Two ways to think about masks – one right, one wrong Skip to content

Two ways to think about masks – one right, one wrong

As people continue to argue about wearing masks, it seems to me that there are two ways to think about them – one right, and one wrong.

3 min read
Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

Today I heard a recording of a lady in a town hall who exclaimed, "I washed my hands! I wore my mask! I even washed my bananas and oranges! And I STILL GOT COVID! Why are we going back to masks, since they don't do any good!"

Her outburst got me thinking: how should we think about masks? It seemed to me that the lady who was frustrated about wearing masks again was thinking about them the wrong way. So then, what would be the right way?

After some thought, I came up with these two analogies. I hope they are helpful, as both you and people you know think about masks and COVID. And if you do find this helpful, please share.

Mask as force field

Do you remember the movie "The Incredibles"? One of my all-time favorite animated movies. If you haven't seen it, give it a watch.

And for those of you who have seen it, do you remember when the teenage daughter, Violet, discovered that she could project a force field around herself, or around her entire family, or even around a jet?

Yep, that's a pretty cool ability to have.

But guess what – masks aren't like that.

Wearing a mask does not make you invincible, or put a force field around you. It doesn't block every germ, or molecule of air. It isn't like Violet's force field.

In other words, wearing a mask does not guarantee that you will never get COVID.

So, if masks are not 100% guaranteed effective, why wear them at all?

Let's look at another analogy.

Mask as helmet

Let's suppose for the moment that you are a soldier in an army, and you are going into battle. You put on your body armor, you put on your helmet, and you grab your weapon and head out to the battlefield.

And one of the enemy soldiers shoots at you, and hits your helmet. What are the possible outcomes?

Depending on the angle and distance the bullet has traveled, it may just glance off your helmet. Or, it may hit the helmet hard enough to give you a concussion. Or, it may be slowed down by the helmet, but still puncture it and wound you. Or, unfortunately, the force of the bullet may overwhelm the helmet, and you die.

So, if wearing a helmet does not guarantee that you cannot die of a head wound, why wear them? Why not just send everyone into battle with no helmets?

Because wearing a helmet significantly lowers the risk that a shot at your head will automatically kill you. In other words, wearing a helmet greatly increases your odds of survival when on the battlefield.

And one more thing to add, just to take this analogy a bit further: Imagine that you are going onto a battlefield where you can't see the enemy, and you have no idea how dangerous it is. There could be just one or two enemy soldiers, OR they could literally be all around you, ready to shoot you in the head as soon as you arrive. Would you wear your helmet then?

You may live in just that kind of battlefield, with COVID soldiers all around you, just waiting to attack. In fact, since less than half of us are vaccinated, if you enter a crowded restaurant or store without a mask, it is the same as entering a crowded battlefield without a helmet.

Can you do everything right on a battlefield, and still die? Of course. Can you do everything right to protect yourself from COVID, and still get it? Of course.

But you wear the body armor and the helmet because when it comes to battling an enemy, you want to do all you can to increase the odds in your favor. Doing any less is just stupid.

Remember: a mask is not like a force field. It is like a helmet, which any intelligent person will put on before going into danger.

So, don't be stupid. Be intelligent: wear your mask.


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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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