It’s NOT Just About Masks

Op-Ed by David Perez

Breathe.

There. I’ve given myself permission to be angry about the latest mask mandates, furious even, feeling like a child being ordered yet again about what I can and cannot do, dictated by the same gallery of “experts” who months ago proclaimed that all these measures were about “flattening the curve.” Remember that? Now it’s about “containing the spread!”

Next, well, who the hell knows, right? Let’s just keep the daily death-o-meter going, shall we? And if the fatality numbers don’t add well enough, then just scream “COVID-19 cases are spiking!” regardless of whether people are sick or not, regardless of whether the tests are accurate or not. Regardless of whether the rules, mandates, and figures make sense. In fact, it doesn’t have to make sense at all, even when it does on some obscure level, or maybe it once did but doesn’t anymore.

But who the hell knows, right? The only thing I’m required to do is obey and behave. Mask as muzzle.

And it breaks my heart to suspect—not without reason—that masks are here to stay. Because the powers-that-be know a good thing when they see one: a population forever in fear, suspicious of their fellow human being, afraid of breathing the same air, of touching each other, becoming so well-trained that we’ll even celebrate the mask. Mask as ritual. Mask as fashion statement.

Hey, I get the health reasoning behind it. I’ve seen the news, heard the interviews with medical professionals and first responders; looked over the CDC and WHO guidelines. Being the highly distrustful sort, I’ve also amassed dozens of videos and articles questioning how effective masks are, not to mention raising serious questions about the entire official COVID narrative, which is littered with contradictions.

NOTE TO SELF: Despite tons of ongoing research, I don’t consider myself a health expert. But I do trust my intuition, as well as street smarts, honed from growing up in the South Bronx, where you quickly learn to sense when “shit just don’t smell right.”

That said, what gets me pissed and bewildered about mask mania is that virtually everyone is being forced to wear one every day. And depending on your job, it could be for hours every day. And then you get on a train or bus, or go shopping, or go to the park (if it’s open), or the beach (if it’s open), and you have to wear a mask yet again, forever looking for precious moments when you can breathe some precious oxygen.

Oh wait, I forgot. We’re all doing this for our health. My bad.

A constant theme one hears repeatedly about masks is: Look at how effective their use has been to control COVID-19 in South Korea, or China or wherever. I believe that’s largely true.

However, these country-to-country comparisons mask a certain reality, at least to my way of thinking. Namely, that the United States of America is not just another country. It’s the global center of capitalist empire, of endless wars, countless bombings, murderous sanctions, and toxic occupations.

This is true character of “American Exceptionalism,” one built not on superiority, but of exceptional and historical barbarism, built on genocide, massive land theft, and slave labor, the very antithesis of health.

So, for me, this is NOT just about masks. It’s about living (and dying) a government and system that does not care about health, that cannot even provide universal and free health care for all, where tens of millions are unemployed, suffocating under mountains of debt.

It’s about living under a sick system that uses fear as public policy: pervasive, cumulative, and soul-crushing. Fears on top of other fears, of “terrorists” around every corner, of other raging pandemics like cancer and heart failure, obesity and depression, suicides and dementia, mass shootings and mass incarceration, poisons in our food and water.

No, this is not just about masks. Or social distancing. Or whatever. Not here. Not under empire.

Again, I get the reasoning; I get the health concerns. But I still can’t shake the sense that “shit just don’t smell right.”

David Perez is a writer, journalist, activist, and actor, born in the South Bronx in New York City and currently living in Taos, New Mexico.

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