A Whackadoodle discussion about prejudice, public health, mask mandates, why I will be wearing a mask for the rest of my life, even if you won’t.
“For the first time in my life, I know what it’s like to feel prejudiced,” I blurted out.
“What?” she exclaimed. “You don’t have a prejudiced bone in your body.”
“Yeah,” I assured her. “I think I do. I think that I have it in me to look at a person, and without knowing anything about that person, judge them as an inconsiderate moron who has no knowledge about the world around them and how viruses work.”
“How so?” she demanded, ready to defend me.
“Whenever I get on the bus, and I see people who don’t where masks, I immediately feel anger. I wanna stand up and give them a lecture, like I would to one of my classes.”
“And you consider that prejudice?”
“Yeah, I do. I know nothing about them, but I just want to chew their heads off because they are not wearing a mask.”
“How is that prejudice?”
“Well,” I considered my words for a moment. “I am judging them without knowing them, isn’t that prejudice?”
“Somehow,” she said, her brows coming together. “That doesn’t seem right.”
“It seems very right to me.”
“But aren’t you judging them for a choice they have made?” she asked, wriggling up her nose. “I mean prejudice is about judging people for the stuff they have no choice about. I can’t help that I’m a girl. I can’t help that I’m a haole. I can’t help the fact that I was born to a rich daddy, but I can choose to respect people who are concerned about their health whenever I board public transport by wearing a mask.”
“So am I right in wanting chew their heads off,” I asked. “Am I right in judging them without knowing them?”
“I think that their choices make who they are clear, so you are judging their choices, not the color of their skin.”
“I still hate the fact that I find myself judging people without knowing anything about them.”
“But you do know about them,” she insisted. “You know that they don’t understand how viruses work if they insist on getting on public transport without protecting themselves and others.”
“You know, before the pandemic, my work was downtown, and I’d see a lot of Chinese immigrants wearing masks. I used to think about how those masks made them stick out. How wearing them didn’t help them “fit in.” Turns out, they were right, and I was wrong. I will be wearing a mask for the rest of my life. Probably a good thing because I have reached an age when I look better wearing one than without one,” I chuckled.
“So what brought this on?” she asked, moving to sit next to me. “The madidates were lifted months ago. Why so angry now?”
“My brother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago,” I told her.
“I’m so sorry,” she said automatically. “From covid?”
“No,” I assured her. “We don’t know yet. They are still doing an autopsy. They think it was either a stroke, or an allergic reaction to a new medication. All we know it that it was sudden and devastating.”
“So why the anger about masks?”
“The family had a memorial,” I told her eventually. “It was supposed to be a small family affair. All vaccinated. All masked. But he was loved by many, and a lot of people showed up who didn’t wear masks and who were not vaccinated. How do you turn people away when all they want to do it say good-bye to a friend?”
“And a few days later, my nephew’s four year old daughter had a fever that turned out to be covid. Then my nephew and his wife had covid, and then my sister had covid. One memorial with half the people not wearing masks and suddenly a whole family has covid. People are acting like this pandemic is over because the mandates are lifted, but it’s not. The virus keeps mutating, and it will continue to do so, as long as it keeps spreading. Gathering in groups without being vaccinated and masked is just disrespectful and rude. So, yeah, I am angry.”
“Are they okay?”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “They were all vaccinated, so their symptoms were pretty mild, but still…” I couldn’t find a way to end the sentence.
“Do you think that is why the CDC lifted the mandates?”
“Do I think what is why?”
“Well, do you think that the CDC lifted the mandates because so long as people are vaccinated, they aren’t likely to get sick enough to overwhelm the emergency wards? People are still getting sick, but fewer of them are dying.”
“The CDC didn’t impose the mask mandates, nor did it lift them. The government did that,” I told her. “If you look on the CDC website, they are still recommending people wear masks when going into public spaces. They are still recommending that everyone get vaccinated. And believe me, I don’t want to have spent two and a half years protecting my family’s health just to get sick now.”
“So you’re just going to avoid large groups from now on? I mean, for the rest of your life? You’re never gonna go traveling again? You’re never gonna do the theatre again? You’re never gonna teach a class again?”
“I wouldn’t go that far, but I will think long and hard before I do.”
“That’s so sad.”
“In fact,” I added. “As District Chair of my community, I am supposed to organize and lead our next District Elections. They need to be open to the public, conducted indoors with no mask requirements and no vaccine requirements. We are also supposed to allow people to attend via zoom, so people who feel uncomfortable with gathering in person can attend from home; but I am required to be there to lead the meeting in person.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
“I am pretty much planning to reserve the district park location that we have always used in the past, and then calling them to resign my position because I no longer feel comfortable fulfilling my duties as District Chair, then I will attend the meeting via zoom.”
“Man, that’s even sadder.”
“I am not even sure why people call them mandates.” I said with disgust. “They were never mandates. They were temporary laws to protect the public health during an emergency. We pass laws all the time to protect the public health. You can’t get a job in food service without passing a TB test. And what’s the big deal about wearing a mask anyway? Women are required by law to cover their breasts in public spaces, while men aren’t. I don’t hear many people protesting that public mandate.”
“I think people just went crazy,” she concluded.
“Went, or are?” I laughed.
“So are we trying to make a point in this post, or are we just venting?” she asked at last.
“Maybe we are just reaching out to others who may feel the same, and letting them know that they are not alone.”
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