Tuesday Talk*: Who Is That Masked Man?

The next battle in the culture war has broken out. It’s not about race or gender, but it does involve two phobias. The first is fear of COVID, which drives some to take personal precautions because that’s their choice.

Whenever Joe Glickman heads out for groceries, he places an N95 mask over his face and tugs a cloth mask on top of it. He then pulls on a pair of goggles.

He has used this safety protocol for the past 14 months. It did not change after he contracted the coronavirus last November. It didn’t budge when, earlier this month, he became fully vaccinated. And even though President Biden said on Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask, Mr. Glickman said he planned to stay the course.

In fact, he said, he plans to do his grocery run double-masked and goggled for at least the next five years.

Maybe Glickman’s risk assessment is miscalculated, and he should worry more about the risk of death by auto accident on the way to the grocery store than infection for lack of double-masking, but so what? If he wants to wear a mask, what difference does that make to you? It’s his life and he’s entitled to live it any damn way he pleases.

For people like Mr. Glickman, a combination of anxiety, murky information about new virus variants and the emergence of an obdurate and sizable faction of vaccine holdouts means mask-free life is on hold — possibly forever.

A lot of people struggle with that difficult calculus of fear and risk assessment, but that’s not a crime in America. The fear of harm to children from Stranger Danger is negligible, but people still call the cops when they see a ten-year-old playing alone outside. That’s far more concerning given that it could end up with a parent in jail or a child removed from a normal, loving family. But wearing a mask? Who gives a damn?

Then there’s the second phobia, artfully expressed by a thought leader of the young and passionate.

Is it political signaling to not wear a mask, that you’re inadequately progressive or, dare I say it, a Trumpkin? Will people look at you askance, interrogate you on your vaccination status, approach you to let you know how you repulse them for not wearing your mask? Will they scream at you? Will they shun you? Will they punch you?

Much as it’s no one’s business if you want to wear a mask, is it no one’s business if you don’t?

Scolding has become a competitive sport over the past few years, where random people believe with all their heart that they are entitled, if not duty bound, to tell strangers how they are to live their lives. They rationalize it by making chaos theory connections between others who share their city, state or planet and its impact on them, or perhaps those they champion under their platitudinous belief that silence is complicity. After all, if someone isn’t wearing a mask, and you learned that the immuno-compromised could be harmed after skimming a Vox headline, is it not your duty to save them from the maskless? What if they aren’t even vaccinated? What if they lie about it?

What are the politics of masks now, and what will be the experience of minding your own business and going about your life when others just can’t seem to control their impulse to make you bend to their will? Will people be willing to accept the wearing, or not wearing, of masks as a legitimate personal choice and let others live their best lives, or will there be blood in the aisles as the righteous see the maskless the way they see red MAGA hats?

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

45 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Who Is That Masked Man?

  1. Chris Van Wagner

    So is it also okay now to comment directly on someone’s green w/blue whale slacks? Or should one continue to point less-than-discreetly and laugh in the other direction? Asking for a friend.

  2. Keith Lynch

    I have no objection to anyone wearing a mask. I have no objection to anyone *not* wearing a mask once everyone who wants to be vaccinated had been. (Currently fewer than half the population have been fully vaccinated.) But here in Virginia, wearing a mask is a felony except when the governor has declared a public health emergency, which of course he has, but is likely to soon rescind. See 18.2-422. (Why yes, I’ve learned all the laws of my state, to make sure I don’t violate any of them. Hasn’t everyone? “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”) And this law isn’t some long-forgotten relic. People have been charged with it as recently as January 2020. It’s likely that many other states have similar laws.

  3. Nicholas Sarwark

    Wearing a mask (or not) is a courtesy to the concerns of those around you.

    Like shoes and hats, there are different rules for different places and groups.

    Like shoes and hats, there will be some who won’t wear (or doff) them.

    Shibboleths are fascinating things.

    1. Elpey P.

      “Excuse me sir, there’s a lady-identifying person on the elevator. Kindly please remove your hat and don your mask.”

  4. Elpey P.

    David Hogg doing his part to delegitimize mask-wearing as a performative social pathology. Can’t wait for the NYT think pieces about how not wearing a mask is literal white supremacist violence. Oops I probably missed some.

  5. B. McLeod

    Perhaps we are on to “bow to the mask on the pole”. That slight change need not impact the appropriate response.

  6. DanJ1

    When Glickman demands that the government force me to do the same, then we have a problem.

    In Ann Arbor, Michigan, there is a guy that wears a wolf mask and plays the violin badly almost every day. I never had a problem with his masking either.

    Last thought, I wonder if Hogg realizes that there is a very good chance his face mask was made in a My Pillow factory?

    1. PseudonymousKid

      I’d force most to get the vaccine if I could. I don’t know if that makes me evil or what. I’d at least feel bad about it if they protested or objected to it, so I’d rather they not. We eradicated smallpox, you know. Once I’m done forcibly vaccinating the population, masks won’t be a thing again until the next pandemic. Problem solved. Luckily enough for everyone I’m unelectable for at least seven reasons in addition to the above.

      1. ExpatNJ

        “I’d force most to * perform a sex act on me * if I could. I don’t know if that makes me evil or what. I’d at least feel bad about it if they protested or objected to it, so I’d rather they not … Once I’m done forcibly * sexually assaulting * the population … ”

        * Be careful wishing for that omnipotence; others have similar dreams. You could become part of their wish.

        1. Jake

          Yes, yes, of course. Because, as we all know, population health and your individual need for sexual gratification are the same things.

        2. PseudonymousKid

          A pox on your house. I’m not some utility monster out there valuing my own pleasure over everyone else’s. This is for the greater good. That I’m also being selfish in liking masks because I don’t like to shave, get bad breath, am ugly, am socially anxious, and believe there’s a chance they might keep me from spreading disease is none of your concern.

          1. KP

            No sex either, as that’s a proven way to spread disease… The fact that heart attacks also kill people seems to engender quite a different response. We should forcibly limit the amount and type of food people eat, and force them to undertake physical exercise each day, “for the greater good”. If anyone is sick, we all pay for it.
            Even ‘The H Man’ wasn’t that bad!

            (Sorry Boss, but he was a great believer in physical exercise & good health for the volk, and I couldn’t find an American President as an example of anything like that. ..and if we can have ‘the N-word’ I’m sure we can have ‘the H-man’)

            1. PseudonymousKid

              I just realized I invoked a comparison to he who must not be named frivolously according to Godwin. Thank you for this internet badge of honor, dear friend. I’ll wear it proudly. Beyond this, I’ll go no further down the rabbit hole.

            2. SHG Post author

              Is anybody beginning to understand why I try to keep comments from flying off into outer space?

      2. F. Lee Billy

        Forcibly is the word we would object to. This is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, young man. However,… We just lost our “train” of thought. Ticket fell between the cracks and some obese body with no mask blocked us self righteously as if he were entitled to throw his 🏋 around on the subway to hell.

        So who was that masked man anyhow? Apocryphally, Lone Ranger sez to Tonto, surrounded by Indians firing off a barage of homemade arrows: it looks like we’re finished Tonto!
        Tonto to L.R., “What do you mean ‘we’?”

        They lied to us, and they continue to lie without accountability–thru the decades– but just like Nino Scalia, sometimes they get it right–at great expense to the rest of us.

        That government is best which does not tell us what to wear, how long our hair should be or who to be intimate with. (Or how many loosies we buy or sell.)

        Seriously, we ran into a fellow who works at a local hospital. He gave us an earful: not a pretty 📷. Be that as it may, we’re mostly maskless. If God wanted us to wear masks,…

        1. PseudonymousKid

          Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms. Pestilence will ride roughshod over the land, the sky is falling, the glaciers are melting, and all you want to do is fiddle while it all burns. It’s all doom and gloom from me when hearing from all you rugged individualists. So many points of view so many of them lacking. Your eccentric word salad usually makes me happy. This just makes me sad.

          1. F. Lee Billy

            Not true, kiddie-boy. We do like you and your insouciance–hope that’s a good word? The sky is not falling. Let’s not get apocalyptic for God’s sake, Cassandra-breath.

            Mad, glaad, sad, baad. It’s all the same. Why not go to law school.? You can join the elitite corps of impudent snobs and become a public pretender at the Nightmare on Elmsstreet, two blocks away from your law school for phonies and Supreme Court wannabees, and NPR legal co-respondents par excellence. Can U say Nina “The Nany” Totenberg? Surely you are not that young? We luv Nina, but that voice,…

            When I was a youngster, the elders said, “You have a lot to learn, kid!”. They were entirety correctamundo.

            Now that I am older, it’s my turn to say, “You have a lot to learn, kid!” If you catch my drift? Some day, no doubt, you will be uttering the same gibberish to deaf ears. We feel your pain succinctly and directly, if not indubitably.

  7. orthodoc

    Pretty soon, owing to the narcissism of small differences, there might be more feuding between various mask factions–the n95ers looking down on surgical maskers; the bandana wearers scoffing at gaiter enthusiasts etc–than between the maskers and the rest of us. As Mercutio said, A plague on both of their houses. (And at least they will be protected if it’s one of a respiratory variety).

  8. Curtis

    I was going down a steep, very wide hiking trail over the weekend. An older (presumably vaccinated woman) was huffing and puffing up the hill while complaining how out of shape she was. When she saw me, she immediately put her mask on because that is the medically recommended action for elderly, out-of-shaped people who are gasping for breath.

    Get vaccinated and get back to normal. I went maskless to the gym to start losing my Covid 19. It was my most satisfying work out in years.

  9. Jake

    Interesting Tuesday talk for a group of guys who are basically keeping the tie industry afloat because of a lingering, societal delusion that wearing one is necessary for the purposes of advocacy.

    1. SHG Post author

      When you’re arraigned, would you really want your lawyer to wear a romper and matching mask?

    1. Charles

      There is a difference between taking a belt-and-suspenders approach and wearing no pants.

  10. rxc

    What are we going to do when some child molester/abuser/kidnapper wears a mask to keep from being identified? Oh, the humanity of it all! Think of all the children that will be unable to get justice, because their attackers wore a mask!

    And, I wonder how many additional bank robberies will occur as a result of this normalization of mask wearing. All these things to think about, analyze, and bloviate upon…

  11. Chris G.

    Masks are the MAGA hats of the left. In fact, wearing a MAGA hat is probably as effective as a mask (as they are commonly worn) in preventing Covid spread (see, for example, CA’s bad numbers…fewer hats…to FL’s better numbers…and more hats).

    “My hat protects you; your hat protects me”. Imagine how berserk a typical anti-Trumper would get if you mandated wear of a MAGA hat the way mask wearing was recently mandated. And the arguments for wearing the hat hold…”it’s a minor inconvenience, wear the hat, it saves lives”.

    1. Charles

      Trump received more votes in California than in Florida, as well as more than any other state in the Union. So, technically speaking, Cali is the heart of MAGA country.

      1. j a higginbotham

        Charles, Charles, Charles. This is a law blawg, not a science one. Please keep facts to yourself.

  12. Bryan Burroughs

    Now this puts me in quite the conundrum. I, too, would not want to be mistaken for a conservative these days, but I also don’t want to be associated with that self-righteous prick David Hogg, either. What to do…

    1. ly

      But doesn’t make you want to sneak by his house at night and put a Trump 2020 bumper sticker on his car?

  13. j a higginbotham

    The politicization of often complex scientific issues has long preceded mask-wearing. [Even given common acceptance of scientific evaluation, people with different attitudes towards risk etc will make different behavioral choices.] But with mask-wearing, as with so many other issues, people often choose a position based primarily on their political (or other non-science-related) views.
    A rough evaluation of responses here shows 8 “anti-maskers” vs 5 “pro-maskers”, which seems higher than in the general population.

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