Not All Heroes Wear Capes, But They Do Wear Masks

I think people should wear masks, and I want to be clear about why.

Treat this like a story

Tell yourself that 2020 is a story where you get to be the hero.

What kind of hero do you want to be? It comes down to how you either put on the mask, or you don’t.

Choose the option that could prevent yourself and others from getting sick, or choose to assert that your personal agency and comfort trump concern for others.

On one side is Captain America, trying to save as many lives as he can, and always willing to put his personal interests aside if people need help.

On the other side is John Galt, unconcerned about the greater population; only interested in proving how special he is and being celebrated for it.

Since the free market decided the Atlas Shrugged movies were not good, I want to be clear: This is a picture of John Galt.

No mask on your face tells everyone who has to come in contact with you that you’re okay with them getting sick or dying because they just don’t matter to you.

Picture the masked barista being told by a maskless customer in a mostly empty coffee shop that she doesn’t need to put her mask on because “nobody’s in here.”

The maskless are saying that unless they know and care about you personally, you’re not a person worth saving. You’re part of the acceptable losses. Your blood can water their freedom tree.

COVID-19 isn’t an invisible antagonist — It has visible allies

The man who refuses to wear a mask because he thinks it makes him look weak, but then finds out that even outwardly strong men get sick, and sometimes die.

Or the woman yelling at the grocery store cashier about how the masks and the shortage of coins are connected, and everyone, including the cashier, is in on a global conspiracy.

Or the man with a bulging forehead vein screaming in a CostCo that asking him to put on a mask makes him feel threatened. Or the woman in a store calling people Nazis for saying she needs to put on a mask.

For all the talk some are spreading about anarchists in the streets, the people truly fighting against any kind of governance or shared social contract, and who want a lawless land of individual freedom, are the people who refuse to wear masks.

And if they will not change, they are going to hold us all hostage until doctors and researchers can finish their work.

What makes me so certain about masks?

I’m not.

But look at the options:

I Wear A Mask I Don’t Wear A Mask
Masks Reduce Infection Rate I’m helping save lives in a small way. I may cause more people to get sick or die, and don’t do anything to mitigate it.
Masks Don’t Reduce Infection Rate I tried to help, but couldn’t. I couldn’t help and didn’t try.

Whether or not masks help at all, wearing a mask better aligns with my ethical values. Not partisan. Not political. Morals and ethics.

I should try to do what good I can for others, and live as best I can without actively harming others.

It’s a little like the trolley problem

You’re on a trolley, hurtling toward a group of people stuck on the track. You can pull a lever to divert to another track and save their lives.

Or you can stay the course and ring the bell, screaming at the top of your lungs about how nobody is allowed to tell you that you can’t ride the trolley wherever you want.

A mask may not be perfect and prevent every person ever from getting sick, but it’s enough to do a measurable amount of good in reducing the infection rate of COVID-19.

Rejecting it means you see a mild inconvenience to yourself as too great a sacrifice to ask of you in exchange for protecting the lives of your fellow citizens.

There is nothing patriotic or virtuous about selfishness and turning your back on your neighbors. Demanding your freedom from any responsibility to others can only deeply wound your own pursuit of happiness, and your life.

Because even if we disagree on everything under the Sun, even if you reject everything I hold dear, even if you would condemn myself or those dear to me for who they are or the beliefs they hold dear, I still think your life must have value and is worth trying to save.

Because no one is truly beyond hope, and we should recognize every person we see, and every person we don’t, is connected to us. They matter to the people around them, and we matter to each other.

You are essential to someone. Probably many someones.

My mask protects you. Your mask protects me. And we can protect so many others if we drop the bullshit and offer each other even just a little grace and dignity.