If you had to hide, you would find that there are a lot of ways to hide and a lot of things to hide from. For instance, you could hide from other people, a virus, or the authorities.
Lately, the way of hiding de rigueur has been the face mask, which, if I were the cynical type, would make me suspect face mask manufacturers and big pharma of causing COVID-19. After all, sales have exploded and health professionals worldwide either have recommended or required their use. Well, except in Denmark, which has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, but that’s another story.
I predict the face mask soon will replace the hijab as the latest fashion trend and appear in online catalogues for summer. Look for a Lululemon line of face masks in a palette of summer colors with a washable inner lining designed to keep out nasty dust particles and an occasional gnat. I’m not certain it would be good for anything else. You may discover different designs, too, from horizontal thongs with just a strip of protection to a full ZZ Top model long enough to tuck into your shirt or blouse.
I find this recent development about masks as interesting as it was unexpected. It joins the ranks of automobile airbags, typing, wristwatches, and a slew of written symbols (e.g., @, <>, #, /) as the most unlikely candidates to survive the 1980s. Yet here they are, more popular than ever. Thank God the Pet Rock never caught on. It came with a 32-page instruction manual. Clever, that.
Prior to the 1980s, the only people who wore face masks were surgeons, cosmetologists, bank robbers, and superheroes. You could tell the good guys from the bad by the way they wore their masks. Good guys covered the upper part of their faces from the nose up. Occasionally, you could find a character like Robin or The Lone Ranger covering just the eyes and looking every bit the raccoon or shrike. But standard practice required hiding the upper half of the face and head like Batman.
Superman, being Superman, could get away with wearing a pair of black, government-issued eyeglasses to conceal his identity, although it was hard to believe that no one at the Daily Planet recognized him. His method of concealment as Clark Kent counts as the most radical face mask while not actually being a mask.
Speaking of radical, the Antifa troops of today have donned the archetypal, bad-dude face mask, which conceals the lower half of the face. They have added flourishes to their mob protests like the red flag of anarchy and black, urban warfare clothing and boots. In doing so, they have taken the best of Mussolini’s black shirts, Hitler’s brownshirts, and Star Wars, which many, no doubt, have been raised on.
In Antifa, you can also find the influence of anti-superheroes such as the “Dark Avengers,” who appear in video games and graphic novels. These resemble their positive counterparts and wear masks that conceal the upper part of their faces. If you didn’t know any better, you might mistake them for good guys, which makes them even more sinister. This Doppelgänger effect is meant both to instill fear among opponents and mock the original.
All of this hiding affects society in profound, mainly negative ways. Without the normal visual cues like a smile or sneer, it’s difficult to know where people are coming from and their intentions. As a result, we become less trustful of others and less willing to befriend them, especially strangers. We assume their intentions are malicious and adjust our behavior accordingly. A society like that soon becomes easy to control.
In addition, anonymity provides protection for the pathological among us, who cause the most destruction while being the least responsible. And, of course, they garner the most publicity, which is one reason Americans trust the media least of all institutions.
You may remember from previous posts that I take daily walks in my neighborhood. The other day I came across a guy in a wheelchair without a mask who had gotten stuck in a rut in the sidewalk. A group in front of me also saw him but passed quickly to the other side of the street and continued on their way. I stopped and helped the guy out of his rut but not without first making a pun with “rut.” I couldn’t help myself. But I believe he appreciated both the help and quip. Sure, he said so, but I could see it in his face.
Image credits: feature by Llanydd Lloyd on Unsplash; COVID mask by Vera Davidova on Unsplash; Batman by Jayme Deerwester, “‘Holy Heartbreak, Batman’: Stars Remember Adam West on Social Media,” USA Today (June 10, 2017); Antifa by Daily Caller, “New Antifa Cell In Philadelphia Calls For Violence” (August 25, 2017).