More Maturity

In my real life as a citizen, I listen to good advice from people who want to control a pandemic. I began wearing a mask outside of my home and car when I was advised to do so late last Spring. Given the amount of masking I saw pre-pandemic in health care locations, it was seemly to comply.

Likewise the urging to become vaccinated against the coronavirus. From history I know about smallpox, polio, and other diseases. And how their outbreaks came to be controlled.

In my role as a minister in a church, I listen carefully to people. Especially when they disagree with me. In my younger, less mature days, I alienated too many people. My hope in later middle age is to quell my tendency to be sarcastic and claw back when I see the claws.

So I was asked:

Why do singers need to remain masked when not singing?

My state is loosening up guidance on masks and distancing. But our diocese also has protocols and remains cautious with music ministry. I told my friend I would seek clarification. Sometimes music people get the brunt of junk in the Church. Sometimes there’s some good reasoning behind what we’ve been asked to do. Sometimes not.

On the other hand, in social media, I feel less need to be circumspect. The google and fb gods have seen fit to link people on my site who want to discuss things like masks, vaccines, and such. When I’m confronted with bad information on my feed, my inclination is to push back. Like here:

The vaccines are untested.

This is fake news. Except for people who deny the existence of the virus, I think we all would more or less agree that there was some urgency in finding medical protection against widespread infection. If we were getting untested injections, I’m sure that millions of doses would have been shipped out last summer when the first people were getting shots with the hope of studying how to block the virus.

Not only is the premise fake, it is also stupid.

Masks are useless in preventing the spread of disease.

This is also fake news. Masks are not perfect. Hazmat suits or astronaut gear would be optimal. But nobody wants to wear that stuff outside of a nuclear accident or an airless void of space.

The point of masks and distance was not to totally prevent the virus spread. The aim was to blunt the pressure on health care. People misuse masks and they still want to hug and shake hands. People seem to revel in saying …

The virus is 98% survivable.

That is true when and where hospital facilities and symptom relief is available to everybody who gets infected. If 100 people got infected and then were left on their own devices–no ICUs, no IVs, no nursing care, I suspect more than 2 would die. If the virus had swept through 300 million Americans within a few months, I suspect the death toll would be in the millions. Rich people would get hospitalization and care. People of color, the elderly, the poor, and middle class workers, not so much.

As Liam offered, if masks were truly useless, then they wouldn’t be standard procedure for dentists and doctors and others performing actions in mouths and other open wound situations.

So useless masks? Another stupid comment.

Taking relief in a US death toll of “only” 600,000? I refer such folks to today’s reading and this excerpt, Galatians 5:18-20:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious:

outbursts of fury,
acts of selfishness,
occasions of envy,
drinking bouts,
and the like.

To be sure, not all of these qualities apply to those sowing dissent on commonsense guidance on masks and vaccines. The five highlighted in red seem closest to what I’ve seen in social media in connection with the pandemic. Saint Paul’s conclusion:

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Another comment from a social media contact:

You are judging us.

No. I am judging actions, statements, and opinions. I know many fine people who have been taken in by fake news, misinformation, lies, detraction, and have been swayed by the equivalent of con artists. That doesn’t make them bad people. I have no judgment to make of people, particularly people I do not know in real life.

I would contend that if I were to say, “the idea that the vaccines are untested is stupid,” some would interpret that as me calling them stupid. But they would be wrong. But they are free to consider it an insult. I’m not stopping my critique of misinformation. In fact, I’m feeling more strongly it is my duty as a US citizen to push back when I see lies. I certainly don’t have to go looking for fake news. My intent is not to convert any true skeptic, but only to give encouragement to people dismayed by what they are hearing from other people.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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