Of Masks and Men

Before getting into this highly divisive topic, I take this moment to say I do not like wearing a mask. It is uncomfortable, and my glasses get steamed up almost constantly, and everybody’s voices are muffled. I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when I get outside and can take the thing off. It’s a nuisance I would rather not have to bear. So I completely sympathize with anyone and everyone who struggles with these bits of cloth in whatever ways they may do so – even if they are pulling the things down a bit to expose their noses so that they can breathe.

What I do not understand, however, is the visceral hatred of the things that some folks have because they have identified masks as a matter of personal and constitutional liberty. Even here, I concede that explicit authorization for mask mandates might be lacking in the Constitution (although I do think that promoting the general welfare is sufficient justification…but I am not a scholar, so I will not press the point).

My reasons for being pretty sanguine about mask mandates as mandates follow the lines I shall put forward in this post.

In the first place, I think a mask mandate is a pretty trivial exercise of governmental authority. I have come across more than one suggestion from anti-maskers that there is no significant difference between the mask mandate and being herded into trains for transport to concentration camps. Okay, full marks for the rhetorical flourish, but seriously? We should consider this:

(Source: Wikimedia)

…to inexorably lead to this:

(Source: Wikimedia)

Really?

With all due respect to my liberty-loving friends, I submit that they may be jumping to unwarranted conclusions here. There is nothing intrinsically immoral about wearing a mask (particularly of the sort and for the reasons we must wear them). Is it inconvenient? Absolutely. Uncomfortable? I do find them to be, yes. Annoying? I do not like dealing with steamed glasses, so yes. But is it really plausible to suggest that a mask mandate is just the first (or next) step on the road to totalitarianism? Maybe I am just terribly naïve, but no. Just no.

Secondly, you’re a bit late to the game if public safety and health issues are not reasonable areas of concern for the federal government. We have long ago accepted the imposition of all manner of indignities and inconveniences so that we can board an airplane. We walk through metal detectors without complaint (don’t we?) to get into federal courts. We accept that it is a Bad Idea for law-abiding citizens to try and carry weapons into the White House (don’t we?) just because there are bigger issues at stake there. We agree (don’t we?) that citizens have no right to march into the Capitol and make off with congressional computers or lecterns.

More remains to be said about this, but my point for today is that a mask mandate just doesn’t rise to the level of a restriction on liberty whose imposition is going to one day find us reduced to the level of the proles.

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