Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
I am not a doctor. I am not a plumber, either, but I can tell you a great deal about it, and even do my own repairs as a homeowner. I am not a scientist, either. However, I do know that if you mix hydrochloric acid with chlorine you will create a possibly lethal aerosol. I am not a lawyer, but studying the structure of Torah as one that meditates on Moses, I do know that there exists no society without rights and wrongs (I like reading case laws). No, I am not an epidemiologist, never had the flu in my life (or a flu vaccine), typically avoid hospitals and question the value of “modern” medicine that may provide an option for me to “live” a few more years while urinating on myself in a chair at a some “home” for elderly care waiting for my next really bad cafeteria “dinner” to arrive. No thanks. That’s my prerogative, yes. The right to die normally.
So, the mask thing. It’s become clear to me – and that is not saying much since I operate my faculties based on observations, inductive logic, hearsay, and what not – that the “mask” has, for some, become a symbol of sorts. I even find some bloggers saying this. Words like “conformity” and “herding” spring up. “If you care, you will wear a mask.” Well, I do care, but I also hate seat belts. And helmets.
Before I make any point, I’d like to first continue with the bad analogies. For example, the other day I heard that I “comply” with the dress code and wear a shirt in a restaurant. Well, yes. I am convinced that no one eating Lobster Bisque wants to see gray chest hairs and pits if I happen to stretch. It’s a manner I happen to agree with. Does eating food require a shirt? Nope. Not when I am at home it doesn’t. Doesn’t even require pants. I don’t have to eat out at a restaurant, and my ever faithful companion, buddy, soul-mate and wife knows that I actually prefer not to. One never knows what’s in that food, or whether the plate was washed properly. Why did I leave home feeling fine to dine out, while only hours later have a bout on the porcelain throne that would put Mike Tyson to shame? Was it something I ate? Restaurants are unhealthy.
“The Government makes you wear seat belts!” Yes, they do. Well, no, not really. I choose to, at times, to wear one. And, yes, you can get a ticket. It is, after all, the law. But, again, I don’t have to drive a car. My brother does not drive a car, or even own one. You can get around without a car, and I never saw a seat belt required in a taxi cab or a bus. There is an old saying about “apples and oranges” and comparing them as the same. Apples are of the genus Malus, whereas oranges are in the Rutaceae family. Both are fruits. Shirts, seat belts (apples), are not masks (oranges). At this point the reader may stop and consult Introduction to Logic (Tenth Edition) by Copi and Cohen, chapter 13 on Analogies.
The mask. Good movie when Jim Carey was still funny. And maybe there is an analogy there. When Jim’s character, Stanley Ipkiss, puts on a supernaturally powered mask, he becomes more confident, bold and assertive. All of the sudden he is the expert in the room, and everyone wants to be him. So, I am not a doctor, but when did all these other folks become one? Or, at least, become so absolutely informed about all things, masks? Six months ago these same people that never heard of what a corona virus is (like myself), are now walking around spouting statistics and data that would cause one to think they are preparing to give a lecture at the Imperial College London. And, hey, I am no better, because I can quote statistics, too. They just don’t happen to agree with the other nine “opinions” out there. Now, I can call myself a philosopher. Earned a degree in Theology, which basically means you are devouring Western Philosophy. And, I have been called a philosopher by my peers. I may not be a good philosopher, but I have no issues calling myself one. Anyone that can say after reading, Queer Renaissance Historiography: Backward Glance (Ashgate, 2009), that their minds were expanded is a philosopher. And, here is precisely where we have not had the conversation. At least I have not seen it.
America is a wonderful cauldron of ideas which are sourced from our greatest strength as a nation: diversity. If I were to “believe” in the mask theory (yes, theory), I should have to use inductive reasoning, and a methodology rooted in the philosophy of Empiricism (again, see Copi and Cohen). I won’t define Empiricism for you, but will let a wonderful Atheist do it for me: “The only evidence allowed is either evidence that is provided by direct experience or an argument based on inferences from experience” (Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity, John W. Loftus, Prometheus, 2008, p. 47). Loftus is using William Clifford’s definition. Clifford’s famous argument against the idea of the existence of God, claiming to literally disprove such existence, is what is called , “hard rationalism.” Of course, Alvin Plantinga met his argument by pointing out that we “believe” without any “evidence” that the past really happened (no one can observe yesterday, and never has. Yesterday is the stuff of memories, and I never “saw” a memory before in my life, not to mention any memory you claim). What were we talking about? Oh, masks.
Masks saves lives. Right? Well, maybe. One is required to have “evidence” for this claim. And, there is some “evidence” that may show that such a claim is indeed reliable (I stress the word “may” because the argument is inductive). However, there are studies by men and women that wear white coats for a living while they strain their eyes looking through microscopes that claim otherwise. I won’t bore you with the links. Find them yourselves.
But, then we are introduced to another claim on top of the “masks saves lives” claim: your sources are not reliable, not real science. But, this enters into a discussion of what real “science” is. My point is not to get into whether or not Percy Bridgman (Nobel Prize winner, 1946, in Physics, brilliant man, but shot himself after he contracted metastatic cancer) is correct on his analysis of scientific methodology (read, The Logic of Modern Physics if you ever get the chance – well worth it). We could also dispense with philosophical thinking and go the way of William James and what is called, pragmatism. But, I can’t. In reading John W. Loftus, mentioned above, he keeps using the idea of an argument being “compelling” – inducing consent beyond a reasonable doubt – or another way of saying that, “Yeah! That sounds good to me!” That is, even though there are operational considerations that are unobservable when I turn a key, and by doing so assume the engine will combust with gas provided by a spark which comes from an electrical current (I am following Bridgman here), I don’t have any doubt that by turning the key the car will, in fact, start. Of course, I don’t know for sure it will (some times it doesn’t) because I have not observed the future. But, when I turn that key, I do so on the basis of believing based on past observations (assuming my memory is good). “God, please, let my car start. Please. Come on, baby, crank up!” We have all uttered that prayer. In short, I don’t know if a mask saved anyone’s life. It may have. There appears to be evidence for it. However, to turn this into a slogan, “I guess you are happy killing someone since you don’t want to wear a mask” is not logically inferred, or necessarily derived. It’s propaganda. Sloganeering.
SARS-CoV-2 (corona virus 19) is a real virus. We know the Province in China from which is originated: Wuhan. There is very strong evidence that it came from a lab in Wuhan. There is equally very compelling evidence that the Communist Party of China (the powers that be in China, over China) knew of its “human to human” transmission, and yet still allowed international flights from China to continue unabated. We actually should be talking about this, too (and many national leaders around the world are). It is a virus. What we don’t know is how it was “discovered” or how it “jumped” from horseshoe bats to humans (if that’s what happened). I want to say a word here on conspiracy theories. Just because I am not mentally induced by the “evidence” that wearing a mask is A) going to keep me safe, or B) not going to kill you, does not mean I think that corona virus is a “hoax.” This is another charge the Mask Brigade is launching: “You must one them there Trump supporters. I bet you think this is all one big, ole conspiracy from the Marxist Democrats that want to take your guns, your religion, and your right to have your own opinion, don’t cha?” No. I don’t. And, yeah, I make no bones that I like the absolute wrecking ball of a job that President Trump has done; chaos at its best. Like a monkey wrench thrown into the cogs of the Big Fat Cat Back Slappers Machine called Washington D.C., I am enjoying watching the gear teeth fling off. You think Black Lives Matter wants to see the “system” fall. I do, too! The only difference is, is that Black Lives Matter wants a bigger machine. I don’t. Where many of us stand today – if we are to have a theoretical vision of how things “ought” to be (the stuff not of ‘science’, but ‘philosophy’) – is captured by Afro-American sociologist Vincent Harding. Harding, writing about the aftermath of the Watts Riot, noted two worldviews that captured Black youth: Marxism and the Nation of Islam. The problem with Marxism was that “many persons were engaged in profound spiritual searching and were asking new questions about the unity of all existence.” Marxism was solely a materialist worldview. However, the Nation of Islam offered a purely Black religion, a spiritual outlet. Harding notes what came to be understood as the Nation’s compromise with White culture, but it was still religion in general, a search for a spiritual connection in the world (quite apart from the atheist ideology of Marxism), “a search for new grounds of hope…between spirituality and struggle…between religion and radical social concern” that cannot be let go of (quotes from Vernon Harding, The Other American Revolution, Afro-American Culture and Society Monograph Series, CAAS, 1982, pp. 219-224). How does one go about wanting society to conform to universal norms, when diversity of norms (“freedom” as opposed to “slavery”, either of human beings or ideas) is required within a non-homogeneous culture to make a case for the idea that “everyone must conform” to? Diversity of thought is what gave one the freedom to promote an idea that seeks, ultimately, to make everyone the same! True irony.
Conspiracy theories abound. White Systemic Western Linear Thinking Nuclear Family is the “reason” that so many are disenfranchised. I don’t do conspiracy theories. I think, in fact, I am compelled beyond doubt that we landed on the moon, the earth is round, Oswald singlehandedly shot President Kennedy, and Dick Cheney didn’t have a thing to do with 9-11. I do believe in what I have read concerning Communism, however, and I can read the Chinese Communist Constitution. You can, too. It tells you what their goal is. They are not seeking to overtake the world by guns, bombs and missiles, but by intellect, subversion of culture, political espionage, and control of wealth through dominating means of production; creating a dependence on “made in China” for virtually every viable, necessary commodity. Thus, I do not buy the idea that corona-virus is a “hoax”, or that it is some super elitist “plan” to bring about “conformity” so that the Liberals and Democrats can dance their way into power. I also don’t do group think, either.
Car crash deaths account for being the eighth ranked cause of death in the world. Cars are dangerous things. Every time you drive a car you are playing a statistical chance that you may kill someone. That’s a fact. If you cared, you wouldn’t drive. You might kill someone. Now, am I comparing apples and oranges? Well, we do have greater evidence for smashed cars=equals smashed bodies. We are not dealing with the likelihood of whether a virus entity which measures the size of .05 and .2 microns (a micron is one millionth part of a meter) that I may or may not have, or may or may not have gotten on me and then, somehow, got on you because I shook your hand and then killed you. How could that ever be proven? Second, N95 masks, called that because they “may” capture 95% of such small critters, leaves a 5% chance. And, that’s all the chance this bug needs. If you have a beard, that chance increases (the mask can’t properly seal around facial hair). Shave your beard, save a life. Ok, so here’s a link to the WHO advice on N95 masks. I work in a hardware store. There is no way possible to apply what is “recommended” here at all times with every customer (I have worked all throughout this pandemic, dealing with hundreds of customer on average throughout a week period). I do not wear a mask. There have been 16 total deaths in my County. I wonder if I was responsible for one of them? I wonder if any of these poor souls wore masks? I mean, there are several “ways” to get it. Is it Covid that killed them, or was it Covid on top of an already malfunctioning or compromised health issue(s)? It seems to me that if one was really, really, really serious about not having guilt over possibly (but never knowing) killing someone, then they would stay at home, period. There are several risks involved when you go outside your house. And, don’t let anyone in, either. You never know. “But, Sam, now you are being unrealistic”.
I like the more recent surge of Christian ministers and church goers getting in on the “If you love your neighbor and obey Jesus, you’d wear a mask” bus. Hogwash. For all the reasons above. It is an interesting twist, though. Here, “saving lives” by “wearing masks” by Christians who would not dare confront or attempt to evangelize their “neighbor” (thus, truly ‘saving’ their lives eternally) for any other reason is, for me, kind of funny. You can’t wear that cross necklace to work – you might offend someone; here’s a mask instead. Wear it!
Alright, enough rambling. I wrote this piece in about an hour between coffee and smoke breaks (yes, I smoke the dreaded tobacco leaf, not to mention gulping large quantities of the coffea bean – trying to quit to no avail -perhaps save a life and pray that I quit). Is that a gasp I hear from the Christian community? Keep it down, please. Have some chocolate, put your mask back on. Cigarettes killed my friends grandmother. She was 96. One of my favorite Theologians smoked, R.C.Sproul (he eventually quit, but it explains for his raspy voice). He’s no longer with us. Have I explained why I am not compelled by reason not to wear a mask? It’s not a hoax. It’s got nothing to do with politics. I could give one breath’s thought as to what you want to do. Get a tattoo, color your hair purple, fill a bowl of CBD hemp and have fun. See, you have to explain to me why I must wear a mask; how all that is holy and good depends on whether or not I wear one. You must define why I am an uncaring, selfish command of God breaking human being for not donning a synthetic polymer made of non-woven polypropylene material (thank you, Wikipedia) while at the same time you should be squirting me with a water pistol snuffing out my fag. Water pistols save lives. At least I don’t drink alcohol (want to know how many deaths worldwide are related to that?). The mask is not a “statement” by me. It is not “I am a Non-Conformist!” I am not trying “prove” anyone wrong (there is nothing, as far as I am concerned, to prove). I am not out to make the Mask Brigade look stupid. You have your reasons, I have mine. I am not convinced of yours (and I obviously read), and you are not convinced of mine. So, who gets to “force” who in this battle? See, for me, this is not a battle (it is for some folks, true, but I am not one of them). For me, it’s just me. Maybe at some point, when I have to step around the bodies because the “numbers” are reaching into the tens of millions (you know, like a good, old fashioned plague), I might don a HAZMAT suit with oxygen ventilator and all (like we see in China). I am not callous to the deaths of those that have felt this CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (I personally have not experienced that). I mean, I did wear a mask when visiting a doctor for an appointment my wife made. It was a hospital. I even thought, “maybe hospitals should be doing this anyway, even if we did not have this pandemic. Maybe, too, airliners should thoroughly disinfect each plane after the passengers leave. And, for restaurants, we already require hairnets for cooks. Yeah, I could live with that.” Sounds clean to me. But, me going to a grocery store, or a book store, or gathering in worship? To be told by law, “no mask, no service!” For what? “Save a life”. Well, if the government is that damned concerned about saving lives so as to mandate laws that drastically cut down on death, I can think of a bunch of laws to be enacted if that’s the sole concern. I mean, banning cigarettes alone; criminalizing smoking. Far more greater is the evidence of car deaths that I am compelled to drive safe, stay off the phone while driving, don’t eat in the car, or have any distractions. 80% of the time I even wear that dumb seat belt, “click it or ticket” and “Seat Belts Save Lives” (that’s an actual ad campaign). Yes, they do, I guess. The evidence is overwhelming.
Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.