It’s pretty clear that large swaths of the Los Angeles population — diverse in age, gender, class and ethnicity — have rejected wearing masks in proximity with others for reasons that have nothing to do with politics. 

I’m not a sociologist, scientist or pollster, but I just have trouble believing that the high percentage of people in this town I’ve observed going without them, even as they cross well within range of other humans, are all doing so out of allegience to party or a party leader. There is something much more basic at play.  

They say you can’t fight City Hall, but you also can’t fight the people who behave as they want in the face of so much reason to behave differently in a civil society. 

What is evident is that the non-wearers have decided they simply don’t need masks for their own safety, much less the safety of others. Depending on the given situation, at times they might be right. 

But here’s the thing. 

  • Whether you believe you need a mask in a certain moment or not, the case and death numbers are still awful.
  • Without a massive improvement in those numbers, our way of life is not going to get back to normal. 
  • In the absence of a vaccine, there is no better force for changing our current reality when you are outside your own home than a mask.  

After all, what are you hoping to accomplish by not wearing a mask while among other people? You might be wishing to savor the air, you might be wishing to express your personal freedom, but the reality is that you and your group are exacerbating the clampdown on that freedom by facilitating the continued livelihood of the virus. It’s Covid-19’s freedom you’re really parading for. 

Like it or not, our lives won’t recover until those case and death numbers go down — a lot. So why not do your part? It’s not even that you’re being told to stay inside 24/7 right now. It’s just that when you are out and about among your fellow citizens, show a bit of responsibility.  

If you’re like me, you break the speed limit from time to time while driving. But you know, it’s nice not to do it when it means you’re going to hit the car right in front of you.  

I don’t confront those who don’t wear a mask in person. Not even when they are standing in a crowd of people. Not even when they are walking or running or cycling or skateboarding right past me without veering in the slightest, when they easily can. (Yes, the outdoors are safer, but not quite so much when you’re breathing directly at me.)  In the end, what choice to I have but to respect their decision or start a battle I surely won’t win?

Then there are the folks who have the mask on but dropped down around their chin, leaving their face exposed even as they pass within inches of others. I don’t know what to think of those people. 

But you know what the funny thing is about those mask-free people who don’t make an effort to sidestep me at all? They are confronting me. They are challenging me. They are daring me to say something. Without even a word, they are disrespecting me. It’s one thing for them to decide, right or wrong, that they’re immune. It’s quite another for them to spit on my concerns about my health. It’s quite another for them to be blind to how they embolden others into ignoring the collective effort required to make schools and businesses safer at last.

You want me to respect your decision not to wear a mask? The least you could do — the very, very least — is to see me or my family in our masks and respect our belief that protection against this airborne virus matters. To make some kind of move, some kind of simple gesture, to create some distance between us.   

The sheer arrogance of doing otherwise never fails to shock and depress me.