The Mask of Freedom

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: My childhood friend Mike Hayes called me out on this post not so much because he disagreed with the overall theme of it, but because of the way I had presented it in places. Mike and I have known each other our whole entire lives, and while we have usually very different opinions on things, we have great discussions about those things that are always respectful and informative. I appreciate that about Mike. What he called me out for was being condescending and insulting, and he pointed out that no one’s mind was ever changed by being treated disrespectfully. And he’s absolutely right. I exhibited the exact same behavior I find deplorable in many people, I knew that language was wrong when I wrote it, and I let my frustration and anger get the better of me. I let you down, I let Mike down, and I let myself down. Thank you, Mike, for pointing out my bad behavior. Thank you for pointing out that I was not practicing the civil discourse I normally preach. And thank you for doing it in a thoughtful and respectful way. It’s because of friends like Mike that we are always evolving and becoming better people. I know I’m trying. Please note that the language that was offensive has been edited out of the version you are about to read now. )

Well, it’s Independence Day. Baseball and apple pie. Yay America, land of the free, home of the brave and all that red, white, and blue song and dance. 

I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about something fun and funny to write all week. Maybe I’ll write about the blueberry pie I plan to make. Maybe I’ll write about funny flag clothing. Maybe I’ll write about ribs and sauce preferences. 

But frankly, it’s been a bad week for me so nothing has come to mind. I’ve been mad, sad, stressed out, and upset. That’s what you get from me on Day 111 of sheltering/safer in place, and I’m not going to apologize for not being strong or not coping well or not being upbeat for you because things are happening that profoundly affect us all in ways we can’t even understand yet. And it’s frustrating and maddening and completely overwhelming to be at the mercy of so many things that are beyond our control.

So this is where I say, if you keep reading, you do it at your own risk. This ain’t no beer and burgers, where are my flip flops, flag waving post. 

July 4th has always been my favorite holiday as I’ve written before, but this year it will be different. COVID-19 means that there won’t be any big cookouts, no swimming at the pool, no family gatherings, and no minor league baseball games — at least for many of us. There are, of course, the people who will carry on like any other July 4th holiday, who carry on every day just like it’s any old day. Which brings me to my next point.

This whole idea of freedom? Well…I’m finding it hard to celebrate the thing that has been wielded like a weapon for months now by people who are too selfish to make minor adjustments to their daily activities for the good of their fellow man — literally every single person they come in contact with, family, friend or foe — because it “violates their God given rights.”

Sure, you don’t have to wear a mask. You don’t have to wear a seatbelt either. But ignore either thing, and there’s a chance exercising your freedom will cost you your life. The difference? Not wearing your seat belt only endangers you. Not wearing a mask endangers all the people I love the most and me too. 

You can ride around in your car all day long unrestrained. I can ride around in my car all day long restrained. Who gives a shit? Not me. If you want to slam on your brakes and fly through the windshield and break your neck, it makes zero difference to me. I can still go where I want and do what I want.

But if you’re at the Pig or the Post Office or the drugstore without a mask, you’re limiting my freedom to go to these places unless I want to be all engulfed in your spit, snot, and germs. Just the very act of talking sends all your nasty droplets out into the atmosphere to rain down on the people who have to work, the people around you, and on every nearby surface. God forbid you sneeze or even cough.

Here’s the deal: Just because you have the freedom to do a thing, doesn’t mean you get to take my freedom away. Think about that.

And I don’t want to hear anything about masks don’t work, blah blah blah, no proof, blah blah blah, but it’s so uncomfortable, blah blah blah. It’s a little tiny concession that MAY help save lives. Think about your favorite relative, the one that you loved more than anybody in the world, the one that has gone on to Glory. If there was one tiny thing you could have done to save them, wouldn’t you have done it even if it meant doing something that made you incredibly uncomfortable much less slightly inconvenienced?

You know you would have done anything to have saved their life. Even wearing a damn mask. Even if you had to Superglue it to your face and never take it off again. 

Like I said, I’ve been pretty mad at the world and all the selfish people in it for a little while now. And I feel like I’m probably not alone in these feelings. So forget freedom. Here are some other things we can celebrate in July.

Let’s make July 5 Common Sense Day and celebrate science! Let’s take a moment to marvel in our free access to it and the freedom we have to use it to keep ourselves and everyone else safe. Let’s embrace the ability to use our minds to assimilate information from a wide variety of sources (not just the ones that reinforce what we want to believe) and draw reasonable conclusions. Let’s come to terms with the fact that the number of coronavirus cases in Alabama is increasing at an alarming rate, and it will keep going up unless we ALL do our part to stop it. 

July 6 can be I’m Mad At This Dumb Virus Day when we quit being mad at each other, stop being so blankety-blank selfish, and ALL do what we need to do to get past this thing (like WEARING A MASK and STAYING HOME). Let’s focus our rage and our energy on the real enemy — coronovirus — and not each other. 

July 7 can be Help Us Help You Day where we lay aside all the conspiracy theories and pay attention to the entities that are trying to help us like the CDC. Do they get it wrong sometimes? Sure. They’re learning about this virus and how to cope with it just like we all are. I’ve been wrong in the past and learned from my mistakes and been damn glad people didn’t hold my feet to the fire about it. I’m sure you have been wrong a time or two as well. Did you learn? Of course you did. How about showing a little grace?

On July 8, let’s all show out for My Mask Is Cuter Than Your Mask Day a/k/a Lead By Example Day. Throw that cute bandana on over your mouth and nose, sport a cute print, or go straight surgical. Whatever your choice is, post a picture of you in your mask and set that good example for your friends and neighbors. Also, I can tell if you’re smiling by your eyes. I don’t need to see your mouth. 

July 9 should be Keep Your Spit and Snot to Yourself Day. You know how you do that? By wearing a mask! (Are you sensing a theme here. If not, you really should be.) Let me state here as clearly as I can that wearing a mask is NOT a political statement. It’s really not. It’s totally not. It’s a sign that you care about your family, friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers you encounter. It’s like wearing a sign that says we loved our neighbors more than we loved ourselves, just like Jesus told us to do. Yes, I’m bringing in The Bible. All the big guns.

And you can also keep your spit and snot to yourself by staying 6 feet away from people. There’s no need for you to run all up on me in the checkout line. You’re not going to get done any faster if you’re standing in my space showering me with your sputum. And doesn’t the word “sputum” just sound gross, even on a non-international pandemic day?

And July 10 can be TGIWAMAIF — Thank God I Wore a Mask and It’s Friday. This is the day we all pat ourselves and each other on the back IN OUR IMAGINATIONS and FROM A DISTANCE of more than 6 feet because we did the right thing to help end this terrible virus and keep other people and, therefore, ourselves safe. Yes, our health depends on the health of others around us. And while there’s a lot we can’t control right now, that’s one thing we can control.

And you know why July 10 is the really best day of them all? Because if we can sacrifice a little personal freedom now, hopefully soon we can go back to doing a lot of the things we used to do with wild and reckless abandon and without a care in the world for how our actions affect others. We can go back to exercising all of our God given independence and being selfish Americans draped in the flag and all the spit and snot we can stand.

Don’t view the mask as a loss of your freedom or as giving up your freedom. Think of the mask as the key to getting all your freedoms back. Wear your mask of freedom and be as proud of that as you are the old red, white, and blue.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. davesswan says:

    THANK YOU. Those anti-maskers are about as sharp as a bowling ball!

  2. Sheila Zito says:

    AMEN sister!! Thank you for your post. I hope you and yours have a safe and Happy 4th!

  3. Laura Kimes says:

    “All the big guns” and “showering me with your sputum”…lady, you outdid yourself this time. I LOVE everything about this post, and I love YOU!

    That’s why I WEAR A MASK EVERY-FREAKING-WHERE I GO OUTSIDE OF MY OWN FREAKING HOUSE!

    1. Thank you, sister! Love you back!!

  4. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    If you feel like you need a mask, that’s your right. But I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me for not wearing one.

    I’m solidly convinced this is a division tactic…

    1. As I said in the piece, I don’t wear it for me. I wear it because I trust the science that says I could be protecting my loved ones and strangers I meet from something I may not know I’m carrying. I agree that it’s a divisive issue, and I don’t think it should be. This whole blog is also all my own opinion, so not going to debate it. 😁😷

      1. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

        Lol!! Opinions are stronger than steel 😆 but I totally agree

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