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Noah Kern, one of the high schoolers who stepped in to work as election judges on the March 17, 2020 primary, had no trouble wearing a mask. “Obviously, I’ve taken precautions to protect myself and others,” he said. Not so obvious to some, unfortunately.
Photo by Neil Steinberg

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The limp logic of anti-maskers

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mask edict takes effect as opponents stamp their feet and pretend to care about science.

Say I own a fierce dog — let’s call him “Spike” — who prowls my front yard, snarling and snapping. Occasionally, Spike bounds onto the sidewalk to sink his teeth into passersby.

My neighbor suggests I put up a chain link fence. At which I scoff: “What good would that do? The gaps in a chain link are two inches across, while Spike’s teeth are an inch long, tops. The teeth will pass right through.”

Welcome to Anti-Masker Logic. As Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide mask mandate takes effect Monday, there are two lines of opposition.

One is simple stubbornness. As embodied by John Catanzara, FOP president and babbling id of Red America.

After the city demanded its employees be vaccinated, he sputtered, “We don’t want to be forced to do anything!” Points for candor, and hubris, coming from a man who belongs to an organization whose members are forced to wear special hats.

The you-can’t-make-me-I-don’t-wanna approach is obviously wrong. We are forced to do all sorts of things all the time, like it or not: pay taxes, drive on the right, wear pants.

The truth is, some balk at being forced to do anything new. Even in a crisis. Even to save lives A stance so selfish that some try a second approach. They wander into the realm of science, so unfamiliar to them, and cherry pick a shiny fact to decorate their infantile “I don’t wanna!” Like a bright ornament on a dead Christmas tree.

“Do the research,” demands one reader. “Find out how large the air openings are on any mask. The ‘smallest’ openings are 3 microns. Now, even Stevie Wonder could see this coming — please tell us how a 3000 nM opening can keep out a 50 nM virus?”

Tell you how? Happily, for all the good it will do. The same way a chain link fence keeps a dog’s teeth out of your ankle, even though the teeth are smaller than the fence links. Because the teeth are in the dog. The viruses are in much larger moisture droplets blasted out of your nose and mouth. Masks catch those.

This did not sway the reader one bit, of course. He immediately waved another deceptive fact. That’s why I try not to argue. What’s the use? That anyone could look at this national crisis — the extra contagious Delta variant surging across the country — and start clutching at himself and conjuring up imaginary harms, it’s just insane. “Those firemen! They’re breaking into my house! They’re pouring water on things!”

Nobody likes wearing a mask. I sure don’t. But I wear one anyway because I learned a secret: It isn’t all about me. Sometimes you must do something that makes you uncomfortable. Like the first time I wore a mask in public, when my older son came home in spring 2020 after they closed his school.

“You want to go for a walk?” I asked.

”I’ll walk one of your cigars,” he replied, cannily. He’ll be a fine lawyer.

Except I was down to my last cigar. I’ve cut back. They’re unhealthy. I told my wife the boy and I were driving over to Binny’s to visit their humidor.

She was against the outing, against us exposing ourselves to plague. I promised we’d wear masks; I had some 3M dust masks — N95, the good stuff — from my wood shop. We grabbed a pair.

In the Binny’s parking lot, I put mine on, pressed the metal strip to my nose and checked myself in the rearview mirror.

”I look like I’m going to rob the place,” I said.

It felt strange. But a few other shoppers also wore masks. That helped. A lot. Support. Approval. We are social animals. You’d feel comfortable wearing your underwear on your head if enough people did the same.

After a year of mask wearing, the vaccines arrived. We could put the masks away. Sweet relief. But not enough people took the vaccine — they didn’t wanna be told what to do.

So the Delta variant, more contagious, more lethal to children, was allowed to rip through the unvaccinated. Now we all need to wear the masks again. So children don’t get COVID and die.

What’s the baffling part they just can’t understand? That spurs them to assault flight attendants and hassle convenience store clerks? That, I’ll never understand.

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