• cammybenton

To Mask or Not to Mask

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

This is a call for a truce between the maskers and the anti-maskers.

It is super stressful these days, and the bullying tactics (“Wear your damn mask!”), the virtue signaling, and the shaming are not likely to bring people to your side. For the anti-maskers, getting mad at 16-year-olds at restaurants just doing their jobs is not going to get you anywhere.

Everyone is angry, but everyone is also doing the best they can with the info they see. Legitimate CDC, WHO, and national leaders ( whether you believe they are good or bad) had been saying not to wear a face mask unless you are sick or caring for someone who is sick, so the anger against those who are not in favor of universal masking seems excessive to me.

There is literally legit science on both sides, and both sides give good arguments. The pro-mask folks share their science and say, if masks prevent big droplets from leaving your face or if there is a slightly decreased risk of spread, then it is worth it. Great! That is a good reason to wear a mask. The maskers want to do it out of respect even if it doesn’t work. Well, that is generous. I’m not sure it’s a reason to chastise the anti-maskers since that is so subjective, but it’s super sweet.

Anti-maskers have good scientific evidence that it doesn’t work, as well. They typically believe in social distancing, but not always. They often are spiritually oriented people who don’t live in fear but will respect others’ spaces, and they just want to be left alone.

That doesn’t mean that all maskers live in fear or that you can’t wear a mask and be spiritual person who is not living in fear. Most anti-maskers I know will wear their mask in the presence of high-risk people or situations out of respect and safety, but their idea of high-risk doesn’t include just breathing the air in your car or being alone in a park, like some maskers. There seems to be a spectrum of concern between the two groups.

There are idiots out there on both sides, like the masked lady who spat in a baby’s face, believing the child and its mother were too close, and unmasked sick people coughing all over the place. I’m not talking about idiots we have no control over.

There have been heated discussions in doctors’ groups about this, meaning that not all doctors are in agreement. I have shared an article from an anesthesiologist who does not support widespread masking, but there are many other doctors posting similar articles. I think they are smart. I think the doctors who are pro-mask are smart, too. I see in doctors’ groups that most of us don’t really understand how masks work. Doctors are still learning this, so why do you expect the average public to know?

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Conrad

There seems to be growing evidence for wearing face masks and the idea that we could open up sooner if we all wore face masks. Maybe there will be a full consensus soon, and everyone will agree that we should. But there is still room for debate in my opinion,  so let’s keep it respectful.

This issue is just one of many in this country that has fallen victim to the polarization that leads to everyone digging in their heels. As usual, one side thinks they have the right to tell others what to do and that anything they say that disagrees is anti-science, or anti-people, or ignorant. Again, none of the name-calling will win them over. The other side says, “Screw you, I don’t have to do what you say.” They will say they have science, too, backed by the WHO. Our government has a history of corruption, and there are worrisome patterns noticed by many in this group that are based on fact, so they have good reason to question things.

The other side sees this as “conspiracy theory,” but simply calling it conspiracy theory can be a lazy way of shutting down the conversation. And maybe there is a conspiracy; after all, it’s happened before when large sums of money and power were at stake.

Being belligerent or condescending  won’t win points on either side.

I have my mask and will wear it in appropriate settings (and more now, with the mandates, in settings that may or may not make sense to me), and I am taking all kinds of measures in my clinic–including super-expensive filters with UV lights to kill viruses. But ultimately, the social distancing measures seem most important in my reading, and certain types of masks in certain situations.

I think it is important we avoid contact with people who are high-risk, and I think high-risk people have a responsibility to protect themselves.

I know people who have lost loved ones to coronavirus. I know doctors who are traumatized by their experiences dealing with the scary levels of coronavirus, and they naturally seem to be pro-mask.

I know many doctors who are against universal masking.

I know people who were raped and forcibly held down; masks bring it all back, and they don’t want to explain to the kid in the grocery store why they can’t handle a face mask.

I know people with lung conditions who cannot breathe with anything over their mouths. And I know people with lung conditions who do just fine with a face mask.

If you see someone unmasked and you are a masker, just stay away from the unmasked person. It is quite frankly none of your business why they can’t or choose to not wear a mask. If you are an anti-masker, stay away from the masker to respect them and their need to protect themselves.

It can all be this simple.

Again, we can’t control people who are reckless and uneducated. I stay away from them.

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