Not wearing a mask isn’t about personal freedoms. It’s about entitlement.
Nobody is too smart to wear a mask. Nobody is too educated or too accomplished. Masks are for everyone, regardless of your political background.
There’s no point arguing about the efficacy of wearing masks. Masks work, and have been proven to work.
I don’t know what it is specifically about the mask mandate that makes people feel as if they’re entitled. The behavior I’ve seen from people my age has astonished me in the breadth of what people are willing to admit in public.
For example, I was working with someone to produce masks for our area. Convincing them to sew was like pulling teeth. No matter how great the demand, they seemed to believe that I – an unpaid volunteer – was exclusively responsible for driving sales towards their business. They compensated me through masks that I wore on social media, but I rarely saw them post a picture of them wearing a mask themselves. They didn’t see the point of producing masks at a time in which demand was at an unprecedented level despite the fact that I had customers specifically asking for more products. They had no respect for my time or the work I was doing trying to convince people to wear masks. They couldn’t even wear a mask when I picked up their masks for delivery to a local vendor.
They would complain about people making knock-off Gucci masks and selling them for $50. “Okay, then, fine. Why don’t you make your own Gucci-style masks?” I would say. But that was a solution that required work I could not do. I couldn’t sit there and pay for their fabric, especially after donating reams of generic fabric to them. I couldn’t sit there and sew masks for them. I couldn’t make her log on and work on her business. All I could do was continually plug her products. But now I don’t have to do that anymore for people to have access to masks – the period of time in which the demand for masks peaked ended when mainstream manufacturers were able to produce cloth masks. This person missed the boat, even as the boat sailed off with me and I tossed dozens of safety throw rings after them. The sad thing is that the boat took forever to leave the harbor, and in the space of time it took, people in the community died. But, to this person, they weren’t people they knew or respected, so it did not matter to them.
To see someone who had an active involvement in making masks talk about how she doesn’t want to get the vaccine – to the approval of a chorus of boomers that have absolutely no real interest in her future – was life-altering to me. This was someone whose family had relied on me multiple times for social support and help with financial problems, and here she was, completely throwing aside any concerns about my personal safety – or the personal safety of her customers – for social validation online. From my perspective, this wasn’t from people who were invested, either socially or financially, in their future. I remembered fundraising for their medical bills and these people were nowhere to be seen. It was from random strangers, all boomers. In the meanwhile, people her age desperately tried to warn them that stating hesitation for the vaccine, in writing, might affect their future medical career. Over half a million people have died. The day they posted that, doctors and nurses staged a local protest and all I could think about was that these are most likely their future colleagues if they successfully completed medical school. But, and perhaps this is a little too harsh, that’s a big “if” after what I read.
The sad part was that she was perfectly capable of getting other, healthy social validation. But that would take work. It would take enforcing boundaries with other people in regards to how they spent their time. It would require sacrificing other things, small luxuries like their free time, with the idea that the work would benefit them in the future. This person didn’t want to sacrifice those things, which is perfectly fine. But as a result of refusing to admit that, they wasted my time, which would have gone to someone who cared. It is simply easier to pretend that you know more about the situation than the person who’s making you feel bad for your inaction.
There was no point arguing with this person. They will learn on their own when they see the social reaction to their behavior from the other people they encounter in the medical field. In a field in which scrubbing up and down is a part of life, the only objection to masks is philosophical, and it’s a philosophy that isn’t based on sound medical science. Perhaps for the first time in their life, this person was stating their perspective to other people that would actually care about their actions.
I don’t care about your pride or discomfort when I hear about four of my colleagues dying on the first day of school. I know how hard they work to educate our community – including your family – and I respect them for the work that they do more than I respect you trying to appeal to people who care more about being inconvenienced than the safety of their own children.
I don’t care about you getting validated by an older parental figure because you feel scared of a little jab. I care about the kids who are going to grow up without parents. The parents who are going to lose their young children to COVID. This person may have the luxury of an intact family for now but they certainly do not seem to care about ensuring their safety. But this attitude wasn’t a product of the anti-vax philosophy. This mentality existed long before COVID – the mask mandate just makes it way easier to see, in plain text, that this person did not care about other people’s safety. Wearing a mask is too blatant, unlike the subtle signs of social disrespect that normally would be hidden via plausible deniablity.
This attitude isn’t uncommon to South Florida. As a marketer of sorts who was born and raised here, I’m intimately familiar with how business gets done here. Florida is a state where flash is valued over substance. I grew up in the belly of the beast. Getting things done in South Florida isn’t a matter of prioritizing efficiency, it’s a dance of egos, and I refuse to dance anymore.
The advent of the internet – especially the social and economic growth we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic – has made it so that I can find professional allies everywhere. I’m no longer required to tolerate disrespect to get basic social programs done. I can choose candidates that care about the work they’re doing. The pitch for them doesn’t have to include “how will people see me if I do this,” because as ambitious professionals, they know exactly how people will see them if they’re successful. They’re shooting for that. I live for that. Let me be your tinder, your gunpower, the sight through which you aim your energy at your target. Do not make me convince you that you need to take up your guns in the first place.
Criticizing anti-maskers or anti-vaccine proponents feels like punching down. It’s not. It’s a personal choice that they are making when they choose not to wear a mask or take a few hours out of their day to get a vaccine. They just don’t feel as if they should be judged for their personal choices.
Admittedly, it’s unfair for me to judge someone for not having the experiences I’ve had. Perhaps it’s a difference of pedigree. I’m the grandson of three Marines. The one who I hold in the highest esteem is my grandmother, who was a riveter during World War II. She taught me the value of discipline and respect for other people. She was intelligent, thoughtful, and observant. She knew the things that she learned both during and after the war would be important, so she made sure to pass her values down to me.
My family is worse off for her passing, because she always make the difficult choice to be a leader when she had to be. When her personality and ethics skipped a generation my boomer family was left without a figure they respected to guide them. They, too, fell into the trap of superstition that is leading to their slow economic and social undoing. My legacy involves a statistically significant percentage of my folks sacrificing their personal comfort and safety for the comfort and safety of the people in their community at a time of national need, without the support of the other members of their family. It’s not an easy choice to make but it is always the correct one.
She was the one who taught me that the best I can do at this point in the face of outright disrespect is laugh, so I suppose the best way to address this is with an open letter. I have done this person a kindness by keeping it short.
Why waste your money studying medicine if you don’t believe what doctors have to say and you have no respect for them? Is your personal health so great that you consider yourself the expert on how to take care of yourself and others?
When you started this career track, did you think it was a matter of simply breezing through your classes without cracking open a single book? Were you planning on walking into every exam and pulling your innate and Platonic knowledge of the human body out of you for the next 10 to 14 years?
I don’t waste my time studying things that I feel have no basis in reality. But I want to know where you think you have the authority to not only express public hesitation for the vaccine for social clout. I want to know why.
Why is it that everyone that I see that’s doing better than you has no issue wearing a mask? At this point, advocating for wearing a mask is a far better indication of someone’ s professional future than wearing a Gucci purse would be, especially in a state known for its dupes and knock-offs. Talking about wearing masks indicates that you’re not likely to be a biohazard in the workplace, and that gives employers peace of mind. They don’t want to lose money due to your sick days – or the sick days of employees you might infect.
Some of these esteemed professionals have even been willing to wear two masks, which means additional profits for you, doesn’t it? Why is it that all the people I know that have made personal choices to defy their family’s backwards anti-mask and anti-vaccine attitudes are doing better than you? These are all hypothetical questions – the mask issue, as you well know, has nothing to do with your productivity, but it is interesting that someone who knows well enough to virtue-signal via the brands they wear also knows to virtue-signal by not wearing a mask.
I suppose all this means is that you don’t have the experience to know who should be signaling to, but if so, what criteria are you using?