Let us begin by acknowledging several things. When millions of people are doing something, it is not possible to winnow the meaning of that particular thing down to just one meaning. I am speaking here of the meaning of masks. During the time of COVID, there are multiple reasons for wearing a mask. There are also multiple reasons for not doing so. And on either side, those individual reasons can be reasonable or not.
But it is also necessary to acknowledge something else about all this. Our culture is in the middle of a giant battle over the general meaning of the COVID panic, and that meaning has to do with whether this was the COVID panic or the COVID pandemic. And the routine use of masks is going to help contribute to the establishment of the latter meaning, and will help prevent the establishment of the former meaning. Like it or not, wearing a mask is an emblem of something general.
A mask is not just a possible prevention of spreading the virus to others when you sneeze. And it not just a possible breeding ground for all kinds of crud if you wear it for two weeks straight without washing it. It is not just an individual device, but is also a flag. Whether the wearer intends it that way or not, it is also a uniform.
What we wear in public is a form of communication, and we have to recognize this. We do this recognizing that individual motives can vary wildly. A man might be wearing a mask because he needs to get into CostCo, he might be doing it because he has a really tight view of Romans 13, he might be trying to send a virtue signal to some woke girls, he might be wearing the mask because of his individual germaphobia, or he might be wearing one because he doesn’t want to spend half his day explaining to people why he isn’t. The individual motives can be all over the place. But when a widespread practice like this is adopted generally, there is also a public, corporate social meaning to it as well. That corporate meaning is not trumped or overthrown because one individual flies the flag while disagreeing with the corporate meaning in his heart.
Now some of us believe that this corporate meaning is a huge lie. Not only do we believe it is a lie, we believe that this whole thing was our 60-day trial run for tyranny. And we didn’t like it — for reasons that had nothing to do with wanting people to die unnecessarily. This is why I would put on a mask if I really needed something in a store that wouldn’t let me in otherwise. But not otherwise.
Stop Comparing It to a Really Bad Flu!
So what was this whole thing? Were the measures taken by our authorities worth it, or not worth it? Did they damage the economy in order to prevent even greater damage to our whole society? Or did they do something that was foolish, misguided and entirely unnecessary?
This is a debate we must have, and it needs to be a debate where the actual question is actually debated. I saw someone online, no doubt in exasperation, giving the back of his hand to the idea that we were just overreacting to a really bad flu. He argued that we have had 60,000 deaths, people, and that was with the lock down. But this is precisely why we need to have a debate that stays on the point at issue.
I mean, notice this. What we are debating is the efficacy of the lock down. That is the question before the house. You are assuming what you need to prove if you cite as one of your arguments the fact that things would have been much, much worse without a lock down. We are debating the efficacy of the lock down, and so you don’t get to assume the efficacy of the lock down. Without the lock down, we might have been Sweden. Without the lock down, we might have seen what Japan did, with their lock down lite, and their minuscule number of deaths. And let us grant a reasonable comeback — maybe New York City was so bad because they didn’t lock down soon enough. Okay. These are the things that we need to debate. But we don’t get to debate anything by assuming what needs to be proven.
We are debating whether Honest Harry’s Used Car Dealership is a reputable joint. You don’t get to settle the question by handing me a brochure you picked up at Honest Harry’s.
And while I am on the general subject, there are many other things about all of this that need to be debated. And they all need to be debated without assuming the answer. When did the virus first reach North America? How many Americans have antibodies for the coronavirus? What is the actual death rate for all infected persons? Are there any communities in the world that have already achieved herd immunity? What will happen to the death rate from cancer because we shut down cancer treatment centers for two months? What is the difference between dying of coronavirus and dying of a heart attack with the coronavirus in your system? Do we have any reasonable grounds for suspecting the reliability of any of the numbers we are getting?
But the Whole Thing Is Starting to Fray
I said earlier that we are in a major battle over the narrative. In the aftermath of all this, who will be the hero and who will be the goat? Will it be Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan or Kristi Noem of South Dakota? Will we have been saved from a monstragantuan disaster by far-seeing health officials, or did purblind health officials cause numerous politicians to wet themselves right before they joined up with the catastrophic stampede?
And things are complicated (somewhat) by the fact that Trump is shamelessly playing it both ways. He is simultaneously saving 2.2 million American lives through the shut down (finest shut down ever, best in American history) and also showing real aid and comfort to the protesters in Michigan who are being insufficiently polite to Gov. Whitmer. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but keep in mind it is the year 2020, after all.
But things really are starting to fray. If this were an experiment conducted by our elites, in which they tried to see how much it would take to get us all to start singing that old Twisted Sister hit, “We’re Not Going to Take It,” they are in the part of the experiment where they can start writing the results down.
There is a town near Moscow called Kendrick, and there is a pub there that opened up a few days ago, clean contrary to express orders from Sharkey. They decided to open up anyway, and so naturally the constabulary was summoned. But also, naturally, they couldn’t really do anything because one of the customers was the lieutenant governor of Idaho.
A city park ranger was explaining the six-foot rule to a Texas crowd, and was pushed into the water. In the old days, Miss Grundy used to explain to the virginal daughters of Zion the importance of “giving the Holy Spirit six inches.” Now a new band of neo-puritans, nowhere near as fine as the old Puritans, want to make it six feet, and others are not taking it well. And over the last three weeks, Apple reports that traffic to all kinds of places has basically doubled. Even Californians are starting to act like their craw us full. The natives, as they say, are restless. And maybe restive also.
The Received Narrative
Within the body of Christ, in your congregation, if you know a courageous individual , and he is wearing a mask, don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume that it is because he has given way to fear, or that his wife made him. But it is just as important, within the body of Christ, not to jump to conclusions the other way. If you know a compassionate individual and he is not wearing a mask, do not assume stupid ignorance or a new-found callousness. That kind of two-way charity is necessary for peace in the body.
But all of us are still citizens who have a Tuesday to get through, and you are going to go to the grocery store with a mask or without one. This means you have a decision to make. And where you have a decision to make, I would encourage you to not cooperate with any messaging that says “we narrowly averted a second Black Death through our heroic lock downs.”
Some believe that the virus is the greatest danger in all of this. Others of us believe that the loss of liberty is by far the greater danger, and that this loss is being stage-managed through propaganda and peer pressure. And panic. But as we are nearing the end of the adrenaline rush part of this thing, we are coming up on the stage where the official narrative is taking shape.
As the risks decrease here in Idaho, where they were never that high to begin with, and we can also see a sharp uptick in the wearing of masks, my conclusion is that it is all part of a push, after the fact, to justify all the things done to us in the name of public safety. People were also wearing masks after Mt. St. Helens blew, and you know, that was an actual volcano.
And I don’t want to help make that statement. I believe it to be pernicious and false.