America, it’s time to do away with masks

Here I sit on November 13, 2020, compelled yet again to sit and articulate a few thoughts about masks. At this point, nine months into America’s COVID journey, I feel confident saying the masks are not helping. In fact, they might be making the situation worse. I voiced similar thoughts back in July

No one wants to admit this. People are scared, and how could they not be with the media informing us constantly that we’re all going to die? People want to be reassured and coddled, and unfortunately a great many people believe these are governmental functions. 

The truth is not going to satisfy the howling, frightened masses, so almost no one will say it, but here is the truth: Aside from getting red tape out of the way for vaccine development and production, there is little any government can do to address COVID. They’ve tried for months now, and look where we are. They keep trying the same things, yet the virus rears its head again. The masks aren’t helping, and they may be exacerbating the situation by encouraging reckless behavior such as sick people venturing out (because they’re masked!) and people not observing social distancing. 

The masks aren’t helping, and they may be exacerbating the situation by encouraging reckless behavior such as sick people venturing out (because they’re masked!) and people not observing social distancing.

Many people are convinced the government has all the answers to all of our problems if only (insert one’s political enemies here) would get out of the way. This is rarely, if ever, true. The government usually makes things worse, and the COVID response is no exception. People want the satisfaction of feeling something is being done even if that something doesn’t actually help, thus we all scream about masks without pausing to ask why, if the masks help, do we continue to deal with virus surges. People nonsensically compare civilians wearing a thin piece of cloth day after day to healthcare workers wearing PPE gear they frequently discard because it is teeming with germs. There is very little logic or science or anything other than fear, hysteria, and a desire to exert control over their fellow citizens driving the pro-mask crowd. 

The masks are a metaphor for every government program ever. The answer, as is almost always the case, is personal responsibility. Sick people need to stay home. Vulnerable people need to make decisions with which they’re comfortable. Everyone needs to give up the illusion that these pieces of cloth that have become our national security blanket are permission slips to go out while sick or ignore social distancing. The virus is real, and so too is our dogged stubbornness regarding how best to combat it. 

No one wants to hear the truth. We want a big government solution that actually doesn’t help and often makes things worse. We are visual creatures, programmed by our smartphones and the other screens that are constantly in front of our faces to demand something we can see. We ignore mountains of evidence that maybe masks aren’t working; we forge ahead, insisting our plan is awesome, we just need to tweak it. 

I echo what I said months ago: “We yell about masks because they are a tangible, visible way we think we can exert control over both people and the virus.” The sooner we let go of the security blanket and worry more about our own actions and quit beseeching the  government to police the actions of others, the better off we will all be. People want easy, quick, visible solutions, and cowardly government officials pretend they can deliver them. It is past time to cancel our subscription to Mask Theater, America.

Follow Anna Zeigler (@ajzeigler) on Twitter.

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