Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Speaking Out: Wearing a mask shows you care

By  Paula Ducepec, Youth Speak News
  • August 26, 2020

Conspiracy theorists portray masks as a ploy by the government to control people and restrict their rights for freedom. Anti-maskers brand themselves as freedom fighters as they fight the mandate to wear this symbol of oppression, restraint and imprisonment.

Even people within my Catholic community post on social media about the government’s ploy to make us wear the masks. They say the political bodies are hiding important information from the public about the uselessness of masking to fend off COVID-19. Lengthy posts expound on governments spreading unnecessary panic over the coronavirus to propagate a nefarious agenda.

This pandemic is smoking out a problem deeply suppressed by our ever modernizing and secularizing society: confusing freedom with living vicariously, carefree and wholly detached and devoid of responsibility towards other people.

What is freedom? Freedom is often defined as doing whatever we want whenever we want, and we would do it whichever way we want devoid of the consequences that follow from these choices. 

However, St. Pope John Paul II argues, and as explained by the priest and Catholic speaker Fr. Mike Schmitz of Ascension Press, freedom is rooted in “I have the power to do what I ought.”  Schmitz clarified in a 2018 YouTube video we are free to make our own choices, but we are not open to choose the consequences of these choices. The word “ought” is an indication of duty or correctness; it is a moral obligation.

Freedom is rooted in responsibility. The consequences of our actions are either negative or positive. And it comes from an important principle: you matter and so do your choices. 

So, what is it that we ought to do? We simply have to start caring. This is what our world needs now.  COVID-19 starkly reminds us that we are interconnected — our world is a lot smaller than we think. Our actions have consequences. Our choices have ramifications.

Caring can begin by merely wearing a mask. A cloth mask. A mask you can buy from that corner store struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. A cover from a friend starting a business.

Dr. Peter Lin, CBC’s medical columnist, noted during an interview Aug. 16 that a second wave of the virus could cause an even more massive outbreak. 

However, another outbreak within our communities can be prevented, or less severe, if we wear a mask. Wearing a mask is no longer just about us — it’s about others. The mask protects you and other people.

Is our freedom restricted? I don’t think so. Our situation simply forces us to choose and make the right decision. Right now, there just isn’t a lot of options: it’s either we care or we don’t. It’s either we only look to ourselves or we help out our neighbour. And it is a Catholic calling for us to look after our neighbour.

(Ducepec, 22, studies anthropology at the University of Toronto.)

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