Why I Am Not Going To Wear A Mask
I do not wear a mask. I can almost laugh at how ludicrous a statement that would have been two years ago. Now it is a divisive statement and an even more divisive action. I am a human being and I have a face and I want to interact with other human beings who have faces; I do not want to hide my face.
Edit: I want to add here that I’m not talking about the effectiveness of N-95 masks in healthcare settings. Part of the reason we aren’t all walking around wearing those is to save them for healthcare workers who are caring for the most ill patients. Additionally, this article isn’t really about the effectiveness of masks, but about what I might be communicating or losing by putting one on. Zoom out from the Pandemic and recognize that there are other issues, other threats to fear. We have to make our peace with the inevitability of death.
Let me first say that I have worn a mask occasionally in the past year for two reasons. To preserve friendship where someone else is deeply afraid of Covid transmission and my wearing a mask will make them comfortable enough to spend time with me. And to gain access to businesses and services which would otherwise be refused to me. I’ve worn the mask, in either case, to avoid confronting my ideas about the issue. That’s part of why I’m writing about those ideas now. I’ve become increasingly convinced that wearing the mask is a surrender to a “new normal” which will not end until I remove the symbol and refuse to participate.
On a side note, one of the greatest challenges of the year has been being wholeheartedly, impersonally rejected by the mob, and finding that many people I know and have respected are against me. We don’t simply disagree. Not this year. I am evil for the simple fact that I am not going to wear a mask. How can we dare call each other murderers because of our personal health choices, demanding that we be responsible for everyone around us? How can we hold each other accountable for what we choose to put on or into our bodies? Are our ideologies so strict that we must malign whoever thinks differently and dares say so? You are not my enemy if you choose to wear a mask, but our unity is mutually exclusive with my choice. I have had one positive disagreement with an old friend over the internet and it was difficult and painful for each of us. It was a worthwhile conversation, not because either of us would convince the other, but because it’s healthy to live in the real world rather than an echo chamber. I value the chance to engage in rational, polite conflict.
If you already feel angry with me because of the title of this essay, I’m writing it for you. Have we stopped believing that there are two sides to every issue and that we ought to hear and consider both? I haven’t stopped being compassionate this year, and I’m not trying to kill your grandma. If we don’t start thinking freely and paying attention to common sense and data, I don’t know what will happen to our humanity or our society.
My governor and the CDC insist that masks work to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. My scientific arguments are irrelevant, although I will make them here anyway. Pastors, acquaintances, and friends tell me that wearing a mask is kind, considerate, thoughtful, compassionate. They insist on unity and making other people comfortable. Signs on every doorway tell me to put one on, but I am not going to do it. I have a few reasons and they are good ones.
First, homemade cloth masks are not an effective means of preventing the spread of a respiratory virus. Studies have been essentially disallowed from blatantly sharing their findings, but it doesn’t take a genius to work through the math. This study from the University of Illinois Chicago looked quite a bit different when I first found it last July (I wish I had screen shots of it then), but the point is clear. Cloth masks have at most 30% effectiveness at stopping particles, and that simply isn’t enough to make them a useful way to stop virus spread. I disagree with the conclusion that lockdown is the only reasonable solution for a virus with a 99.9% recovery rate. The idea, however, that masks give people a false sense of protection is spot on. Begin reading after the “Original Commentary Text” heading to get a better idea of what Dr. Brosseau and Dr. Sietsema had to say before mask use became mandated in many parts of the United States. Again, I wish I had recorded the much stronger anti-masking language of their article that existed prior to late summer.
A study published in June of 2010, shortly after the H1N1 epidemic, concluded that “the penetration values obtained for common fabric materials indicate that only marginal respiratory protection can be expected for submicron particles taking into consideration face seal leakage.”
In March of 2020, Anthony Fauci discouraged average Americans from wearing masks. The U.S. Surgeon General and the CDC both told the public that mass masking would be ineffective at preventing the spread. Surgeon General Adams said that wearing a mask outside of a healthcare setting may even increase the risk of contracting the virus, as it encourages people to touch their faces.
A month later, new guidance came along encouraging everyone to wear homemade masks in public settings. That was followed by mandates in many states, some with strictly enforced harsh fines. This new guidance was based on the idea that asymptomatic “cases” may be capable of spreading the virus. That idea is debated and there is minimal evidence even now. At the time, one study showed the possibility of asymptomatic spread, but turned out to be a poorly run study.
When Governor Mike Dewine runs his press conferences twice weekly and tells us that the science is clear that masks work and distancing works, he is lying to us. The “science” is about as clear on this as the science is clear that “Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig.” And, to be clear, I think the political and social space we’re living in is alarmingly like that of Animal Farm.
Even if masks do work to protect me or others from the spread of SARS-CoV-2, I’ve already contracted and survived the disease. I’m not going to get into the ludicrous ideas surrounding whether actually getting sick gives you immunity, but I believe that I am no longer able to spread or contract Covid-19.
It’s clear that I’m expected to cover my nose and mouth with fabric in any public circumstance, and per Governor Dewine, in many private circumstances. It doesn’t matter that my cloth mask is ineffective. It doesn’t matter that asymptomatic spread is minimal. It doesn’t matter that I have antibodies and T-cells ready to protect me from this virus. In fact, it wouldn’t matter if I were vaccinated, as many people who have received the jab are now finding out. Masks are permanent if we’re waiting to be told we can take them off. I am not going to wear a mask because the science does not support it.
If it’s not for a rational reason, then why should I wear a mask? I think there are three potential reasons, and they are the same reasons why I am not going to wear a mask.
One, to make others comfortable.
Two, to keep others from being angry with me.
Three, because my Governor mandated them or a corporation told me I must.
I am not going to wear a mask because it is a symbol of assent to the mob. The mob is almost always wrong. It’s so easy to let ideas spin out of control when they are disseminated and repeated and propagandized. The mob is all of those people who have been persuaded that wearing a mask is a way to protect others, to be nice, and to fit in. If you think that there is a scientific basis for wearing a mask, beyond that an authority said so, that may be a different thing.
I am not against others’ choice to wear a mask. If I put a mask on, I am telling a lie. I am representing a belief system — that SARS-CoV-2 is the most significant threat to all of us; that masks are effective personal protective equipment against respiratory viruses; that I am responsible for the health of other people. The lie I would be telling by wearing a mask is, “I’m afraid and you should be too.”
I’m not afraid of Covid-19. The data on that (and the fact that I’ve already survived the virus, and known people who came much closer to not surviving) is not the point of this essay. There are prophylactic medicines, healthy lifestyle choices, and treatments for the virus.
I am somewhat convinced that the vocal majority, along with many silent people who are going along with mandates and orders and guidance, is being controlled by powerful people via propaganda. If that’s the case, the mask does not say, “I want you to be well,” or, “I want to get along.” The mask says, “I will obey authority.” At this point, the CDC could tell us that new data indicates that we should all start wearing baseball caps and winter gloves anytime we’re in public to “protect us” and whatever percentage of people are mask-compliant would follow that guidance as well. We’re afraid of a virus, but we aren’t afraid of that level of government control over the population? It’s for our good, right?
I think wearing the mask communicates two things. First, that we are a threat to each other. You’re not a threat to me, even if you have a deadly disease and I contract it from you. We’ve all been carrying and passing deadly respiratory viruses for hundreds of years and never have we blamed ourselves or each other for killing grandma. We don’t lock up the person who gave us pneumonia. We don’t blame each other because viruses are tricky bastards who do what they want regardless of what we do. But masking puts us each behind enemy lines; we’re all potential biological weapons. I refuse to represent human life as a threat. I am not going to go along with the propaganda that says we’re “in this together” while we intentionally “socially distance” and cover our faces. We haven’t only been convinced to fear a virus, we’ve been convinced to fear each other. We are human beings and we need touch and to see each other. The mask is a symbol of dehumanization and oppression masquerading as an act of compassion. I will not be dehumanized by my government or by peer pressure.
Second, wearing a mask communicates that I’m willing to capitulate to doing what I hate. Once I begin to do what I hate in the name of some other goal, all is lost. Worse, if I do what I hate to follow the rules, I am part of the problem. We are playing Calvin ball with our governors and legislatures and the media and the CDC. The rules keep changing and we’re expected to go along. I am not going to go along. I am going to do what seems rational and right to me. I am going to listen to my conscience and obey my convictions. They keep writing new rules, moving the goalposts, abusing the game. I’m going to write my own rules, then.
I am not going to wear a mask because respecting my own conscience matters more than doing what I’m told. It matters more than my comfort or yours. Life, liberty, and free speech are some of my highest values. I am not going to cover my face as if the government or a corporation or pressure from the people around me can deny my inalienable right to breathe freely. If a corporation won’t let me into their store, I won’t shop there. If we can’t be friends while I’m scandalously naked-faced, we can’t be friends. If my Governor dares deny me the right to bare my face and speak freely in the public square, I will defy him.
Many things are more important than safety. I think we are more afraid of death than we are of being enslaved to other people’s utopian ideals. I will not worship at that altar of fear. I will take the consequences for walking away with my shoulders back and my head held high, breathing freely.