’s return to economic vitality, we can beat this thing. Otherwise, those who are driven by obstinance will drag this thing out longer, injure, kill and displace more people and drive us all further apart.
My dad’s legacy is of a guy who made a change, giving up something he loved, for the betterment of his family. Will your legacy be of a person who made a simple behavioral change for the betterment of society and mankind? For your sake, for that of your family and of our species, I certainly hope so.