No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.
We’ve all seen signs like this, hanging in the windows or plastered on the doors of various businesses.
They’re common, especially for places where food is sold or served, and for obvious reasons of maintaining a sanitary environment.
And never, even as such signs alert customers to limits being placed upon their freedom to come and go as they please, has anyone made much of it. Indeed, I can’t imagine anyone would deny the right of a business owner to hang such a sign on their door and enforce such a rule about basic body covering, or for a government health department to mandate such a practice in the interest of public hygiene.
No one would see such a sign and then lose their shit on camera, blabbering about liberty and their right to bring their funky toes, uncovered, into a grocery. No one, not even the most prototypical of white boomers habituated to overdosing on entitlement. Not Karen or any of Karen’s other Karens. No one.
No one would see such a sign and then think to themselves that tyranny had descended upon River City. People would respect the sign and the policy, even though it placed a boundary around their behavior, and they would move along quietly, realizing that the next time they tried to enter Costco, maybe it would be good to bring at least some flip-flops along for the ride.
But now, as some businesses require that customers wear masks — as a way to avoid spreading coronavirus — people who would never question the shoes and shirt rules are responding as if forced labor camps were just around the corner.
And this they are doing, even though the logic of masking during a pandemic is literally the same as the logic of wearing shoes — stronger in fact. Both are intended as steps for maintaining sanitary conditions. In the case of wearing a shirt, the logic is actually less concrete than mask-wearing at present — it’s more about modesty than anything else — but still, no one questions the requirement that we do so.
So why the freakout? Why do people who would never question the right of private businesses to enforce rules about wearing shoes and shirts suddenly think such companies are engaged in fascism for merely seeking to protect public health?
Simple. Because their hostility to such a requirement has nothing to do with freedom or liberty or rights. These are not folks who are merely concerned, as many black men are, for instance, that wearing a mask might trigger racist suspicions on the part of white folks. Those concerns are valid and it’s up to white Americans to challenge the racist stereotyping that leads to such mistreatment.
But that’s not who these people are or what they’re worried about. The persons pushing back against masking amid COVID-19 are not freedom fighters. They are sociopaths. They are not imbued with a love of liberty and choice; they are marinated in a diagnosable anti-social personality disorder.
Or, in the case of one woman at a grocery in Dana Point, California last week, suffering from whatever intellectual deficiency makes one believe that the Earth is flat. Yes, seriously, because Orange County’s Shelley Lewis — who appears as a featured speaker at events of the Flat Earth Society — doesn’t accept the science of COVID, but is convinced the planet is shaped like a dinner plate.
For people like this, or the Trump superfan who pulled the same “let me talk to the manager” stunt recently at a Trader Joe’s (and who now is showing symptoms of the virus), defying masking regulations is just a way to own the libs. It’s merely a method for signaling their ideological commitment to MAGA-conservatism.
It’s akin to wearing camo to a demonstration or carrying a rocket launcher to one, as happened recently in North Carolina: performative signaling of one’s dogma; a collective ball-grab in the name of political tribalism.
And please, refusing to mask is not about mere frustration at the effects of long-term lockdowns on the economy or one’s family finances. We can all understand that frustration. My income is down about 85 percent since March, so trust me, I would like to get things back to normal too. But ya know what would most readily make that possible, not just for me but for everyone, including the narcissistic assholes berating supermarket managers about having to wear a mask?
Just wearing a mask.
Seriously, if everyone would wear a mask in crowded public places and private businesses, we could open things up much more quickly and more safely than would otherwise be the case. Masks are probably the easiest thing we could do to make re-opening the economy possible, which is why it’s telling that right-wingers who claim to be concerned about the economy are resisting such requirements in public spaces.
If wearing masks would cut down on potential virus transmission, which would reduce infection, illness, and death, thereby inspiring confidence in the safety of going back to work, going shopping, or going out to eat, why would anyone who cared about the economy oppose doing it?
Answer: they wouldn’t. But these folks don’t give a shit about the economy. It’s not just public health about which they are nonchalant. They don’t care about the economic impacts of lockdowns. They just want to vice-signal (as Noah Berlatsky has referred to it — the opposite of liberal so-called “virtue signaling”) as a way to make a statement. They are more committed to their political pose as a lifestyle brand than the bodily or economic well-being of others. They are more desirous of affecting an image of unfazed bad-assness than doing something that could save lives and make the re-opening quicker and more complete.
It may sound harsh, but it’s not hard to prove.
Ask yourself, which of the two following scenarios do you suspect the anti-lockdown protesters and anti-masking brigades would prefer?
Scenario One: For the next six months, everyone masks in crowded public places such as stores, restaurants, and office buildings. It’s a minor irritant that no one enjoys, but it helps reduce infection, saves lives, and makes more people willing to go out and engage in commerce. This, in turn, puts us on a path to economic recovery, at the cost of just a brief and minimal reduction of maximum personal freedom.
Scenario Two: For the next six months, people are allowed to mask if they want to, or not, in crowded public places, and many — chanting freedom and liberty — choose not to. As a result, there is more infection, more illness, and more death of persons with underlying health issues (but who nonetheless have to do things like getting groceries and who engage with otherwise healthy people who may spread the virus to them). And as a result of a much slower reduction in COVID cases, commercial activity returns more tentatively as many people remain afraid to venture out for much of anything beyond necessities. This, in turn, slows the recovery but maximizes the personal freedom of those opposed to masking (even as it reduces the true freedom of everyone else by forcing them to take greater risks).
Is there any doubt what the Gadsden Flag wavers and MAGA faithful would choose? Of course not. Even though masking is easy, cheap, and would help accomplish the very thing they say they want to achieve — getting people back to work and the economy moving again — they would opt for scenario two. Because they would rather people continue to suffer, both in terms of health and economic well-being, if reducing such suffering might require them to do something the pointy-headed scientists and liberals and anti-Trumpers want them to do. Their tribalism is more important than anything to them and undoubtedly more important than the lives or well being of other people.
What do we call those with such a cavalier attitude about the well-being of others? What is the word for persons who lack a seemingly functional conscience about the consequences of their actions?
These are neither people with whom we might reason nor folks whom progressives should be trying to understand. They are not persons to whom we should reach out in the name of political ecumenism. They are not merely uninformed but well-meaning people who just need better information, which we, of course, will provide, as we lead them to enlightenment.
Nope, screw that.
Sociopaths are people against whom we are obligated to protect ourselves at all costs.
And this is true, whether the sociopath shops at your corner grocery, works in your office, flies next to you on the plane, or resides in the White House.