An Essay By Michael Derek Roberts
Sane and intelligent Americans from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds are looking on with barely concealed concern as a vocal minority continue to oppose wearing a mask or “face covering,” in public, in the midst of a roaring pandemic. Let me put this insanity and help unmask, pardon the pun, this unmitigated stupidity in context. Right now, close to 4 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 virus and 140,000 – and counting – are already dead. Each day this country is ratcheting up infection rate numbers in the stratosphere, so much so that even scaled up, rapid testing is not enough and is outpaced by the virus’s rapid momentum and spread. With 77,000 plus news cases daily, it is very clear that COVID-19 is in the driver’s seat.
And yet, with the very best scientific information, impeccable infectious disease expertise, and a cabal of capable medical professionals, many – too many – in Bible Belt America and Christian communities are resisting to do one very simple and cheap thing. It never ceases to amaze me just how Christian zealotry in America is tied up, no, entangled, with pseudo-patriotism and grandiose notions of “American Exceptionalism.” Just the simple non-invasive and temporary government decree of staying at home, so-called “shelter in place,” is met with vitriolic, red-hot anger by Christians packing AR-15s, pump action shotguns, Glock semiautomatic pistols, and who angrily storm government offices to demonstrate their opposition, and register some off-the barn, crazy accusations that somehow this violates one of their many “rights.”
And the sad and incomprehensible thing is that these same people who get bent out of shape when well-meaning governments and local officials put in place mechanisms to protect everybody in the community, are uncompromising in their support when elements of that same authority abuse their mandate and abuse the “others” in society. Consider this: Every time an unarmed Black man or woman is shot and killed by white police officer(s) these “good Christians” who go to church each Sunday with Bibles and Smith & Wesson .38 pistols in their waistbands, instantly and reflexively make lame-brain excuses on behalf white authorities. This usually takes the form of trotting out some old menacing mugshots of the individual “to prove” that Black person’s terrible character. Or they blame the victim by pointing out that “they got themselves killed by police doing their jobs” because they [Black people] were not obedient enough.
So, stay home during a pandemic? These pseudo-patriots have no problem grabbing their guns and defying orders. The mixture of Christianity and Americanism is a poisonous brew that enables white people to cite Romans 13 to get others [usually Black and Brown people] to obey and respect authority while they pick up weapons to fight off THAT SAME potentially tyrannical government. And in the midst of a deadly and rapidly spreading disease and the daily struggles of governments to keep ALL Americans safe, another level of hypocrisy and moral decay is seeping through American society, and leaving a choking stench in its wake: the rabid opposition to wearing masks.
Here’s the thing: This requires zero sacrifice – period. But that’s too big an ask for some Americans citing the Bible, and other crackpot reasons for their resistance. Mask wearing is all about being SELFLESS – not SELFISH. It’s about protecting others – it does not protect you; it protects me. It’s a tried and tested mechanism to stop the spread of this virus – or any germ transmitted by human actions like breathing – and communicates that you’re sensitive to others, care for people, and that their health and well-being is uppermost in your minds. It is THE CHRISTIAN THING TO DO.
Indeed, when a store like Walmart or your local supermarket refuses to allow someone in without a mask, it’s not an infringement of some rights or the other but something necessary to protect their employees and other shoppers. COVID-19 does not care if you go to church every Sunday, are Democratic or Republican or Independent. It does not give a hoot if you pack ten AR-15s, guzzle down a keg of beer, jack yourself up on crystal meth or smoke 10 marijuana joints before breakfast. With billions of years of evolution on its side it knows where to attack humans and how to spread with deadly consequences. We humans have to adapt and learn how to deal with it.
Finally, the utter stupidity and banal selfishness of some Americans when it comes to mask wearing during this once-in-a-century pandemic is not only mindboggling, but negates the fact that history is replete with human beings making these little sacrifices on behalf of themselves and others. For example, during World War II people in London, England, were told to take off their lights at night so as not to allow the German air force bombers an easy target. People did not get hot under the coat about their right to keep their lights on. They understood that this small sacrifice would save millions of lives.
For those Americans across the nation that feel this is too huge an ask and that this minor discomfort and inconvenience is somehow a major violation of their real of contrived rights, yet unarticulated, this is just plain selfish and stupid. The sooner we get COVID-19 under control the sooner the economy gets back to normal. It’s a very, very low bar. In these times, wearing a simple mask demonstrates that you are your brother’s keeper.