To the Anti-Maskers, Mask-Mockers, and Mask-Shamers: Do it for the Matt’s

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There’s been much discussion here on A News Cafe.com about masks and COVID-19, and our country’s polarization between the mask-wearers and the mask-deniers. Earlier this week one wise reader wondered in the comments section what tool we might use to help repair the polarization, to bring people back together to some middle, civilized common ground.

I thought about that a lot, and came up with what might work: couples’ counseling to mend our broken relationships. We’d need two couches; one for the mask-wearers, the other for the mask-deniers.

Sitting between them would be the likable, wise and kindly facilitator, someone like Dr. Douglas Craig. Or the Pope. Or Oprah or Ellen. Oh dear God, why did you take Mr. Rogers so soon? We need him now more than ever.

Anyway, the facilitator would let each side air their concerns and gripes; all the hurt feelings, fears, frustrations and anger.

If all went well, the mask-wearers and mask-deniers would hear one another, and acknowledge that we’re mostly good people at heart, and we’d stipulate our common ground: that we are terrified of slipping into another Great Depression, that we’re tired of being cooped up, that we’re heartsick about not seeing people we care about, and we’re profoundly disappointed to miss so many meaningful celebrations and events.

That’s about as far as I could take this mental exercise before my thought-bubble burst, because I couldn’t fathom where we’d go beyond our common ground. The chasm between these two groups grows deeper, darker and wider by the hour, to the point where Leonard Moty, Shasta County Board of Supervisor, and former RPD chief addressed it during yesterday’s BOS meeting. He talked about instances of bullying and intimidation by anti-maskers, and he couldn’t understand why anyone would care if someone else wore a mask. He hoped that here in Shasta County, that behavior would stop. I agree.

What’s especially distressing for me is the fact that some people I love and adore are mask-deniers, which leaves us standing in a black-and-white area where there’s zero compromise on this issue: You agree to wear a mask, or you refuse to wear a mask. Not much gray there.

Already here in Shasta County, anti-masker employees who work for pro-mask companies have implemented loopholes, such as technically “wearing” a mask at work, only it’s pulled down beneath the chin. Or anti-masker customers may initially comply and wear a mask into a pro-mask store that requires one for entrance, but then the anti-mask customers will promptly remove the masks once they’re inside the store. And then brag about it on Facebook, to the delight of their fellow anti-maskers.

Here’s something I’ve noticed, to my great distress, here in the Wild West north state: Some of the worst offenders at implementing masks are locally owned businesses, while some of the most compliant businesses are large corporate companies. This is a vexing conundrum, because on the one hand, my heart wants to support local businesses to help them and our local economy, but on the other hand, my policy is that  I will not support businesses that ignore public health guidelines. That leaves the option of mail-order purchases, which means the money doesn’t stay here locally. I hate that, but I feel I have no other choice. If the non-compliant local businesses don’t care enough about our north state people to keep customers and employees safe, then I will stop being their loyal customer.

For me – a mask-wearer – it comes down to this: Wearing a mask is another way of saying I love you, or I care about you, even if I don’t know you. Wearing a mask is another way of admitting that although I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I’ll err on the side of caution, and wear a mask until I know for sure  that we’re safely out of the woods.

Because the absence of a mask has become a rallying cry and statement in itself, maybe some compromise could be reached, such as if the mask-deniers had special masks that contained bold words of protest, for all to see, so there’d be no mistaking their beliefs, maybe something like, “I hate masks because they infringe upon my freedoms, but I wear one because I’m not a selfish jerk.”

Have you ever seen an infant sneeze or cough? It’s cute because they just let it fly. But at some point, children are taught to cover their coughs and sneezes, because it’s considered good manners to not spray people with snot and saliva. Granted, it would be so free and easy to let ‘er rip and sneeze like a baby. But for an adult, that would be seen as inconsiderate, even uncivilized. What’s civilized? The opposite of barbarity. What’s barbarity? Rude and crude.

So here we are in a pandemic, and the stakes are higher than just a common cold caught from a grocery-store sneeze. With COVID-19, we now know that potentially deadly virus particles don’t need the super high velocity of a sneeze, but rather, they can be spread through talking and even singing.

Simply put, wearing a mask is just another form of consideration for others, whether it’s to cover your mouth during a sneeze, or remove your shoes outside homes where that’s preferred, or use a condom to prevent pregnancy or STD’s, or keep kids home from school when their scalps are covered with nits and lice, or change your infant’s poopy diaper in a restroom changing station, rather than in the middle of a restaurant, or silence your cellphone during a movie.

That’s what civilized people do in a society; we look out for and care for each other, the very best we can, even if it’s not the most convenient for us, even if they’re strangers, not members of our family, church, BFF list or clan. And yes, we do so even if we don’t personally agree with that particular act of civility.  Me? I have never cottoned to the shoe-removal thing, but I happily, respectfully comply in homes where it’s appreciated.

For the record, I’d be 100 percent cool with people not wearing masks in public if they could guarantee just three things: First, if they knew with 100 percent certainty that they didn’t currently have the virus. Second, if they knew with 100 percent certainty that they will never infect someone with COVID-19. Third, if they knew with 100 percent certainty that they could never become infected with COVID-19.

The only person who could satisfy all three conditions with 100-percent certainty is a dead person, and they wouldn’t be alive to know anything anyway.

I’d nearly given up beating the drum for masks recently, because so much has been said about it already, and I didn’t think there was anything new under the sun I could say to change anyone’s mind.

It’s kind of sad, because the more we mask-wearers feel as if we are in the minority (that appears true here in Shasta County), the less we’ll go out, because we believe it’s too risky to expose ourselves to so many mask-deniers. Yes, I know, the mask-deniers will think this is funny as heck, and say it’s fine with them if we stay home.

This week, however, I changed my mind about not saying something about masks after I heard about my twin’s experience, which she shared on Facebook.

I’ll let Shelly have the last word in this column today, because there is truly nothing more I could possibly add to what Shelly’s already said, especially since I know the heartache it caused her to venture mentally to one particularly painful place she’d rather not go, but she did it in hopes it might change even one anti-masker mind.

And if Shelly’s words can’t convince mask-deniers to reconsider their stance and wear a mask, then I don’t know what would.

From left: Jeff, Matt and Shelly Shively.

“You! Wearing a mask, you chicken-commie-liberal!”

This was yelled at me yesterday, from a non-mask wearing punk as we walked past each other through Rite Aid parking lot. Clutching his skateboard and 2-liter Mountain Dew, he didn’t even have the guts to look me in the eyes.

The cowardice, hostility, and sheer ignorance of this verbal attack shook me.

I’m stunned by those who insist that being asked to wear a mask to protect others (and myself) from a highly contagious virus is somehow linked to a violation of constitutional and “God-given rights”.
I’m ashamed of people I know who brag about their civil disobedience in removing masks, or flagrantly not wearing a mask when it’s posted as a requirement.

It’s simple: masks protect.

Would this punk call me a “chicken-commie-liberal” for wearing masks and gloves every day of my 20-year career in dentistry? How about when we all wore masks after the Carr Fire, to protect our lungs from smoke and ash? All of Shasta County, “chicken-commie-liberals”?

I’m a beekeeper, I suppose I’m a “chicken-commie-liberal” in wearing protective hood & veil, and asking visitors to do the same, for their protection.

Finally, I flash upon the 10 months of wearing masks while my youngest son, with leukemia, was fighting for his life. No one visiting Matt was offended by being asked to wear a mask to help shield from germs that were harmless to them, but potentially fatal for my son. No one complained of violation of their rights, or offered the option that we should all not wear masks, and take the risk of Matt being taken out by a common cold, no matter, since he would probably die anyway-sooner or later.

How this mask issue has turned America into a roiling civil war is beyond my comprehension. It’s just a mask, people, not a political statement.

If you don’t have a loved one to visualize, do it for the Matt’s, and other immune-challenged people who would not survive this virus.

Please wear masks when in public, and show the simple act of compassion and humanity.

If Matt had survived leukemia, I know he’d wear a mask.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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40 Responses

  1. I hear ya – posted a musical plea on youtube today: https://youtu.be/HAJxUzzgZR4. Hoping that we can appeal to the community’s better angels….

  2. Avatar Anita Brady says:

    I will not knowingly spend a cent in a store where employees wear masks under their chins or not at all. IF that means local businesses will lose my consumer dollars, then so be it. To enter most places that I know, you must wear shoes and a shirt. These horrid anti-mask folks comply without a second thought to those rules.

    It is about time that those of us in high risk category NOT go quietly into the night, but use a bullhorn to roar our demands. We have worked our whole lives to make this country, state and county a better place thru our careers and our tax dollars and I’ll be damned if I will turn meek and mild because those in our community demand their so-called freedom of choice.

  3. Avatar Karen says:

    So well expressed! And Shelley’s contribution made it a tear-jerker for me. Our Country has passed laws that boil down to forcing people to be considerate of others….we don’t smoke in public, drive drunk, or let people in our cars fail to buckle up. It is so sad that without enforceable laws some people just can’t behave ethically. I guess the enforceable law of the virus could be removing one from the living. I would never ever have thought that this pandemic could become political, but here we are! Thanks, Doni and Shelley!

  4. Avatar Candace says:

    I’m 100% with you Doni and Shelly. I also have loved ones refusing to wear masks which I have to say doesn’t make me feel very loved; or respected. I recently joined a local restaurant review FB group and while it’s great to learn about a lot of places I’d not heard of before, I only saw one mention “there’s some social distancing” in their place of business. No specifics. Disappointing. Hopefully I just missed it and some are posting specifics. I read a review of an out-of-state restaurant recently re-opening; the customers call beforehand to make reservations (outside dining) and are not allowed to wait in line in close proximity to others and not for extended lengths of time. Masks are required and worn by customers and employees alike. Employees wear gloves as well. Menus and tablecloths have been switched out for disposable ones and tossed after each use; same with flatware which for the time being has changed to plastic (not ideal; but…virus). Tables are set farther apart than before and occupancy has been reduced to accommodate half as many customers as before the virus. So far they’re booked solid. I emailed them to thank them for caring about both their customers and staff, making the effort to do things as safely as possible when making the decision to open back up and wished them all well while hoping no-one gets ill or dies. I immediately received a heart-felt “thank-you” email from their manager in return. Caring about others is never a bad thing.

  5. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    Oh my goodness! My heart breaks for the loss of Matt! Life is so unfair.

    I’m behind you 100% on this. It’s what we used to call common courtesy. And we do need to remember where businesses stand on this issue.

  6. Avatar Denise says:

    I’m so grateful to Shelly for sharing her “Commie Liberal” story.

    What it’s done for me is to mentally rehearse what I could retort with. Today it finally struck me that if someone “came at me” with that very statement, I could very well pee my pants laughing. To quickly break it down, I’d deduce in nanoseconds that I’m certainly not a chicken. I could be a commie. I have tons of liberal beliefs. So what’s so bad here?

    I certainly wasn’t there, nor am I in Shelly’s head to have known what did trigger her indignation and confusion. His tone? Body language?

    We can agree, it was an ignorant, presumptuous thing to say.

    And again, I’m so glad she shared her angst. Lots of things to consider here.

    Weird times and I want to stay kind to ALL. I’m all in to wear a mask, but at least twice, I’ve shown up without one and gone into stores anyway.

  7. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I refuse to rear a mask. I’m not afraid the bug is gonna get me. I’m a non-conformist. I’m for freedom. Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do. I’m not a plandemic-supporting libtard. I’m not part of a flock of sheeple.

    Most of all, none of my buddies are wearing masks. I can’t wear a mask and have ‘em saying I’m a petunia!

    Oooh, me too! I’m a rugged individualist, too!

    • Avatar GeriC says:

      Great, you’re not afraid of the ‘bug’. But at this point you know have to know that you can unintentionally carry the bug to other people. Your individuality in this instance is nothing more than selfishness. Like a toddler stomping his feet at having to wear a jacket when it’s 30 degrees out, or a nine year old trying to define his independence by refusing to wear a seat-belt.

      Being a civil member of society means that we follow rules, yeah, people tell us what to do.
      We have speed limits, laws against drinking and driving, social rules about standing for the National Anthem.

      Being a patriotic rugged individualist means sacrifice for the greater good. This isn’t all about you. It’s about being pulling up your big boy panties and doing what’s right for all.
      Don’t be a selfish snowflake.

  8. Avatar Ed Marek says:

    Friends tell me most businesses in the bay area enforce mandatory mask use.

    Are there any responsible businesses in Shasta County, that do so?

  9. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you Doni and Shelly. I agree with your logical and commonsense perspective about wearing masks during this time. It’s not like we’ve never worn masks before: during the horrible Carr and Delta Fires the blanketed this area with smoke or while visiting friends with compromised imune systems in ICU. Steve made me laugh because I know people who think the way he described. They won’t wear masks and they’ve never owned an umbrella. Those are for sissies. “Most of all, none of my buddies are wearing masks..”

  10. Avatar Barb B. says:

    I just celebrated 25 years with my transplanted kidney. I wear a mask with my glasses fogging up. It baffles me to no end that wearing masks has become so politicized, but I’m assuming it starts from our leadership. Thank you to all of those folks who do wear masks and practice social distancing.

  11. Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

    I’m over 60 with a couple of what the clinicians call co-morbidities. My conditions are under control as validated by the docs, and I’m privileged to still be mobile enough to exercise and move to something resembling fitness after a few years of struggle with it. I’ve noticed that nearly all the mask wearers (a group of which I am a member) who relate being publicly slagged for it are individuals who by gender, age, or size are unlikely to respond in a manner that would call into question the slagger’s safety. I am a large individual still able to defend myself, a former college athlete and boxer. I enjoy what I call “large white man privilege.” If it didn’t unnecessarily expose me and someone in my home with more risk factors than I have to the virus, I’d enjoy patrolling some of these places to challenge the “brave” slaggers who yell at women, etc. When I am out in the mask, no one challenges me. No one says a word. After reading what happened to Ms. Shively, I’m almost regretful I get a pass.

    It won’t surprise you to know my wife isn’t happy with my attitude toward anticipated challenges. Sometimes I can see her point; then I read about incidents such as what happened to Ms. Shively, and I revert to, “You want some o’ this?”

    • I’ve thought about that, too, Rob — these shamers are such cowards. I am pretty darn sure that the elderly gentleman who gave me a hard time for wearing a mask would NEVER have spoken so rudely to my husband. Maybe your presence out there in this rude world will have a mitigating effect.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      I believe it was Steve who said some yo-yo entered his personal space and coughed. I would love to have seen a Rob and a Steve grab him under his arms, drag him to the manager of that store, have the manager call the police, and charge him with assault. Of course, Steve and Rob would be the ones charged. All this uproar and all this ink over masks. As the saying goes, “I’ve stopped asking, ‘How stupid can we get,’ because some take it as a challenge.”

    • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

      Yeah, we have to remember that stating “he needed an ass-whoopin'” may not prevent being charged with assault and battery.

  12. Avatar Viki T says:

    Excellent article Doni.

  13. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    Once again, you have articulated so perfectly what’s happening right now, and you and your twin have made a compelling case for mask-wearing. I hope the non-mask wearers are listening! (I, too, posted this on Twitter and Facebook.)
    A friend posted on Facebook that we don’t have a problem with people being required to wear pants so that when we sit down in a booth or on a chair, we’re not sitting in any of their body fluids. And when we breathe, if we both are wearing masks, we know we’re not breathing in any of their body fluids they may have exhaled in a cough, sneeze or while they spoke.

    I am so angry at those who made this a political issue, because it is almost certain that the death rate of the non-mask wearers will climb. In my opinion, that is criminal. We learned that lesson once in this country during the Spanish Flu. Masks protect us! Unfortunately it seems that some are choosing to learn that lesson again the hard way.

  14. Avatar Eleanor says:

    Dear Doni and Shelly

    Yes, Matt would have worn a mask. Just because it is the right thing to do and he did the right thing. He was one of the best people I ever knew, and the world was a better place when he was in it.

    Could try to tell Shelly she doesn’t have to give a moment of her thought to the dumb punk who called her a ‘chicken-commie-liberal’. What??? This is bizarre behavior in the best of times. I’m thinking he had to have heard the phrase somewhere, but doesn’t know what it means, but this can still feel threatening to a woman alone. With a companion, we’d probably laugh ourselves silly at the inanity, but alone is a different animal.

    But I have a sister with ALS who can barely go onto the street, and certainly not near anyone, and if anyone said that to her, I would have to find him (yup, it’s usually a him, and nope, I don’t have the evidence to prove it but you know it’s true) and hit him as hard as I could right over the head with a cast iron pan.

    Aside from that, I’m a peace-loving, law-abiding person and it’s just too damn bad that we have these ignorant gargoyles among us. I just got myself a nice new mask and I’m going to wear it with pride every single where.

    Great subject, Doni.

  15. I always wear my mask and glasses in public and am appreciative of others who do the same. But I would like to put in a word for people who CAN’T wear masks — like my friend who has breathing issues, or another who has panic attacks. We can look at a person’s face and see a mask or not, but we don’t know the whole story. A little grace, kindness and empathy (like the outpouring of kindness we saw during the Carr Fire) will go a long way.

    • Avatar Hal Johnson says:

      Good points, Erin. I have a friend who is quite conservative, but she wears a mask when she leaves home. She has breathing issues, though, and it’s probably pretty uncomfortable for her. I wear a mask in public, but if I were her, I probably wouldn’t.

    • Avatar Liz Popick says:

      I am one who CAN’T wear a mask for two reasons. A few years a dentist was taking an impression and left me alone in the room with the test of goop in my mouth. My saliva built up and I started choking, I had to kick over the tray if instruments to get their attention. Ever since then I can’t have anything other than my own hand over my mouth without mild sedation. I also have hyper thermosensitivity, I can’t regulate my body temperature. I get overheated easily and stay that way.

  16. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    About the only place I go right now is the grocery store, I wear a mask. I have a hard time breathing through one of those, but I wear it. Each breath steams up my glasses, but I wear it. The minute I am out of the store and in my car, I yank the darn thing off. Some are worse than others, but I wear them. I keep my trips short! Oh, If I am the only one in the aisle, I pull it down to allow my glasses to clear.
    I do not need a lecture on how to wear a mask, I have many, all of them allow my glasses to fog up. I hate that.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      There are a number of recent studies coming to light that should be good news, but has not been widely reported for some reason. The CDC downgraded the threat of catching the virus from surfaces, saying it does not spread easily from contaminated surfaces. Other information is coming out about casual contact. That it is the prolonged contact with an infected person that is the danger, not walking past people in a grocery store. There is not much evidence that walking past an infected person is a great danger. That should be good news…but it doesn’t get much air. My guess is that the goal is to avoid good news to try and damage the president as much as possible. As far as Shasta County…we haven’t had a new case in a month. I’m done worrying about this virus. My concern now is when can I go back to work.

    • Avatar Candace says:

      Karen, I agree, it’s no picnic wearing a mask; they mostly suck. Even more reason for me to thank you for doing so. Thanks!

  17. Avatar Mary Ann McCrary says:

    A mask wearer surrounded by others without masks is only protected from inhaling their droplets by between 30-60%. But, if everyone is wearing a mask the protection is as high as 95%. This is from memory so someone could probably differ with the exact numbers, but this statement is in the factual ball park. Our Chaos President cannot pass up an opportunity to stir conflict in this country. The flaunting of CDC advice took a giant step up when he made it clear he wasn’t going to wear a mask, period. For some people signaling that you are one of the gang, is more important than someone else’s life or even their own life. If there is someplace free of these knuckle-draggers please let me know. I will no longer shop at my favorite grocery store, because they don’t even require 100% of their staff to wear masks.

  18. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    As a guy who tepidly supports opening Shasta County, I feel that the wearing of masks is an important part of phasing out of the lockdown. It seems obvious that the bulk of the evidence out there points to masks as effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

    Lots of folks on the left and the right are well-meaning (believe it or not), but there are too many folks on the right who are mainly motivated by a “f*ck the libs” sentiment, and too many on the left who damn near make a religion out of sanctimony. Why make any effort to build bridges when you can continue to scratch an itch by hurling invective?

    I don’t have a crystal ball. We could skate through through this crisis even if every adult in the county regularly meets with strangers to play Naked Twister. Relaxing the restrictions could also bite us in the ass. While playing Naked Twister.

    One thing I feel near certain about though, is that masks do make a difference. Given how much sway the “screw the libs” conservatives and the First Church of Sanctimony liberals have, though, I doubt enough bridge building will go on to convince more people to give masks a chance.

  19. Avatar Bill Vercammen says:

    “We could skate through this crisis even if every adult in the county regularly meets with strangers to play Naked Twister.”

    Hilarious…
    This creates some really horrifying mental images…some remarkably pleasant ones…
    …and some pretty comical ones. I wonder if playing Naked Twister is how Magrini and Baugh brainstorm their next pandemic-defying immersion into high profile constitutional anarchy?

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