Wearing a mask is a sign you care

Published 10:25 am Thursday, May 14, 2020

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Larry McDermott

Life on the farm


To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask. That is the question.

If Shakespeare were around today, he might be asking that question in verse, followed by, “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of those who protest for their liberty or to take arms against a sea of pandemic and by opposing end it. To die—to sleep.”

Just as Hamlet was trying to decide whether living or dying would be best, so are we as many question whether to wear a mask. It is a question some people are answering without really understanding or thinking about the purpose of the mask or what it symbolizes.

It is obvious when you are out these days that many people aren’t wearing masks when they are in public places. Even retail outlets that attract large numbers, from our chain grocery stores to home improvement centers, aren’t enforcing their own rule that all employees wear masks.

Anyone selling products to the public and refusing to wear a mask is saying they don’t care about you. They want your dollars, but they don’t care whether you live or die. They are unwilling to help protect you from a deadly virus that they might be carrying but they don’t know it.

When we go into public places wearing a mask, I am aware that some people who aren’t wearing one look at us with Hamlet’s “slings and arrows.” We have explained to some that we are wearing a mask to protect them because we care about our fellow human beings and we wish they felt the same way. It is clear from their reaction that, despite a flood of information on the Covid-19 pandemic, people either remain ignorant of the facts, are aware of the facts but vainly refuse to wear a mask for fear it will make them appear weak or muss their makeup, or they are simply contrarians who go left when told to go right.

Even the players, officials and attendants at this week’s North Carolina-based American Cornhole League Pro Qualifier tournament televised by ESPN wore masks this week.

In short, I wear a mask for you. I might be carrying the virus without ever having any symptoms. I don’t know because I haven’t been tested. By wearing a mask, I am saying that I respect you and will keep my germs to myself. I care about you and your loved ones even though we have never met.

But the countervailing attitude that prevails today can be found in a conversation I overheard a couple having this week while I was buying food and supplies for our animals. When they noticed my mask, she turned to him and asked if they should be wearing one. “I gotta wear one at work because they make me. They not gonna make me wear one in a store,” he said.

That pretty much sums up today’s attitude. It’s even more prevalent in rural areas.

So, if I see someone in a public place who is not wearing a mask, I know they don’t care about me, nor do they respect the health care providers who are sacrificing for them. Either they see no value in their fellow human beings, or they are focused on some misguided sense of liberty, or they suffer from fragile masculinity.

No matter. Their true feelings have been unmasked.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com or see farm happenings at www.facebook.com/hardscrabblehollowfarmllc