The Mask as a Symbol of Violence
“What does the cross there signal about our understanding of the past? If Auschwitz has become a sacred center of Jewish identity, what does the cross there imply about the relations between Jews and Christians…? I was seeing the cross in its full and awful truth for the first time.”
-James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword.
The other day my son’s friend was wearing a mask outside, all alone. In my town it’s not unusual to see people wearing masks in the car, walking on the street, and between bites of food. Most stores are proliferated with mask-wearing hoards who continue to wear them in the parking lot and even in their cars. Kids wear masks, babies too, people on their bikes cover their faces with masks but wear no helmets. This is an educated town; most people, like my son’s friend, have advanced degrees. When I expressed indignation upon seeing my son’s friend standing there all alone in his mask, my son told me to simmer down; Let him be, people can make choices, he told me. It’s not that simple, I responded. Masks are symbols, and symbols mean something. It was clear as day that his wearing a mask all alone outside was not an act of a concerned person seeking to do his best to curb COVID’s spread. Rather, he was partaking in a ritual with the mask symbol, one that has tremendous meaning, one that to me is an act of violence against everything I hold dear.
How can a mask be a symbol of violence?
Many decades ago, to show their sympathy for Holocaust victims, some Carmelite nuns put up a cross outside of Auschwitz. To the nuns, the cross was all about their love of Jesus. But to Jews like me, the cross carries a far more perfidious symbolic meaning, one elucidated best by James Carroll—a former priest turned historian—in his brilliant book Constantine’s Sword, as per the quote above. The cross embodies Christian violence against “heathens” throughout its history and a deadly antisemitism that pervaded Christian thought until the modern era. Thus, as a symbol to commemorate the wholesale slaughter of Jews, the cross was as horrific a gesture as there could be, and the Jews wanted the cross taken down, something shocking to the nuns who saw the symbol differently.
In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry figures out that if he doesn’t want his liberal friends to talk to him, he just has to wear a MAGA hat. That symbol, MAGA, is utterly odious to liberals. And yet, the words it represents—Make America Great Again—are not themselves offensive. Everyone wants to make America great! It’s what the letters symbolize that sparks ire. Just like the 1960’s peace sign makes conservatives cringe. To them it’s not a symbol of peace—they support peace as much as anyone—but that symbol represents a dissolution of society’s fabric, selfish rich kids using drugs, anti-American sentiment, utter disrespect for any authority.
To some people I know, the Confederate flag is a symbol of protest against a strong federal government that infringes on their rights, of libertarianism, of personal freedom over autocracy. These people are not racists and certainly don’t see the flag that way, but the flag is a symbol, and it is—whether they want it to be or not—symbolic of racism, and it’s impossible to tease out the “good” of the flag from what it has come to represent. Similarly, the Swastika is an ancient Sanskrit symbol that represented “Good fortune and wellbeing” before being commandeered by the Nazi’s as a symbol of their regime. The twelve years of Nazi leadership effectively erased 7,000 years during which the Swastika meant something good; now it is nothing but a symbol of hate and can’t be anything else.
We have to be cognizant of what symbols mean, and not want we want them to mean. A Swastika, Confederate Flag, MAGA hat, or peace sign have many meanings to many people, but their inherent symbolism derives from what history and society has infused into them, and that is what they now represent, whether people like it or not.
Then, what about the mask? Isn’t it a symbol of science, of safety, of humanitarianism?
No, it’s none of those things. As we’ve discussed in past blogs, there is no science that tells us that a mask will slow COVID deaths or deaths from any other virus; we have two randomized studies and ample historical evidence to trump the faulty correlation studies that COVID-priests manufacture to fool people. We have reality too, such as the fact that states without mask mandates do as well or better than states with mandates, that Sweden (which discourages mask use) has the lowest overall excess death rate in the world and far lower COVID death rate that most masked nations such as ours, that the 300,000+ people who died in long term care all were infected in sites with the most rigidly enforced mask mandates in the world.
Thus, a mask is not a symbol of science, since science hasn’t demonstrated any value to masks, and since many who seek scientific scrutiny of masks in schools and nursing homes and pretty much everywhere they are mandated—especially with new mandates flying out of state houses—have been labeled as being anti-science. Masks symbolize a faux science, an anti-science in fact, that asks no questions, that demands no rigor, that functions in a land of mythical acquiescence where “experts” like Dr. Fauci and his academic flunkies insistent on blind obedience to what they label as science, and that discredits any who seek to approach problems through the lens of scientific study and discourse. Einstein and any decent scientist would cringe at what the mask symbol represents. By being so religiously adherent to the mask myth, those who insist on wearing them manufacture a faith-based binary that pits “scientific” mask-wearers against “dangerous” mask-deniers, taking us back to the days of patent medicine salesmen and charlatans posing as scientists, to eugenicists and craniologists. Masks are the very antithesis of science, and those who wear them are swearing their allegiance to a science’s desecration.
And let’s face it, if you wear a mask outside, in a car, all alone, on a bike, between sips, playing the flute (as I witnessed recently) you’re just going through the motions; even people without a full understanding of current research can’t think that mask use in those circumstances can slow COVID or protect you from it. If you mask your kids, knowing that only 300 kids have died of COVID (out of 90 million) and that masks cause physical and psychological damage, you have to know (if you have an ounce of common sense and compassion) that you are being compliant but not smart. So, all these people wearing masks, they may think in some bizarre spot deep in their brains that they’re being safe and helping to save the world, but so too do people wearing MAGA hats or hanging the Confederate Flag. The point is, what they’re doing is pledging allegiance to what those symbols represent, and not to any manufactured good that their conscience may conjure up.
So, by wearing a mask, people are making a statement. The symbol of masking means:
· That you are willing to dismiss evidence and listen to whatever your “experts” say, demanding no proof from them even as you demean any scientist who seeks proof. That you dismiss the fact that people masked have died in large numbers (especially in long term care) because you refuse to accept reality when it gets in the way of mask dogma, a dogma you have labeled as unassailable science. That your version of science neglects the need for research, rigorous study of real-life outcomes, discourse between people, and varying opinions and relies instead on gospel. That you are saying loud and clear that science is all about a singular truth that can never be questioned or studied, and by zealously adhering to that myth you’re taking us back to Middle Age sorcery and dogmatism and calling it science, stifling anyone who seeks to really know the truth. The mask is a violent assault on science.
· That you believe in censorship, supporting the threat to my medical license by the State Board of Physicians when I stated a fact that all my patients in long term care were infected by COVID through a mask. I believe that I have a right to express facts and opinions, but as a wearer of the mask you have taken sides against such freedom, you’ve subscribed to a doctrine declaring that we must follow ritual and that anyone who chooses to question that ritual must be ostracized, censored, and condemned. Although you may not believe in censorship, the very symbol of the mask endorses the silencing of any who dispute the mask’s value and the value of the entire Faucist agenda, and thus are mask wearers affirming such censorship as they condemn states and people who question the mask. You can’t say you like the Confederate flag just for states rights; it doesn’t work that way. And you can’t say you wear a mask for safety when it represents censorship and intimidation as well. It is violence against freedom.
· That you’re willing to write off the hundreds of thousands of deaths that occurred in this nation because we relied on masks instead of finding better ways to stop the virus. True scientists and humanitarians would see how many people have died despite mask mandates and they’d be furious. They’d be furious for having been deceived by our nation’s doctors and scientists and politicians into believing a myth whose implementation prevented more effective measures from being put in place, they’d be furious for sticking to a policy that clearly doesn’t work but lulls people into a false sense of security. Those who don the symbol of the mask are guilty of helping perpetrate hundreds of thousands of deaths by their unwavering compliance to ritual over science, dogma over reality, snake-oil salesmen over scientists. They are among Fauci’s Willing Executioners, enabling a policy that slaughtered people through both its ineffectiveness and its proclivity to cause harm. The symbol of the mask is one that accepts death as a reasonable price to pay for the blind adherence to ritual. It is deadly and violent.
· That you value living in a society in which everyone is distanced, and their faces are covered, where human contact and compassion must be expunged for public safety, where humanity itself evaporates in a cloud of never-ending fear. You believe that we are no more than bare life, our very souls having been stripped from us for the illusion that if we avoid humans, avoid fun, avoid travel, avoid gatherings, and keep our faces covered, then we will stay alive. You believe this despite the horrendous death toll from COVID and from the quarantine, and despite the fact that Sweden’s death toll was lower than anywhere else and they did not do the things that the mask represents, that a mask is necessary and lifesaving. The symbol of the mask represents your compliance to a cold and bare existence, it opens us up to a world of hidden faces and incessant fear, of restrictions and limitations to our lives every time someone gets on TV to scare us, to an acceptance that fun and family and friends are luxuries that we can no longer afford. The mask is a violent assault on life that is worth living.
· That you dismiss out of hand any harmful impact of masks on our most vulnerable citizens: kids and elders. That masking kids for hours every day as a price for entering society, despite clear and mounting evidence of no benefit and tremendous physicial and psychological harm, is a necessary and righteous act. That isolating and scaring elders, depriving them of the very essence of life that is most necessary to them, covering their faces and those of their loved ones, even as their deaths continue to mount from both the virus and the isolation, is necessity and must never be questioned. The mask represents an unwillingness to see the downside of what we are doing, even as it stares us harshly in the face, and to discredit any who dare say otherwise. The mask is a violent blindness to its feckless assault on life.
· That you believe in a democracy in which the inalienable rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution are expendable, that we in fact have no rights when there is a virus in our midst, that freedoms of speech and assembly and worship are more flimsy than the masks that have replaced them as our one and only right and obligation, that executives can do whatever they want during this never-ending state of exception and that we have no right to question them. Many who wear masks call themselves pro-choice but deprive anyone of any choice that does not adhere to the symbol of the mask and all that it represents. Many who wear masks declare that the Capital raid on January 6th was the greatest threat to democracy in our lifetimes, even as they support executive power that has shredded our rights as citizens. The symbol of the mask is antithetical to democracy and freedom; it represents submission to a bio-state that promises to save us from a threat only if we relinquish our rights and democracy. The mask symbol seeks to save life by taking it away. Such historical violence never ends well.
If you wear a mask zealously and with a sense of humanitarian and scientific enthusiasm, if you denounce any who don’t, then you are an adherent to the symbol of the mask. You can’t pretend that you believe in some of the mask symbol and not other parts, you can’t claim that wearing it is for a benefit that no one has proven exists. You can’t state that you are not in favor of censorship and pseudo-science and dogma and myth and the diminution of our democratic rights. You can’t look at all the deaths that we could have avoided if we adapted policies more effective and less lethal than the mask and simply write them off as someone else’s mistake, because once you wear the mask, once you accept its symbolism, then you are responsible for all of that. Just like you can’t hang a Confederate flag and say you’re not a racist, so too can you wear a mask and say that you are not endorsing the entire Faucist agenda that has so damaged our nation and its people. You are engaging in an act of violence against science, democracy, and decency. That is what the symbol of the mask means.
I wear a mask at work because I have to, even though I know that all of my patients who contracted COVID did so through a mask and so many others suffer and die from the isolation that our mask-based “cure” has instigated, even though masks give me panic attacks and have caused me to have asthma, even though my patients feel distant from me and often can’t even understand me because of the physical barrier I have placed between me and them. It is criminal to force me to wear a mask and yet I have to make a choice between that or losing my job. My license went in front of the State Board just for stating that patients get infected through a mask; imagine what would happen if I didn’t wear one! So I get it, sometimes you have to wear it, but I am furious every time I do! And I blame this horrid compulsion and all of its vile ramifications on the very zealots who wear the mask enthusiastically, like my son’s friend on an empty street, those who believe in the symbol of the mask.
When you wear a mask voluntarily and aren't outraged by what it represents, when you believe the mythical dogmatic symbolism sewed into the mask's fabric, then you are engaging in an act of violence. You are, in fact, the greatest threat to science, humanity, and democracy that our nation has seen since the days of McCarthy, of slavery, of the Japanese internment.
The picture above is real, taken at a nursing home. Workers there who aren’t immunized must wear a different mask color than those who are immunized. The unimmunized become THE OTHER, given a scarlet letter, pushed to the periphery of society by the symbolic mask. The mask symbol has divided society in so many ways, creating a false binary that pits “science” against “anti-science,” adherence to dogma and ritual against those who seek to destroy our nation. But sadly, the disciples of the mask symbol have that binary backwards, because even as they label all who question the mask as THE OTHER, they are the very ones who have so damaged our society and become themselves the other, the virus that threatens our entire world. And as such, the mask means something. It is not a device to stop infection. It is a symbol of all those things that have so poisoned science and society. It is a symbol of violence, no less pernicious than the Swastika or Confederate Flag. Mask wearers can believe what they want, just as people who hang a Confederate flag believe they aren’t racist. But in the end, masking is an act of pure violence against everything that is good in the world, and their symbolic attachment to the mask makes them complicit in a perfidious charade instigated by those who have an agenda that has nothing to do with science, humanity, or democracy.
As Dr. Eli David just stated:
“COVID is a deadly pandemic. It killed science, logic, evidence-based medicine, and common sense.” Yes, that is the mask symbol’s legacy. An act of violence that must be stopped.