“The Paradox of Mask-wearing” – Rhys Harden’s Coming of Age Graduation Address

One day in the past year I went to Target with my grandma. A police officer at the door told people to put on their masks on. As soon as they walked away, from the police, they pulled it down to their chin and kept walking.

I saw that and was immediately pissed off. Don’t they know…masks don’t just protect you — but also the other person? It’s a paradox.

Here’s another paradox: I read about people who are buying masks that use chain mail and netting. What?? It’s like a knight charging into battle without his sword because, freedom…

A paradox is a statement that seems logical but leads to a conclusion that is contradictory. And the pandemic has given us a lot of paradoxical moments.

Like older people – the ones who are most at risk – who choose not to wear masks. That means they put you at risk, in addition to themselves.

The main excuses people have are around the second amendment, or freedom, or even “my body, my choice.” They act like it’s a moral issue NOT to wear a mask, when I think the opposite is true.

It just sounds stupid to me – I bet they buckle up when they drive and stop at stop signs. I bet most of them don’t go naked in public.

But, then I also heard that people in prison — who broke the law and were convicted — still want to wear masks. I think that’s another paradox.

President Trump was encouraging people not to wear masks and now we know he nearly died. The US became one of the worst places in the world for deaths from Covid when he was leading the country, and he nearly died himself.

I saw online a clip about a woman who got upset with service or who was told to wear a mask in a shop and started coughing on food. She knew exactly what she was doing, and she didn’t care about anyone in that store. She decided her need to yell at other people was more important to her than being safe herself, or keeping anyone else safe, like the people who worked there, other customers, and the people they each came in contact with.

The people I see without masks are mostly older, they are “Karens” in their 50s. Either they don’t understand what masks do, they are uneducated, or chose consciously to ignore facts because they think they are entitled to.

I bet if they saw me sneeze in public, without my sleeve or a tissue, they would tell me how gross and rude that is. Using a mask is just like sneezing into your sleeve to make sure you don’t sneeze on anyone else. You don’t lose freedom when you use a Kleenex or your sleeve, do you?
Sleeves are not Democratic or Republican.

And the last example goes back to our previous president. Trump wouldn’t wear a mask but wanted to build a physical billion-dollar wall to keep migrants out. I see paradox there, too. And don’t get me started on the plan to distribute vaccines.

Hello??!! There is not even a vaccine for kids my age, but we get sick and die, too. We haven’t been able to go to school for a year, or to be with our friends, because older people won’t do the most basic thing and wear a mask.

The past year has been very hard on us. But I fund hope in the Gen Z people who wear masks and are careful. And they are committed to clean up the world, and accepting LGBTQ+ people, unlike previous generations.

Stay safe. Thank you.

Rhys’s Parental Introduction and Slideshow
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.