Masks are nothing new in American culture. I got my first dose of masks when I spent Saturday mornings with the Lone Ranger. Of course, his mask was different from the ones we see sprouting up today, more a minimalist disguise than the masks being worn today in a responsible and sensible effort to quell the spread of Covid-19. Still, the Lone Ranger’s mask seemed pretty cool to this kid and countless others who believed it would somehow protect him from discovery or harm or both. Years later, that little black mask has become an enduring American icon and is probably on display somewhere in the Smithsonian.
The Lone Ranger wore his mask for a good reason. In case you’ve forgotten, the Lone Ranger’s name was John Reid and he was the sole survivor of an ambush by outlaws that killed five of his fellow Texas Rangers, including his older brother, Daniel. Wounded in the attack, Reid the younger was found by a Native American named Tonto who nursed him back to health and subsequently became his lifelong companion. To avenge his older brother’s death, John Reid donned a black mask made from the fabric of Daniel’s bullet-ridden vest, mounted a stallion Silver, and with a “Hi-Ho, Silver, away!” and Tonto at his side, rode off into Saturday morning history to the stirring strains of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture. His mission was to aid those in need, fight evil, and establish justice, a pretty simple credo even in those long-gone days of innocence.
But back to masks. The ones we’re being encouraged—even ordered—to wear today are not meant to disguise but to protect both the wearer and anyone with whom he/she comes into contact. That seems perfectly sensible to me, nothing more than a straight-forward battle plan in the war against a very nasty virus full of deadly intent. And yet some folks rile at the request to don a mask, believing it to be either an inconvenient infringement on their liberty or an admission of personal weakness. I guess these folks would rather see the infection rate rise and the death toll mount. I bet the Lone Ranger and Tonto would be appalled. What simpler way to aid those in need, fight evil, and even establish a measure of justice? Just wear a mask! You don’t even have to shoot any bad guys.
There is another and darker side to this; I guess there always is these days. For some, mask wearing has taken on a measure of acute political significance. The good Dr. Anthony Fauci may not be much of a first-ball pitcher, but he’s a selfless scientist who has had the common good at heart for decades, yet some people vilify him just because he advises us to wear masks. Somehow his sensible advice has been perverted by a lunatic fringe into something akin to political apostasy. How sad! Dr. Fauci is no black-hatted outlaw. He deserves the Nobel Prize, not derision and death threats.
But let’s lighten the load and leave the politics of masks aside, if only for this short paragraph. The wee wife—God bless her!—has embraced the wearing of masks not only for reasons pertaining to good health and personal safety, but also as a creative fashion statement. Fabric, color, pattern, and design: the elements of her mask must not only form a formidable barrier against any barrage of incoming or outgoing droplets, but it must also complement her outfit in the process.
I’m certain Ke-mo-sah-bee would agree.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com