Red Masque of Death — Covering mouths that could stand a little covering

July 11th, 2020

Basque bus driver Philippe Monguillot, 59, died in hospital on Friday, six days after being attacked by three men and left for dead. His crime: he asked them to wear masks in order to board his bus, as required by French law. Two of the three men are facing murder charges as a result. Fortunately for them, French prisons aren’t the utter death traps that American prisons are, and French have more lenient laws, so they may see the light of day again, hopefully many years from now.

The most noteworthy element of this story is that it happened in France and not in America, because France has a lower proportion of violent lunatics per capita.

Here, of course, there’s an entire movement dedicated to an imaginary right not to wear masks. Most of them are just stupid people. Some, however, are violent lunatics buoyed by the notion that God or Trump or the Constitution are on their side. Trump is, but Trump is a fool. The Constitution isn’t on their side: courts long ago upheld the rights of businesses and property owners to make certain requirements of their customers—shirts, shoes, and now, masks. If it’s posted, some establishments can require ties, or no hats. God, as usual, had no comment.

I had an encounter with one of those this morning. He was trying to harangue and bully the store clerk, giving the bogus argument that the Americans with Disabilities Act not only exempted him from wearing a mask, but he wasn’t even required to disclose what his physical disability was. The clerk, with whom I’ve been acquainted for some thirty years, looked unimpressed, and if I read the angle of her head correctly, a bit disgusted. She didn’t need any help from me. But I was tiring rapidly of the spiel, and the fact that this large hairy unmasked goon was spraying his nonsense into the air, at the clerk and myself, with who-knows-what in the spittle.

The clerk said that the health inspector had been by the past two days, and they were going to start handing out fines. He said that was her problem, not his.

So I spoke up. “Look, just pay for your stuff and get out.”

He glared at me. I’m kinda big and hairy myself, and he promptly forgot his right not to disclose his condition. “I find it hard to breathe in a mask,” he whined.

“Hey, I don’t like masks either,” I replied. “But I’m wearing one. It’s common sense. We have eight times as many cases in the county as we had a month ago. Things are out of control.”

“So what? It’s just like the flu. And the flu kills 640,000 Americans a year.”

“What? It’s more like 30,000 a year, and right now hospitals are sounding panic alarms over the number of critically ill there are.”

George of the Bungle realized he had blown it with the specious number. Without another word, he grabbed his stuff and took off.

Like I said, the clerk didn’t need my help. But getting pushback like that might make the clown reconsider trying to impose a risk on others, at least a little bit.

Yeah, they can be willfully dangerous. But even the more mild-mannered ones are more dangerous from something they may not even believe they carry. Wear a mask, and stand up to the goons. Don’t threaten, but be firm. We can wear them down.

Years back, I was having a bull session with a cop buddy, and presented him with a novel defense to be used by a driver breaking a basic rule of the road. “I have impaired vision in this eye,” I said, pointing to my left eye. Obviously, when driving, you need to be watching oncoming traffic, and people attempting to pass you.” I pantomimed driving, peering around in various directions as my hands wobbled the imaginary wheel, in case my companion was unfamiliar with the concept of driving a motor vehicle.

“Therefore,” I concluded grandly, “It makes sense that I should be driving on the left-hand side of the road, where my field of vision covers more potential hazards.” I tapped my right eye, the good one, in case my point wasn’t obvious enough.

It took my buddy roughly 0.158 seconds to point out the basic problem. “Zepp, if your vision is that fucked up, you shouldn’t be driving at all.”

Well, nuts. Another beautiful hypothesis killed by ugly facts.

There are reasons people can’t wear masks. Disfiguring facial injuries. COPD, asthma, difficulty swallowing. Those are all legitimate and fairly common. Masks, to these people, are a real and evident health threat.

But the correct answer is roughly the same as my buddy’s. If your breathing is that messed up, you shouldn’t be out at all. Even a mild case of COVID-19 will kill you. Stay in. Get the store to deliver, or have someone get your groceries for you. COVID-19 doesn’t care about your Constitutional rights, and isn’t going to cut you any slack because you have existing health conditions. Quite the opposite.

It’s very simple: wear a mask, and if you can’t wear a mask, don’t go out in public. We don’t want you to die, and we don’t want to risk dying ourselves. Wear a mask! Or stay home!

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