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Mask Vigilantes Are Not Heroes

A running trope in Orwell’s 1984 is that the government repeatedly contradicts itself, but behaves as if nothing has changed. One day, the chocolate ration is reduced to quantity X. The next day, the government announces that its fortunate subjects have had their chocolate ration increased… to the same amount. Reality is washed down the “memory hole” with regularity; the only reliably true news is whatever the government is saying at the moment. So it was with our government’s mask mandates.

I’ve said this repeatedly and I’ll keep saying it until somebody notices: Our government lied, and admitted it lied, about the utility of masks. It told us not to buy them and not to wear them, going so far as to claim wearing a mask would make things worse. This was done, as admitted by The Reverend Doctor Fauci, De Facto Plague King of the United States, in order to manipulate consumer behavior to preserve the supply of protective equipment for first responders.

For whatever reason — probably because people kept getting sick — the government then reversed course, admitting what people in Asian cultures have known for years. When you are sick, when sickness is prevalent, people covering their mouths and noses just makes sense. Our government at first hedged its bets by asking us to wear “non-medical face coverings,” but now that supply has caught up to demand and surgical masks are available in every drug store, the chocolate ration has again been revised. Now, “heroes” wear masks, and wearing a mask is the ultimate statement of respect and compassion for your fellow human being.

This has, of course, given rise to mask vigilantes. These are people who, encouraged by the climate of collectivism in which we all live, believe it is their right and their duty to police and enforce others’ mask wearing.

The rise of this atmosphere was unavoidable. In a time of pandemic, everyone is your enemy. The nature of COVID-19 has forced us to view mere proximity of another human being as a potential threat to our lives. We’ve all undergone months of conditioning to reinforce this notion. It is small wonder, then, that when somebody does something we perceive as increasing that threat, we react.

I remember the first time I entered a drug store after months of lock-down during which I received only deliveries. I was suddenly around other people for the first time in many weeks, and every one of those people was, in my mind, a potential vector for this deadly disease. I had a panic attack standing in the store. When I got home, it took me a few minutes to calm down. I quickly became used to going out again after that, but the initial reaction was surprising and alarming.

If simply going to a store for the first time after the worst of the pandemic can create this reaction, should we really be surprised when a people panicked by nightly news reports of COVID-19 don’t cope well in public? There have been multiple viral videos of mask wearers (and mask… not-wearers?) losing their damned minds over others’ behavior. In one, an entitled woman throws hot coffee in a man’s face because he’s sitting outside eating a burrito without a mask. In another, a man without a mask is confronted by someone in a store and starts screaming that he “feels threatened.” On and on it goes, with both sides behaving like braying jackasses.

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that adults should be able to behave with a little more restraint. I lose my temper on occasion — and I always feel guilty when I do. But these incidents go beyond a temporary loss of temper or even an angry outburst; they are utter lunacy. A woman screaming at a maskless child that she hopes the child’s family dies? That isn’t even trying to police others’ mask wearing; that’s unhinged hysterics. Physically assaulting people for not wearing masks (or, for that matter, accosting and belittling those who do, as those stories are out there, too) is a good way to get beaten up, stabbed, or shot.

The video of the woman with the hot coffee is the best example of how this will go horribly wrong. She feels entitled to harass strangers for not wearing masks… so she assaults them. The man reacts by punching her boyfriend. The two aggressors then call the cops to whine about being victims… while the man they assaulted, and against whom they initiated force, mocks them. The debate they have is not exactly a brain-trust moment, but it illustrates perfectly how entitled the woman feels, how weak her boyfriend is, and how not-terribly-bright burrito guy happens to be.

The next time you see some chin-strap idiot with his mask below his nose, I know that you — like me — will wonder why he bothers to wear it at all. The next time you’re in a store and you see that one, obligatory shopper with no mask at all (with or without those dumb Internet exemption cards), I know you’ll shake your head. But instead of accosting that person, just give them a wide berth. Go about your business. Everyone will be better off.

Wear your mask or don’t wear your mask; that’s not my business. I wear mine to keep ME safe. In public I avoid people who aren’t wearing them. You can do the same. I’m not the police… and neither are you.  We’ll all be a lot better off in this country when we relearn the fine art of leaving each other the hell alone.


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