The ‘Subversiveness’ of Not Wearing Face Masks

Every time I am leaving the house, I cannot believe that there are still people refusing to wear face masks. I see people on public transport that do not wear masks or do not wear them properly, covering mouth and nose—including the person disinfecting the handrails, handholds, and grab handles. I see people in shopping centers that do not wear face masks, security guards passing them—sometimes wearing a mask, sometimes not—without saying anything. I see people in supermarkets that do not wear them, three employees staring at them without saying anything.

It’s impossible that people not wearing masks don’t know how dangerous they might be. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind so much if face masks would protect just our own lives. Every adult is free to take the dangers they decide to take. (I’m stupid enough that I don’t wear a helmet on my bicycle—but I don’t endanger anyone else by not wearing it.) But face masks are not about our own lives.

I keep asking myself why people don’t wear masks. I read a lot that people—apparently mostly men—are too vain to wear them. I get being vain, but how can someone be too vain to protect the lives of the people around them?

But I don’t believe that all of them are too vain—or are they? Some people act in ways as if not wearing a mask is the ‘cool decision.’ I wonder whether people think they are particularly subversive when they don’t wear masks. After all, the government cannot tell us what to do—right?

This behavior makes me so mad. By now, we have learned that the virus spreads quickly, that infected people might be asymptomatic. How can anyone live with potentially infecting others? With potentially killing others?

I understand that there are reasons some people cannot wear a mask. I read a lot that Black people are afraid to wear masks—particularly anything that doesn’t look like a surgical mask—because racist people assume they are criminals and might shoot them. They are afraid to get killed when they try to protect others. And this is a reason for not wearing masks that I can accept. No one should have to worry about their own lives when trying to protect others.

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