When it comes to masks, my opinion is simple: if you want to wear one, do. If you don’t want to wear one, don’t. Either option is fine. If it’s your body, it should be your choice.
In one of the latest instances of someone on the left-hand side of the political spectrum personally insulting and ridiculing people with differing opinions, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham tells the story of encountering a person while hiking who was not wearing a mask. This individual told Abraham and her family to take off their masks because they “need the oxygen.” In her column, Abraham points out that the man “was not just opting not to wear a mask himself, but proselytizing against it.” This is a legitimate point, and a good distinction to draw. The mask-less man was within his rights not to wear a mask, and Abraham and her family were within their rights to wear them. Just as it would have been wrong of her to criticize him, it was also wrong of him to criticize her.
But then Abraham spends the rest of her column criticizing – often in incredibly offensive and insulting ways – people who opt not to wear masks. First, she writes, “and they call us snowflakes,” implying that those on the right-hand of the political spectrum are the true “snowflakes” of the world. Then, she characterizes the mask-less man on the hiking trail as “parroting the idiotic anti-science rhetoric of the president and his cult.” Next, she complains about how conservatives “mock liberals for being weak, then whine about how uncomfortable they feel with a little cloth on their faces.” Abraham does not stop at ridiculing people who choose not to wear masks; she also ridicules people who traveled for Thanksgiving, characterizing them as “disregarding the pleas of health workers” and “flout[ing] the health guidelines that could protect us all.” She calls choices that are less risk-averse than her own choices “enraging to see.” And referring to a meeting of the New York Young Republicans Club at which members did not wear masks, she demands, “At what point is it OK to demand that people take the personal responsibility that Republicans are always banging on about?”
So essentially Abraham devotes an entire column to simultaneously criticizing conservatives for calling people weak and irresponsible and also calling conservatives weak and irresponsible. It’s hard to get more hypocritical than that. Here’s a revolutionary concept: how about not calling people who disagree with you weak and irresponsible? How about actually explaining why you disagree with someone’s ideas, instead of personally attacking, insulting, and ridiculing the person?
First of all, none of the actions that Abraham describes are irresponsible. The actions that she describes – traveling, getting together, not wearing masks, etc. – are less cautious and less risk-averse than what she would choose to do, but how cautious or risk-averse an action is has nothing to do with whether or not it is responsible. People have the right to choose how balance safety versus quality of life in their own lives; no choice with regards to this trade-off is more or less responsible than any other choice.
Additionally, we need to get rid of the term “snowflake” other than in the context of describing winter weather. I’ve never understood why people use this term. It originated as a way to express the idea that each person is unique, just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike when examined under a microscope. But people across the political spectrum quickly adopted it as an insult, a way to imply that one’s opponents are somehow fragile, just as a literal snowflake easily melts in warm temperatures. There is no need for this type of personal attack in political discourse.
Furthermore, the terms “whining,” “parroting,” and “banging on” need to be eliminated from our language. All of these verbs presume the truth of what the speaker is attempting to prove. They describe another person’s speech in a way that presumes that the person’s speech is wrong – whining presumes that the person’s complaints are illegitimate; parroting presumes that the person is mindlessly repeating the words of another instead of thinking for him/herself, and banging on presumes that what the person is saying is stupid and/or ridiculous. How about addressing the truth or falsity of what someone is saying, as opposed to insulting the manner of saying it?
So in conclusion, no one is a “snowflake.” No one “whines,” no one “parrots,” and no one “bangs on.” People say things, and if you disagree with them, you have a right to say so, but you do not have a right to personally insult the speaker in such offensive terms. Columns as unprofessional as Abraham’s have no place in a newspaper, and opinions as cruel, intolerant, and nasty as hers have no place in this world.