MINOT, N.D. — "I'm curious after reading your last column what specific study you find credible that masks are effective," a friend asked me recently.
I don't care much about what studies say.
I'm sure that statement will earn me much disdain from the anti-mask crowd who are spending hours and hours of their lives ranting on the various social media platforms about masking "sheeple," but think logically about it for a moment.
Masking requirements vary widely from place to place, and even in places where masking requirements are pretty rigorous, real-world compliance is another matter entirely. Not even some of the loudest proponents of masking like to follow the rules. Former President Barack Obama threw himself a birthday bash in Martha's Vineyard, inviting hundreds of guests who, for the most part, didn't wear masks even as the people who served them did.
"Wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow the experts. It’ll save lives," he told Americans before the Labor Day weekend last year.
By that standard, there weren't a lot of lives being saved at his birthday party.
But back to the matter at hand.
I'm not sure that any studies looking at the efficacy of masking can paint a reliable picture of the impact of real-world masking. We're still too close to it to reach any conclusions about something this complicated.
So, I wear my mask when it's asked of me, and when it's in line with guidance from the public health authorities.
This doesn't bother me in the slightest because ... it's just a mask. The cost of one is tiny to the point of being negligible, and free ones are available all over. It's a bit annoying to wear one, but so what?
Maybe they work, and on the off chance they do, I'm going to wear one, because the cost of doing so is basically nothing.
This is why I cannot understand what's motivating the ranting social media users, and the sweaty activists who show up to school board meetings to shout at elected officials and educators.
It's just a mask.
In the annals of things Americans have been asked to do for the sake of their country, it's such a trivial thing.
My grandmother had special recipes she used during the rationing of sugar and other products put in place during WWII. Military conscription is still a thing for men, and there was even legislation introduced recently to expand it to women. During the COVID-19 pandemic, both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden have invoked the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to control the production of items deemed essential for national defense.
The debate about where the powers of government should begin and end is as necessary as it is endless, but among the priorities within that debate, masks and mask mandates have to fall somewhere near the bottom.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.