“It’s just a mask.”
So often, the big issues we face as a country become an “us vs. them” debate… literally a “black or white” argument, even when race isn’t the topic of choice. It has become increasingly difficult to go through the day without hearing someone talking about wearing or not wearing masks.
Why is this such a big issue? It’s so simple. Why won’t people just wear a mask?
The Story Not Told
Sitting in the courtyard of Mission San Juan Capistrano in the mist of the morning fog, a young docent looked at the group of homeschool students sitting on the ground in front of him. He checked around him, leaned in, and shared “a secret.” He taught what I believe may be one of most important history lessons one can ever learn.
In a hushed tone, he said, “I’m going to share with you the story that we’re taught to tell about this mission. But I want you to pay attention to the story NOT being told… because it’s often the story that matters most.”
Is there an untold story about masks? If the story told is to wear a mask, the untold story must be those who choose to not wear them. They are vilified on social media, harassed in stores, and receive death threats for their opinion. Why would someone endure that when we’re told the science on masks is clear?
What They Aren’t Telling You
To discover the story not told, I sat down with Melissa Floyd, a local mom, activist, and co-host of “The Vaccine Conversation” podcast alongside Dr. Bob Sears. Her passion to tackle and present the “unpopular opinion” on hot topics has led to the recent creation of a second podcast called “What They Aren’t Telling You.” She is the epitome of telling the untold stories, bringing attention to information and viewpoints you might not be seeing in mainstream media. Relying on research, data, experts, and more, it’s not simply a one-woman show about her solitary opinion. As she prepared to release an episode (or two) about masks, she seemed to be a great person to ask.
Masks are “scientifically proven” to have at least some benefit, so why not wear it? It’s “just” a mask. What’s wrong with mandates?
“It’s not that you can’t find science that says there’s a potential benefit,” she began. “It’s the fact that you can find science that says there isn’t… The fact that you can find science on [both sides] is enough to argue why there should not be mandates.”
In March, as panic over the virus grew, Dr. Fauci said that masks do not provide the protection people think, may have unintended consequences, and “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” By June, with masks now recommended (and often mandated) in public, he acknowledged his original recommendation was based not on mask efficacy, but the intention to slow the purchase of masks by the general public to preserve the limited supply for healthcare workers.
We hear policy is based on “the science,” and yet we see conflicting policies over time or even between cities/states. Have these inconsistencies created doubt in what policy-makers tell us? Melissa asks, “How do you trust the opinion of these experts when they can’t even be consistent with their findings?”
A better question may be this: how do you trust the opinion of these experts when they’ve admitted to giving false information to meet an agenda? This may be an “unpopular opinion,” but I believe that Dr. Fauci’s intention to reserve masks for health-care workers was good. We saw the run on toilet paper. But, how to we process the fact that he acknowledged giving incorrect information to meet a specific agenda?
The Case for Masks… or Not
With passionate friends on both sides of this debate, I asked a simple question: Do you wear a mask… why or why not? I received 70 responses, almost evenly split.
Here’s what was said. I wear a mask because… to protect the vulnerable, it’s the right thing to do, it’s selfish to not, it’s worth it if it saves just one person, it’s only a minor inconvenience, and to stop the spread.
Several responses sounded like what we hear on TV / radio, read on billboards, etc. They were emotional. They didn’t mention basing decisions on their own research. Knowing the power of TV and social media messaging on subconscious beliefs, I asked Melissa what she thought. She referred to it as “talking in sound bites.”
People are parroting these phrases, often not realizing it’s not their original thought. It’s the “genius marketing of this whole thing” (acknowledging this is a very real virus). The “heavy tone of fear” at the start resulted in people “throwing rational thinking out the window and pleading to policy makers to get us out of this.”
“Mask wearers have created a story that non-mask wearers are freedom-loving constitutionalists pushing back simply because they’re being told what to do,” she said. And while some do believe that, it’s not true of everyone and definitely not true of her.
They say things like “if you [non-mask-wearers] just did this one simple thing, we could get back to normal, but you’re so hellbent on clinging your freedoms that you can’t just do this for the rest of us.” The dominant message is that wearing a mask is “right, safe, and loving.” This automatically makes not wearing a mask “wrong, unsafe, and selfish.” It’s not only created a divide, but animosity that has gone as far as death threats to those not following “the rules.”
Is it only about not following rules or being selfish? Are there other reasons people choose to not wear masks? Are any of those reasons valid? Why is so much of the argument for wearing masks reliant on feeling safe vs. actually being safe?
Melissa’s hypothesis: “When people feel they have no control over a circumstance, they feel the need to do something.” Wearing a mask feels like a way to be unified in a seemingly simple action step, useful or not, in a time of so much uncertainty and continual change. Those not wearing masks shake the foundation of that unity and add to the fear.
Why aren’t they wearing masks? Here’s what people said…
I don’t wear a mask because… it’s not scientifically proven to stop virus transmission, it’s not about science if people don’t use them correctly or a paper towel is acceptable, physical symptoms (anxiety, claustrophobia, dizziness, asthma flares, nausea, headaches), disabilities (autism, sensory processing disorders), taking personal responsibility for my own heath and boosting immunity to protect others, research backed by doctors, and no proven science for asymptomatic spread.
After months of research and interviews with doctors/scientific experts, Melissa states, “I’m not as much the freedom-loving-rights person. I’m more of a this-doesn’t-make-scientific-sense person. There’s nothing here that tells me it’s going to make a difference.”
The “Ever-Changing Story” of Covid
You’ve heard it. “Stop the spread” or “Beat Covid.” (What happened to “flatten the curve”?) Can we really “stop” this virus? Based on her research, talking with top scientists and doctors, including her recent podcast with Minnesota State Senator Dr. Scott Jensen on the topic of masks (part 1, part 2), the simple answer is “no.”
“[It] will never be possible. We can’t stop a virus. We can’t beat a virus… They’re lying to people by making them feel like [wearing a mask] can stop it,” she says, making many mask-wearers “hateful to anyone not doing that.”
“But the virus is here. It spread through enough of the population that it is not going anywhere until it has infected enough people. That’s basic immunology and epidemiology.” Adding, “We need to be able to have that discussion as a society – how viruses work and how we need to deal with a virus.”
What’s the end game? How do we know our goal is achieved? What is the goal? Why do they keep moving the goal posts?
2 weeks to prevent overloading hospitals. A few more weeks to slow the spread. A few more months to stop the virus…
“It’s like the argument isn’t really thought through,” Melissa said. “There’s no end date. There’s no real exit strategy. Nothing that gets us back to life. I think people who wear masks think [Covid] is just going to go away if enough people wear masks.” Data says we’ve passed that point. Some suggest we passed that point before we ever shut down in the first place.
But It’s “Just” a Mask
Does it matter if it really works? It’s “just a mask.” Science can be argued for and against masks. Because studies show at least some potential benefit, the choice to wear a mask is valid. Masks make people feel safer, which may also provide a placebo effect that supports wearing masks.
But it’s not “just a mask” to everyone. Some believe history may be setting up to repeat itself. They believe we may be being primed for further restriction and/or interventions and that this step is to train compliance. It may sound far-fetched. But some have already experienced this. It wouldn’t be the first time part of the American population was singled out or rounded up to make the rest of the population “feel safe.”
Is that a valid concern? She’s unsure. Looking at how much control the government has had and all they’ve done without a solid basis for the intervention and how “they teach the public to criticize the naysayers so nobody else questions… that’s a bad pattern to set,” she stated.
“If you’re going to comply, there needs to be a reason. It can’t just be because you care about somebody. It can’t just be because everybody else is doing it. And if there’s an evidence-based reason, then it’s not about compliance… it’s the right option.”
With evidence supporting both sides, wouldn’t it be easier to just wear a mask?
“I would 100% do something to protect other people… if there was evidence behind it,” she stated. “It’s hard on the psyche to be in the minority opinion. It’s easier to say the bullet points. We have the economic strife, the physical weakness, and now the mental and emotional stress of being outcast for having a different opinion. I’m open to somebody showing me a body of evidence that proves all of these other studies are wrong. I have no problem changing my argument.”
“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Maybe more than ever, we, as a country, are at this point. Divided on so many different issues, pointing fingers, accusations, and worse. People “unfriending” friends and family. Hateful and spiteful words and actions targeted at anyone “different” be it gender, race, political party, sexual orientation, etc. Death threats for having an opposing viewpoint.
Both sides of the debate want the same thing: to be healthy and to feel safe. They differ in how they believe we attain that. But that can change.
Forces may continue to push us to divide, but we have the power to say this stops with us. We have the ability to say I stand for and with you, let’s stop the hate and come together to figure out how to get the outcome we all desire… the “end” of this virus, of living in fear, of being restricted… and let’s do it in a way that keeps us as safe as possible.
It starts with you. And it starts with me. The first step is to stop the shaming, the blaming, the name-calling, and the hate. Then seek to stand in another’s world for a moment. Experience their hopes, their fears, their experiences… how they can have such different beliefs from yours. It’s in this space we realize we aren’t so different.
Fear, anger, hatred… these emotions lower our energetic vibration and leave us susceptible to dis-ease in the body in a time we need our immunity boosted most. Shift to empathy, compassion, and love.
And when you don’t understand how someone could think so differently from you, take this not-always-easy and simple step… just ask.