On Wearing the Mask and Not Eating Animals

Whenever this pandemic in the United States subsides — given how it’s going so far, that may be a decade from now — we’re going to look back on the lack of an immediate federal mask mandate as a major failure. There’s quite a lot of research showing that masks are effective. And they’re perfectly safe, despite what your aunt Karen and her incredibly convenient, newly discovered no-mask-disease have to say about it. The American response to the pandemic has been absolutely pathetic and shameful. We are an embarrassment to the world.

In fact, I suspect we will soon learn that mask compliance is the number one factor in stamping out the pandemic across the world. Only in the United States has mask-wearing become political — it’s no coincidence that we’re the only major country that has yet to get past the first wave. And it’s likely going to get much worse.

There was a sort of “prank” I found absolutely fascinating for what it revealed. These two guys in Huntington Beach, California, decided to hand out free masks. You probably can’t imagine getting mad over being offered something for free, but that’s exactly what many people they approached did.

Again, this could only happen in the United States, now a beacon of selfishness and anti-science conspiracy theories.

I want to nail down on the selfishness aspect, because it reminds me of something else. You probably know where I’m going with this…

Ever since the recommendation to wear masks was handed down, I have been wearing one whenever I go outside — even if I’m just taking out the trash. I won’t lie, I really didn’t like it at first. But the belief back then was that the lockdown would be temporary (hahahaHAhaHAHA I’m going insane), so that helped me get used to it. Welp, now I’m used to wearing a mask, and I hardly even think about it. Leaving the apartment means grabbing my mask the same way I grab my wallet, keys, and phone.

This actually tracks very closely with my journey toward veganism. I originally went vegetarian for a week as a sort of experiment. After that week, I ate meat and found it extremely off-putting. There was no going back. 18 or so months later, I went vegan. It was that foot-in-the-door approach that I didn’t know I was taking that made it easier. The thought that the masks were only to be worn for a short period of time was similar in helping me adapt to our new normal.

And now that I’m vegan, I actually don’t think very much about it. Sure, it comes to mind when I’m ordering food at a restaurant, buying clothes, or writing a blog post on this site, but it is certainly not constantly floating around in my head. The masks are similar: I think about it when I’m getting ready to go out, then I put it on, and I don’t think about it until I get back home and take it off.

The fact that the mask is safe, easy to get used to, and for the good of yourself and others, really underscores for me the selfishness of not wearing one. To refuse to wear a mask is to put your own trivial comfort above the life and health of others. (Sound familiar?) And at worst, it signals that you ascribe to conspiracy theories around the extent or even the existence of the illness that has killed more than a hundred thousand Americans already — one of which was my own grandmother.

The mask, like veganism, is for most of us a worthwhile and safe lifestyle change that improves the world around us, despite the temporary inconvenience early on. I suspect that at some point in the future we will look down on those that continue to consume meat, dairy, and eggs the same way we look down on those that refuse to put a piece of cloth in front of their (loud) mouth and nose.

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