Monday, May 17, 2021

The Unmasking Conundrum


Every day more and more of us are getting fully vaccinated. Great news! The point of getting vaccinated is (1) not to get sick oneself or spread the disease to others, and (2) to resume living something resembling a normal pre-pandemic life. So certainly it is very good news to hear that fully vaccinated people can safely begin to go about unmasked in all or most situations.

So what is the problem? Obviously, if we were all in fact fully vaccinated, there would be no problem. But right now more than half of the country continues to be unvaccinated. So how does a store owner, bus driver, or the host of an event know for sure who is or isn't safe to come inside unmasked? He or she can't, of course. One way would be to require proof of vaccination, the sort of thing that schools, for example, have done for decades. But we are not doing that now, and probably won't be doing that any time soon. So the only sensible alternative is for store owners, bus drivers, and event hosts to continue to require masks - to continue to require everyone to be masked in the store on the bus at the event.

That necessity saddles the already vaccinated with the serious moral burden to continue to go about masked in many paces and situations - an obligation we have as ordinary human beings and fellow-citizens to cooperate with one another for the sake of the wider community. In a good society that would be self-evident and would hardly be seen as a burden at all. In American society, however, long ridded with a persistent streak of individualistic selfishness - strongly strengthened as a predominant cultural curse since the moral disaster of Ronald Reagan's presidency - such selfishness gets in the way of our cooperating with one another to promote the common good. (That same selfishness explains much - maybe not all, but much - of the so-called "vaccine hesitancy," as well as such bizarre behaviors as hoarding gasoline, thud creating the very shortages the hoarding was ostensibly intended to protect against.)

So, apart from purely private gatherings with vaccinated friends and family, I have to expect for the foreseeable future to continue going masked on the buds or to a store or church or almost anywhere else.

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