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Op-Ed: Undoing the Mask Mandate Further Reveals America’s Selfishness

Woman wearing american flag mask

From anti-LGBTQ+  and abortion laws, to waning interest in Ukraine, and Americans short attentions span, and interest only in themselves is crippling our altruism.

This piece initially ran on, read the original here

The overturning of the CDC’s mandate requiring masks on all public transportation was done by a Trump federal court appointed judge. That should come as no surprise.

This even though the CDC, our nation’s arbiter of health, was strongly advocating for an extension of the mandate in light of the fast-spreading B.A. 2 variant and the likelihood of new cases post-Easter/Passover/Ramadan holiday weekend.

After the ruling, a captain on a flight made the announcement as a passenger recorded his words: “Exercise your freedom,” he said with a hint of sarcasm.

Because masks “infringe on my rights” or “are a nuisance to wear,” Americans tossed their face coverings in the garbage the minute the ruling was announced. There was little to no thought given about who might be sitting next to them, near them, or around them. These strangers could have underlying conditions, elderly parents, or susceptible children at home.

But that doesn’t matter to those who think masks are a dictate from an authoritarian government. These are likely the same rude and ignorant airline passengers, who might for example, take off their shoes and prop their feet up at the end of your arm rest because their feet – and their feces – don’t stink! They are above any laws or decorum of decency.

I am certain we will begin to see more viral videos of asshat anti-mask individuals calling out masked individuals for their “stupidity” and being “anti-American” on public transportation. Just watch how these scenes will spread, just like a virus.

I was on a New Jersey transit bus last week – before the mask mandate was tossed – and a guy sat down next to a woman across the aisle from me. She was wearing a mask. He wasn’t. The woman, who was probably in her 70s, asked the guy to “put on your mask.” He turned to her, with his face inches from hers, and said, “Take yours OFF!”

That woman is who public health officials were hoping to protect. But, to hell to those recomendations. Some people only care about themselves, their needs, their comfort and their beliefs.

Which leads us to all these self-centered anti-LGBTQ+ laws around the country that purportedly are being debated and passed in the name of saving children. I’ve written two columns in the last two weeks about the atrocities going on against our community, and I’m going to keep beating the drum.

There is not one iota of “protecting children” in these laws. Anti-trans laws are being passed despite public health officials warning about the dangerous health consequences for trans youth — and many times, against the protestations of their peers. Again, we have doctors who are strongly coming out against these cruel laws, with right-wing, white men in their 50s and 60s, conservative and of course Christian, turning a blind eye to the medical experts.

It’s repugnant that these men, and some women, are pushing so hard for these laws in a crass attempt to keep their positions of power. They are creating issues, like healthcare for trans youth, throwing out children’s that have any mention of LGBTQ+ topics, and banning all discussion fo LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms with degrading dexterity.

They flippantly pass these laws, misrepresent the issues, and beat their chests about “saving children,” all the while calling LGBTQ+ teachers, allies, and anyone else who isn’t part of their heteronormative society, pedophiles and groomers. It’s all done for themselves, to protect their seats, raise money from conservative voters, and prophesied about how they – and only they – can protect kids, so keep voting for me lest your children be groomed and abused.

It’s absolutely sickening.

But it goes beyond anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as they ignore the pleas of public health officials about the dangers making abortion illegal. These misogynists give zero credence to the health of people who can become pregnant. It is in line with their of prizing one group's supposed rights by trampling the actual rights of another. It’s shocking these laws don’t make exceptions for rape or incest – there isn’t a word strong enough for this brutality.

All of this — mask mandates, anti-LGBTQ+ stances, anti-abortion measures — is all in the name of keeping Republicans in control by shaping marginalized groups into wedge issues. They do this because, policy-wise, Republicans know they don't have a damn thing to see voters on. These are all just the shiny objects bigoted legislatures use so that these devotees don’t pay attention to the fact that Republicans have no ideas, no plan and make no effort to address inflation, climate change, the pandemic, and other issues that deserve undivided attention.

Like the war in Ukraine. “I’m so tired of hearing about Ukraine,” was a tweet I recently came across. What was worse were all the comments in support of that statement.  Just like above, they turn to the next shiny object, i.e., Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s divorce proceedings, which has been like watching a train wreck.

It’s becoming such a non-issue that ratings for cable news networks are tumbling (all except Fox News of course which is the home base for selfishness), since people don’t want to see the slaughtering because, “It’s just so upsetting to watch, and it’s not good for my being and my peace.”

I have news for all those who are unselfish: The Republicans are poised to take over the House and might even win the Senate back. Trump’s minions are still trying to decertify the 2020 election, passage of more anti-LGBTQ laws is coming with a vengeance, and there's a good chance the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.  The selfish people are winning, and it’s a dangerous scenario.

They're also winning in their battle to get attention. To be sure, there are plenty of stories of everyday, quiet heroes who are risking life and limb to fight all the rancor and hate. Gay teachers, trans youth, women's health professionals, and even airline attendants are putting their jobs, livelihoods and in some cases their lives on the line to call out hatred, discrimination and injustice inflicted on them by the selfish.

Metaphorically, the selfish in our society took off their masks of introversion about six years ago. Now, comfortable in voicing their hate, they are at the point of no return. To them, they have no shame screaming about what's best for them and them only.

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John Casey