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What if I’m wrong?

I made the mistake of starting my morning by looking at social media. The depth of stupid surrounding the mask issue quickly drowned me.

Wearing masks doesn’t seem like it should be controversial. We’ve understood the germ theory of disease for quite a while now.

But I think there’s a sector of the population that doesn’t actually grok the theory behind transmissible disease. These are people who simply perceive recommendations like “wash your hands” and “cover your cough” as authoritarian directives, so it makes them feel cool and edgy to defy them.

But when deciding whether to follow a course of action, I find it useful to apply the simplest of metrics: What if I am wrong?

I think it’s useful to wear a mask, to prevent the spread of deadly disease. I believe that if everyone would avoid contact when possible, and wear a mask when contact cannot be avoided, we could get the pandemic under control and go on with at least a somewhat functional economy.

If I am wrong about that, the worst thing that happens is that… I had to wear a mask. Which is a little uncomfortable, sure, but otherwise harmless. No one ever actually died from looking silly.

If I apply the ‘what if I’m wrong’ criterion to the mask-free arguments… then the answer looks very different. If they’re wrong, then they are at risk for sickness and death, not to mention the potential of causing sickness and death in others.

I just have trouble understanding how someone could look at this trade-off and decide that the right thing to do is to avoid wearing a mask.

But then again, the whole situation gives me flashbacks to childhood, when Mean Girls would taunt people for washing their hands in the bathroom. “Why are you washing your hands? I guess you peed on your hands? HAHAHA!” The rational response – that someone else might’ve peed on her hands and then touched the stall door or flush handle that I just touched – is to long and too reasonable to counter such a taunt. So now those Mean Girls and their brethren are grown adults and ruining the world with their senseless rebellions, and I’m stuck at home waiting for some sort of end to all of this.


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