I went to my local supermarket yesterday in preparation for the latest New South Wales lockdowns. Before getting out of the car I said a little prayer. I knew that I would be receiving various looks for entering without a face mask and wanted to give the situation over to the Lord.
I took one last deep breath — we obviously can’t do that in public anymore — and walked straight into the store with confidence in my step and trust in the fact that God would give me wisdom with whatever came my way.
I almost made it through the entire experience with minimal judgmental looks and more importantly, zero confrontation. I was feeling great! My hope in humanity was getting some restoration and I thought that we as a collective group of human beings were at the point where we trust one another to make the right decisions for our own personal health, conscious of our impact on others. That was until I got to the check out aisle.
I was close to the finishing line when a woman, who was wearing a mask, approached me in my aisle and decided to throw a packet of disposable masks onto the conveyor in front of me.
“You need to buy yourself some masks,” she yelled.
The immediate space around me went silent and I had everyone’s eyes on me waiting to see how I would respond. I could see the woman’s eyes under her mask, they were filled with a passive-aggressive, patronising, self-righteous smile. Her mission was to publicly shame and embarrass me, which she failed at.
Now without going into great detail, my poor face has taken many hits over the years, both in policing and with competitive sport. A few years ago I had to have my nose broken, for its fourth time, in an attempt to fix it after all the damage that was done to it over the years.
It was so bad, the surgeon at the time described it as “bone soup” because of the numerous fractures. I cannot wear a mask comfortably due to breathing difficulty, as well as the nerve damage on the bridge of my nose. By law, I am exempt from wearing a mask.
Instead of curling up in a ball, feeling sorry for myself or even lowering myself to the standard of this irate woman, I decided that I would respond with one simple, yet effective truthful statement: “I had my nose broken protecting you from the real criminals.”
After this, all eyes were directed back towards the woman. She made haste for the exit, avoiding eye contact as she darted out of the store with her tail between her legs. And rightfully so!
With this in mind, I want to use my situation in an effort to spark conversation around the subject of personal responsibility and respecting others in our communities for their own personal choices.
Consider what happened to me in the supermarket. For all this woman knew, I could have been suffering from PTSD after being violently gagged and raped. The confrontation not only would have brought up old trauma, but it would also have placed me in a situation where I would need to publicly “out myself” as a victim of sexual assault to a group of strangers, or face the possibility of further shaming and scrutiny. Perhaps she even took a photo, as others have, to call the “irresponsible” out across social media.
Now that is just one example of many other legitimate reasons why people might not want to or be physically or mentally capable of wearing a face covering.
Regardless of an individual’s reasons for wearing or not wearing a face mask, do we really want to exist in a society where strangers feel they have the right to publicly demand explanations from individuals whose personal health choices they question? Do we want to live in a society where media outlets and government officials encourage and applaud this sort of behaviour?
Then again, how much can we blame the public for all of the distrust, anxiety, and confusion we continually witness? We have governments regularly changing “the science”, people being censored for asking legitimate and thought-provoking questions, politicians who are weaponising the situation for their own political agenda, social media shutting down accounts for expressing their concerns, small businesses suffering, mental health skyrocketing, all while being told we have to trust people who are fully vaccinated but still wearing double masks.
I mean, come on, anyone with an ounce of common sense and decency should at least be capable of admitting that the entire situation from the start has been a royal mess.
The freedom to walk down the street without copping a fine or having to be subjected to a public trial is not something that just accidentally falls into our laps. It was obtained by people who understood that freedom must be continually maintained and vigilantly protected.
Societies don’t naturally gravitate towards freedom, and when you couple that with the fact that governments take freedoms away far easier than they give them back, there’s often little resistance to the ever-increasing government reach.
Our communities have never been more divided. Segregation is pushed on the public by dividing people according to their sexuality, gender, ethnicity, age, and ideology. We’re encouraged to war against the other side, which we’re told threatens our very existence. Now the government and elites are pouncing on the opportunity to push for another wedge governed by fear. The masked must look with suspicion on the unmasked, the vaccinated must look with suspicion on the unvaccinated – both pose a diabolical threat that must be confronted, or so we’re told.
How long will it be until we realise that our communities are being divided from without, and how much damage will be done before things begin to change? We need to revive that wild idea that not everyone we meet in our community is a threat and an enemy until proven otherwise. We need to revive respect – at least enough to leave each other alone.
We need to learn to care enough about our own freedoms to defend our neighbour when their freedoms are being trampled. And that’s true, whether those freedoms are being trampled by an overly controlling government or an indignant, oxygen-deprived member of the public.