An argument against the use of masks
by Corey Saucier
Target is burning.
Its roof is engulfed in yellow and orange dancing flames that look like the feeling of a really good college party! Brown and Black economically disadvantaged faces are carrying sixty-five inch flatscreen televisions, ornate overpriced lamps decorated with cheap plastic, and a Barbie Pink Princess Castle Play-set made in China. Grandma’s grey hair is in yellow rollers and she is running from the burning building like a gold medal hurdle jumper with a jumbo-sized Charmin tissue pack, and a green-packaged case of Pampers disposable diapers under each arm. The rich White teenagers in the neighborhood are gathered in gangs of six and seven screaming “Best Day EVER!” over and over, while they sip their Starbucks from sustainable recycled non-plastic cups with those new paper straws. The world is going mad. I close my computer—open my Robinhood APP, swipe up with my right thumb, and buy three more shares of Target Corporation on the S&P 500 index. The corners of my mustached mouth turn up into a sardonic smile, and I whisper to myself in the silence of my quarantined room: Black Lives Matter.
If I leave the house these days I’m required by California ordinance 22769B to wear a mask covering my nose and mouth. However there is a shortage of N95 masks (the masks actually proven to reduce risk), so we are supposed to leave those for first responders, doctors, and nurses and we are left to improvise with napkins, old t-shirts, or whatever bits of unregulated, untested, untrustworthy garbage we have lying around the house. Just something to block the particles from leaving our mouths during tantrums and emotional breakdowns had in grocery stores. In case you didn’t know, in addition to the the civil and political unrest that has me celebrating the burning of corporate interests, there is also a pandemic going on. The news keeps saying that this is the first worldwide pandemic since the Influenza Pandemic of 1920, that we haven’t lost this many American lives to an infectious disease in a hundred years. But that. Is. Not. True. There was this little thing called HIV that happened in the early eighties. But journalism is dead. “The News” is just propaganda for the masses. And our culture cared then about the dying of gay men, just about as much as they care about the ongoing murder of Black men now.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
The government lies. This is known. They conduct medical experiments on Black bodies. This is known. There are hundreds upon hundreds of videos and documents of innocent people being brutally beaten and killed by the police; and, in the following “investigations,” ten times out of ten the police are found to be “Not Guilty.” The state cannot be trusted. This is known. So excuse me for this brief moment of foolishness. Obviously the lack of natural sunlight and the stress of the looming apocalypse has finally gotten to me and I’ve lost it….So forgive me. But what if Karen is right?
I’ve had AIDS for twenty years now, so I’m no stranger to being quarantined. And I know that most masks don’t work. This is where my left-wing readers will grit their teeth, salivate for my blood, and demand my head on a platter. But in the hospital they will put a sign that says “CONTAGIOUS!” on your door; force you to wear the cheap blue disposable masks; and cover themselves in PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) when leaving and entering your room, but when it’s time to eat, or they have to take your temperature, or when the cute, young, blue-eyed volunteer is wheeling you down dark musty hallways where blind arthritic doctors are waiting to stick cameras up your sigmoid colon (way past your second sphincter), and you ask why no one is wearing masks in this part of the hospital, the nurses will smile sweetly; bend down to your immune compromised ear; and calmly whisper: “Don’t worry; the masks don’t really work. The particles of a virus are far too small to be caught by the fibers. They are mostly for appearances. It makes people feel safe.”
And it does.
This is why the CDC has changed its recommendations three times. But don’t listen to me. I’m an idiot. I believe in magic, prayer, and that I was Marilyn Monroe in a past life. (No, seriously! She and I are the same.) But I just can’t shake the fact that the reason I started writing Brave New World was because the CDC, doctors, and our HIV organizations were still saying that an undetectable person could transmit HIV to their partners——and pushing that we all should be using condoms no matter what. Everyone was so scared. There were very few of us willing to say that “Undetectable = Untransmittable”; and we were called stupid and reckless and selfish. So it would be hypocritical of me now to not, at least, pose the question.
What if Karen is right? And the masks are not as necessary as we think?
In California, it’s law; so the science doesn’t matter. Plus, it’s become the culturally considerate thing to do—like saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes. It makes people feel safe.
I wonder what it’s like to feel safe?
Every day I get flashes of Black pregnant bodies with the babies carved out with steak knives, and flashes of prepubescent boys being tied behind pick-up trucks and dragged through Alabama until the streets are red and horror-colored. And instead of countless lynching photographs filled with smiling White faces, this time it’s being captured on a telephone and shared on the Internet. We always knew that racism was a disease but it took 420 years to finally go viral! And the knee is pressing down—and his name is George Floyd, and Tamir Rice, and Emmett Till. And I still haven’t seen the video because I’ve seen too many of my people dead, and I refuse to watch one more. But they say he called for his mother. A 40 year old, 6′, 200 lb. Black man called for his mother. That’s my age. My stature. My body. And I wonder if his mother is even alive—or was his death so public and so humiliating that she answered his call and descended from heaven on invisible white wings to stand with her dying baby and hold him by the hand as a pale-skinned cop stomped the life out of him?
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Because of the “hanky code”, I have 226 brightly colored handkerchiefs of every color. And once upon a time in a land far far away, I would freely enter a Starbucks, thrusting the doors wide open, waiting for the curtain to rise and the spotlight to fall. I would listen to the hush fall over the crowd, clear my throat and glide to the counter with my feet hovering two feet above the ground with a Gold Lamé handkerchief billowing like a queer national flag in my back right pocket. .And it was gorgeous and beautiful and free….
But now I tie them around my face as a mask. Because it’s the polite thing to do. And I’m scared because I look like a color-coded bank robber attacking in broad daylight. And with no access to my stunning smile and beautiful face, I am just skin. So before I grab my keys and exit the house I say a prayer that I am not shot dead by an overzealous “rogue” cop and left lying face down on the cold concrete. Because if anyone asks they’ll just say that “I fit the description,” and that my handkerchief was obvious proof of a gang affiliation…. And I’ll be just another sad photo on the Internet with big bold letters across my face that read:
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Donate. March. Vote.
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently looking for a publisher for his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.