by Paul Moomjean 

As the county, state, country and world continue to reopen, there is still only one real issue splitting us up as a country. Not abortion (though it may soon). Not gay marriage. Not even the election results. It’s masks. People wonder if they should still wear a mask and if the local and national authorities have the right to require us to wear one. With the CDC sending out new information every day and California looking to lift all restrictions on June 15, can people coincide in a world where maskers and anti-maskers shop, work and live together? 

A year ago we saw the MAGA crowd being asked to wear masks, and we watched them yell back. There became a phrase known as “mask shaming,” a public call out to those who felt their “rights” were being trampled on. But now that 45% of people have been vaccinated in America, the mask shaming looks to be turned around on the ones still deciding better safe than sorry. In a divided America, this must not become the crux of what keeps us apart, but instead seen as the way in which conflicting ideologies can coexist.       

According to the Associated Press, “If you’re fully vaccinated, the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most situations. That includes when you’re outside and in many indoor spaces like restaurants, though you still need to follow any local or business rules.”

With businesses desperately wanting a return to profits, does anyone think people will really be asked if they are vaccinated or not? In fact, these are the types of rules that are made as virtue signaling to the idea of law and order. But we all know that some kid working for minimum wage is going to ask a person to please put their mask on, only to be berated by someone who sees themselves as a modern Founding Father. Yet, jumping back into the maskless pool too soon could see dire effects.  

“A central mistake in public health is easing up infectious disease control efforts just before crossing the finish line,” said David Holtgrave, dean of the School of Public Health at University at Albany.

Holtgrave is right. Since wearing masks, I haven’t been sick since February of 2020. I never tested positive for COVID-19, and I never had the flu, a cold, a dry cough or anything else I’m prone to catch. Considering many countries regularly wear masks for health reasons, why must Americans be so hostile to what is normal in other industrialized parts of the world?  

Dana Stevens wrote this defense of mask wearing in The Atlantic on May 19: “But excuse me if I, like many of the people I see around me, am not yet quite ready to expose my lower face. Early on in the pandemic, I made a vow with my family that we would set a high standard for COVID-19 avoidance. Not only were we not getting this virus ourselves, if we could help it, but we were taking no chances of inadvertently spreading it to anyone else, even if that did make for a long and lonely year without indoor gatherings and travel to see family and friends. I didn’t want to go to my grave thinking that I was a link in some chain of human interaction leading to someone else’s serious illness or death.”

For every flag-waving, maskless Trump supporter thinking they are ringing the Liberty Bell against tyranny, there are others who just cannot bear the thought of transporting coronavirus onto others. Too often Americans think about their rights as being separate from their responsibilities. 

Jordan Peterson, writer and Canadian college professor, tweeted in 2016, “Your rights are someone else’s responsibility. Trust those who speak of their responsibilities, not of their rights.”

Just because I have the right to drive 65 mph on the highway, considering the weather might be rough, I have the responsibility to drive slower. I have the right to own a gun, yet I have the responsibility to be careful with its placement and handling. I have the right to not wear a mask. I also have the responsibility to take care of my fellow humans, and if I feel responsible for them, then please let me have the right to wear my mask just a little bit longer.