Distractions

Did you hear about Ted Cruz? Man went to Cancun while Texas froze…because of course, if he’d stayed in Texas, the snow and ice would have melted, and the power would have been restored within minutes. Well, that’s how the media would like you to view the situation. A couple of weeks ago the story broke that Cuomo and his office really did lie about the number of nursing home deaths and the governor’s responsibility for those deaths. That’s not a good look for the Dems however, so while it was reluctantly covered, the media went searching for something shiny with which to distract the American public. Again. Lucky for them, Texas froze, and Cruz went on a planned vacation with his family. Phew! If Cruz had been a Democrat, you KNOW that Cancun trip would never have come up on mainstream media except to claim “fact-checking” (Nancy in hair salon throws owner under the bus, Newsom in French Laundry, mayor of San Jose in Mexico, on and on. Rules for thee, but not for me and never covered by the press).

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The Greater Good

I get really twitchy when somebody tells me they are doing or saying something to me for my own good. I am a fully competent adult, thankyouverymuch, and I can make my own decisions. I get even twitchier when I’m told that some policy or governmental action is for the greater good. Governments rarely, if ever, do things purely for philanthropical reasons. Governments are filled with politicians. And politicians have but one goal, and that is to remain in a position of power. I wrote before about fear and how the powers that be will make sure that we are afraid. Now, I want to talk about how they’re going to make sure that we will be happy. And we will be happy as we are instructed. It’s for our own good.

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Projection

The other day, I started a blog post about rhetoric that wound up all rambly and somewhat incoherent. I had been thinking about the endless discussion in the press about the “incursion” into the Capitol building on January 6. Or the “riot” that had taken place that day. Or the “insurrection” that had occurred. All these words mean different things and conjure up vastly different images than does “protest”. And of course, the media would have us believe that the burning and looting that occurred in numerous cities this past summer was nothing more than “mostly peaceful protests.” Because only a “riot” would include looting and burning and riots are bad. So, if you’re on the side of the rioters, you need them to be only protesting. Those guys riot, we’re just protesting.

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First Weekend

Sunday night of the first weekend of the new year. We did some things we’d talked about for this weekend. But then, didn’t get to others. So far, 2021 hasn’t been bad. Ha. I’ve been thinking about my approach to this year. This will be my first full year of “retirement.” How am I going to schedule myself? What do I need to do to make sure I’m writing or plotting or reading/researching or working on covers or something productive? For academic research I’ve used the Pomodoro method where you work for 25 minutes at a time, take a couple minute break and then another 25 minutes. Every four “pomodoros” you take a longer break (hour or so). This has worked in the past and I’ve done it a few times with the fiction writing. I think I will make sure I use this method every time I sit down to write.

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Ethics, health, presidents, & vice-presidents

I read a post in Legal Insurrection this morning discussing a Chris Cillizza/CNN piece suggesting that the reason Biden picked Kamala Harris for his running mate is because “…if and when Biden steps aside” she’s more than qualified to step in. My first reaction was “Wait. What?” Are we now supposed to be voting for candidates whose slogan is “Vote for me…I’ll step aside for my running mate!” Really? I have to wonder if after posting this “analysis” (it’s linked in the Legal Insurrection piece) Cillizza looked at it and thought Did I say that out loud? I mean, I know Biden’s health and competency have been discussed many times in many places, but it is a serious issue.

In 2016 my mother died from what were described as complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She died from complications from her second concussion in one month due to falling on her head because the Alzheimer’s left her incapable of understanding what she was doing in addition to affecting her balance. I spent ten years watching my mother succumb to this horrible, disgusting disease. I know what it looks like. I see my mother’s eyes in Joe Biden and hear her in his attempts to answer questions. I don’t like Joe Biden the politician, but it is heartbreaking to watch Joe Biden the human being struggling in public as he is. I have nothing but anger and loathing for the people around him who are pushing him to continue with this farce. This is an attempted power grab by them, nothing more. The worst perpetrator of all of this is his wife.

Doctor (if she still upholds her oath) Jill Biden should know better on a professional level, and on a personal level she should want to protect the man she says she loves. My father did everything in his power, spent any amount of money it took to keep my mother safe and as happy as possible. He gave his life trying to keep her safe and protected. Jill Biden is pushing her husband into what I am convinced will be a very public break down. It’s disgusting. I’m not sure what she thinks being First Lady for what a year? two? will get her, but she’s clearly willing to sacrifice her husband to get it.

If the goal of pushing Biden and selecting Harris is to get Harris into the Oval Office, then there has been an enormous ethical lapse on the part of the DNC (quelle surprise…ethics? We don’t need no stinking ethics!). Harris didn’t make it in the primary race…why? Because…um…let me think…oh, yeah. Democratic voters didn’t like her! But, hey. They’ll be perfectly happy if we shoehorn her into the job, right?

Democrats are showing themselves to be unethical, power hungry, authoritarian, and self-serving with their 2020 presidential ticket. Don’t believe me? Go back and dig out tweets and articles about Harris in 2019. I’ll give you a freebie: Look up that snake-oil salesman Shaun King. Then compare them to today’s tweets and articles. The supposedly considered opinions have switched 180 degrees and Harris has done nothing and said nothing different from nine months ago.

I am appalled at the treatment Joe Biden is being subjected to by those who supposedly care about him. I appalled and angered by the blatant machinations and obvious subverting of the process for electing the highest office in the country, by the Democratic Party leadership. And, I’m saddened by all the people I know, like, and love who are willfully buying into this crap.

But, in the end, I’m cautiously optimistic that the blatant actions of the DNC and their lapdogs in the media will make ordinary voters sit up and take notice. I’m positive that those voters will not like what they see. In the end, I will keep harping on the hypocrisy I see and keep bringing it up. I will do this if for no other reason than to hopefully plant some small seed of doubt in even one person’s mind.

You want to keep this country functional and free? Do not let them get away with this crap. But, you must be willing to fight.

Be not afraid.

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

Where’s your line?

Where is your line, past which you will not go, when it comes to what’s being called “woke culture?” What has to be destroyed or torn down, or worse, who has to be killed before you say, “Enough! I will no longer support this cause!” Where is that line? What has to happen for you? I read a piece by James Lindsay at New Discourses that addresses this question, and it got me thinking. Where is my line? What makes me back away and disavow an idea or movement or goal?

I am not a big joiner; I don’t go to protests, marches, or rallies. In college, I went to a few rallies. One of them was when Reagan came to campus on the campaign trail prior to his first term. A large number of students stood in the back and raised our hands in the Nazi “heil Hitler” salute. We thought we were so clever to be calling out the candidate for his “Nazi” leanings. We were dumbasses. My only excuse is that I was a sophomore and as a (now former) faculty member, I know that sophomores can be a particular type of dumbass…no longer scared freshmen, so they think they now have a handle on everything, but still trying to prove that they are smarter than seniors. Dumbassery abounds. I still cringe at the thought of that rally.

As an aside, as an actual adult, I have discovered I have a form of claustrophobia that hits when I cannot see where I can leave the crowd. I’m short. I can never see over a crowd. So, in crowd situations, I look for a landmark that’s near the exit or gate. Something like a tree, light pole, sign…that sort of thing. If I can’t see where to leave the crowd, I start to panic. So, no marches or rallies for me.

My other reason for not going to rallies etc. is that I know too much about political theories and other forms of government. As an undergrad I was a government major. I also hold an MA and a PhD in political science. I have spent my entire post-high school educational career studying politics. I took an entire, semester-long class on Marx (don’t do that…trust me). I say all of this to demonstrate that I really have spent most of a lifetime studying politics and more importantly, I specialize in emerging democracies, what makes them succeed, why do some fail… I believe that I can say with some authority that whatever its faults, our system is light years ahead of any Marxist/socialist government system. Light. Years. Just remember one basic idea: Whatever government gives to you, it can take away. And the corollary: Rest assured, government will always take things away if it thinks it can get away with it.

All of this is a long way to say, my line was crossed at the violent looting and protests. Actually, my line was when Antifa became a thing and proudly announced their socialist/Marxist goals. But Lindsay continues…if your line has been crossed, or when it’s crossed, what will you do? Will you speak up? Will you write? Will you say anything? When your line is crossed, what do you do?

I’ve decided that I will write, and to the extent it doesn’t drive me crazy, I will post articles and comments on Facebook. That is the venue where I keep in touch with the majority of my friends. 99% of my FB friends are also real life friends from college, high school, and my professional life. So, there is an element of risk. Risk that people will cut me off or that I will cut them off because they become insulting. But, I know that I do have many friends who, while we may sharply disagree on how to address problems this country faces, we share many more points in common. And, we can and do argue, yes loudly and strongly, but in the end, we can go have a beer and figure out why cats and dogs act like they do or solve all the other problems in the world. The caveat for this is we’re face to face or on the phone. FB does not allow for nuance, facial expressions, and allows you to forget that you actually do know the person on the other end of that comment or post. In the end, I will keep posting. I like to think that maybe, just maybe, somebody will take in what I write, and it will sit in the back of their brain forcing them to give the idea at least some attention.

And, why do this? Well, as Lindsey points out, if you don’t know where your line is and don’t actually articulate it, you will likely cross it without noticing, or with some vague rationale. Then you will be on a rapidly descending slope and well into the area where you will now support a multitude of horrific actions by groups you claim to find credible.

You have to find your line before you cross it.

This simple act of getting people to commit to their principles before they let them slip is of tremendous importance and use because of how we process our moral reasoning. We do this by post-hoc rationalization, meaning that we lawyer ourselves into believing we acted morally after act, which often means after we’ve already crossed the line. Drawing a clear line ahead of time, especially in a social context where accountability weighs in, makes it that much easier to see the line, bright and clear, and that much harder to cross first and rationalize after.

James Lindsay, The Woke Breaking Point

We all need to pay attention to the stated aims, and the fine print in the groups we support. We need to learn their history, even that of the political parties. (How many people are surprised that the Democratic Party created the KKK to be their militant arm? Or that the Republican party was the last third party to become a major party through their single-issue platform of abolition in the 1860 election?) Pay attention. Read a variety of sources with a variety viewpoints. Believe it or not, you won’t die if you read something you disagree with.

What will it take for you to say “That’s it. I’m out.”? Vandalizing statues? Tearing them down? Tearing down every statue they decide they don’t like? Burning churches? White people screaming insults at black cops? Cities losing control of a neighborhood for weeks? People getting raped and murdered in those autonomous zones? Rioting every single night for over 50 nights? Mayors who do not stop such excesses?

Figure out where your line is and then figure out what you will do when it’s crossed. Yes, it is that important.

Image by andreas N from Pixabay

Don’t Be A Jerk

Earlier today I posted a meme thing on FB that basically said there are many reasons why somebody wears a mask and many why they don’t wear one – no matter which side you fall on, don’t be a jerk. I immediately got blow back from people wanting to know why certain things were and were not on the two lists. Seriously? If that’s your biggest problem with that meme, then you have been a jerk at some point and now you’re having to think about it in those terms.

We never like to be called out on bad behavior. It’s embarrassing to admit you’ve been a jerk. And when it comes to something that you know is personal…wearing a mask, you get even more uncomfortable. Regardless of their effectiveness masks have become a signal. Wearing it, a signal of your virtue. Not wearing one, a signal of your resistance to seemingly arbitrary rules handed down by governors without support from legislators. What does it mean if you wear one sometimes and not others? I’m not sure. Practical?

Full disclosure, I don’t wear a mask when I’m walking around outside. I do wear one when I go into the store. The stores are just trying to stay in business (yes, even the Target and Wegmans) and to stay in business they have to follow the current rules. I don’t want them to get in trouble and I need to go grocery shopping. I do not live in a state where I have options if I decide not to give a store my business because they require a mask. I can’t go anywhere else. But, believe me, I wear it as little as possible. After about an hour, I start to get eczema outbreaks on my face. I’m also slightly claustrophobic so wearing it for any length of time becomes very stressful. This means that the microsecond I get out of a store, the mask comes off.

At the same time, hell yeah, I laugh and comment – in my head – when I see people with their mask on their chin pull it up as they get near me. And I laugh at the sideways looks. But I’m wearing reflective sunglasses so they can’t see my eyes (which may explain why they don’t say anything…hard to when you’re not actually looking at somebody’s eyes). But…all of that is in my head, and I smile at everyone I pass on our walks. I do my damnedest to not be a jerk. At least not out loud to strangers. I try…emphasis on try.

When my husband and I go for our daily walk we do not wear masks. We have gotten some sideways looks, but nobody has said anything directly to us (not counting the Parks & Recs people today who offered us masks). In college a friend told me that I have a look that says “Fuck with me and I’ll bite your legs off”. I guess I still do. If anybody were to ever say anything to me, depending on what they said and their attitude, oh, they’d get a response.

It bothers me that many of my friends seem to feel that it’s required of them to make nasty, arrogant, and condescending remarks about wearing a mask. To go into “mansplaining” mode (both men and women do this), to let us hoi polloi know that we are so very, very wrong in our opinions and any data we bring to the table is clearly flawed. Many claim to want a clear and thoughtful discussion, but the minute you try to provide any counter-argument they balk. I know that nobody has ever won an argument on Facebook. But, c’mon. We can still have a civil discussion. Right? We can, if people remember that being a jerk is, as my dad would say, bad form.

Don’t be a jerk. Call out people when they’re being jerks. Don’t let them slide.

Image by rickey123 from Pixabay

Cursebreaker

This is Week 26 for Odd Prompts from More Odds than Ends. This week I was given: A visceral memory (yours or fictional as you prefer), brought to mind by a scent, taste, song, etc. from Fiona Grey. My prompt was, The noise woke me up. I looked out the bedroom window to see two fully armored knights rolling a stone into my back yard. The stone had a sword protruding from one side. What is going on? and it went to Leigh Kimmel. Head over to both of their places to see what they’ve done with current and past prompts.

This rattled around in my head for a few days and finally came out as part of the next installment of what I’m provisionally calling Cursebreaker. This is the first time I’ve managed to make one piece follow directly from a previous piece. Previously I wrote them in a sort of chronological order, but not one directly after the other. I’m working on putting the pieces together into a coherent whole. So, to that end, I present the next part in the life of Jack McKnight, Cursebreaker.

Previous installments can be found here. Our protagonist has just freed his brother-in-law and family from the confines of a figurine.

*******

Monica hugged Rob hard before reaching for her sister-in-law and niece. After Monica moved on, Jack and Rob exchanged a long stare.

Jack finally spoke. “I’ll get you…us…a drink. Let’s sit down and figure out what happened.”

Rob nodded. He looked over at the cluster of his young daughter, two dogs, his wife, and his sister. “Yeah. They seem to be handling things. You got any whiskey?” he turned to Jack.

“You know it.” Jack pointed at the couch. “Sit. I’ll get it.” He walked over to the small liquor cabinet in the corner of the living room, grabbed two low ball glasses and the bottle of good Scottish whiskey he kept for special occasions. Or, as in this case, emergencies. He was pretty sure Rob would want it neat. He certainly did.

Walking back to the sofa, Jack glanced over at Monica and the others. Bruno was hovering over Sophie, seemingly reluctant to let her get too far away, while Ralphie lay in Julia’s arms occasionally reaching up to lick her chin. Sophie sat on the floor and leaned against Bruno. Monica and Julia were deep in conversation.

Jack handed Rob his glass and sat down in the chair next to the sofa. Rob raised his glass to his face and inhaled the peaty aroma of the whiskey. He smiled.

“This takes me right back to when we all went to Scotland, what, ten? twelve? years ago. Monica and Julia were shopping, and you and I bought a bottle of this, and headed out of town to one of those old seventeenth century bridges over the river and drank half the bottle. I can feel the stones under my hands, the sun on my head. That was a great day.” He took a sip and smiled.

“Yeah, we got lucky with the sunshine. Remember it rained almost the whole time we were there. But it was still a great trip,” Jack raised his glass in a salute to his brother-in-law and took a sip himself.

Jack let the smokey liquid slide down his throat before looking up at Rob. “Dude. What the hell happened? Who cursed you and why did they curse Julia and Sophie too?”

Rob took a deep breath and let it out. He followed that with another sip of whiskey. “It was two witches, Camilia Sharpe and Armina Grove. I had asked them to help me strengthen my working circle. Witches have a stronger connection to the elements than sorcerers do, and I figured if they helped me repair the circle, the combination of magic would make it stronger. We had a contract, and yes, I read it over very carefully. I know I didn’t breach any part of it. But about a week later the two of them showed back up claiming I had broken the contract. Before I could say anything, they cursed the whole family. The last thing I remember is seeing one of them holding up that stupid figurine. Next thing I know, we’re standing here.” He paused. Another sip. He looked up at Jack. “That’s all I got. How did we get here?”

Jack mirrored Rob’s pull on the glass of whiskey. “Bruno and Ralphie brought you. I should tell you, you are the fifth or sixth magic worker cursed into a doll and brought over by their dog that I’ve seen in about three weeks. What the hell are you guys doing? Is this a new trend or something? Or is somebody out to get rid of magic workers?”

Rob sighed and stared into his glass. “I wish I knew. There were a couple of rumors, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. You know how clique-ish the magic community is…”

“Tell me about it,” Jack responded. He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Freelance curse-breakers like him were treated like a necessary evil. Not seen as true magic workers, even though they were the ones who got to undo all the b.s. curses that magic workers tended to throw around. He took a deep breath and willed himself to calm down. Rob wasn’t like that. This wasn’t his fault. A wet nose pushed into his hand and Captain nudged him until Jack was forced to pat the big German shepherd on the head. He smiled and delivered the requested ear scratches, feeling better immediately.

He smiled at Rob. “Yeah, you guys are worse than high school. Let me go get my notes from the others and let’s see what we can put together.”

Rob nodded and tossed back the last of the whiskey. Before he went into his office to gather his notes, Jack grabbed the bottle and put it on the coffee table in front of Rob.

******

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to join in our Odd fun, just head on over to More Odds Than Ends. The instructions are posted right there and the one rule is to have fun!

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

Books and Reading

Posts on books, reading, bookshelves, collecting books, buying books, culling books, not culling books, have been coming to my attention in the last few days (check out Cedar Sanderson’s post, Bibliophilia). I have a LOT of books. My husband has a LOT of books. Between us we have TONS of books. We live in a small two-bedroom apartment. There is not a lot of extra room. We turned the front room, which was meant to be the main bedroom, into a home office for both of us. It has five bookcases. The hallway has two, the living room has three, and the bedroom has one. This isn’t even dealing with the ten or so banker’s boxes of books that came from my campus office.

Before we moved away from California twenty years ago, I purged at least a hundred books. These were books that I had bought, read once (well before electronic books) and hadn’t picked up again. When we moved in together I had boxed them up and put them in storage. A year later, realizing I had not once looked for any of the books in storage, I donated them all to the local Goodwill.

My husband and I have different tastes in books. He prefers, and almost exclusively reads, non-fiction. It can be historical, historical analysis, political, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him reading fiction. I, on the other hand, love urban fantasy (duh), swords and sorcery, mysteries, and science fiction. I also like a range of authors like Tom Clancy, P.G. Wodehouse, John LeCarre, Terry Prachett. We both like biographies, especially about bands and singers we like (we do share pretty identical tastes in music).

I have books that I’ve collected (for example all of the Oz books, a collection started by my grandmother for my father), books that I re-read often, and books that I’ve read once and keep because, well…because. There are reference books, and of course, books from grad school and beyond. I love being surrounded by books. And, I do love the electronic readers such as Kindle, etc. The ability to take a few dozen books on vacation or any trip is intoxicating.

The first time I went to Europe, I did the post-college-backpack-through-Europe-for-three-weeks thing with a couple of friends. One of the things I loved was picking up books in hostels or pensions reading them over the course of the next few days, dropping them at the next hostel/pension/b&b and picking up another one. That way you didn’t get weighed down carrying books, yet you were able to read several. That was how I ended up binge reading Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. We must have followed that individual around Europe. I also learned that Ludlum has a definite formula (hero is wrongfully blamed, government baddies after him, ex-wife/gf/lover helps out despite rocky end to relationship, saves the world) that he uses in Every.Single.Book. By the time I got to the last two or three books I was challenging myself to figure out the plot arc by the end of the first chapter. I was correct each time.

It doesn’t matter what genre or type or subject, books provide escape, knowledge, information, ideas, a different world view, laughter, life lessons, puzzles, and entertainment. Sometimes all in the same book. In other words, books offer the world. Reading is not just fundamental, it’s necessary for me.

Writing has become another way for me to escape. Now I am indulging all my day dreams of worlds and discoveries in my own stories. And, I can’t tell you how much fun it is!

What kind of books/stories do you like? How eclectic are your tastes?

Enjoy a lazy Sunday! If it’s nice outside where you are, take a book outside and read!

Image by Birgit Böllinger from Pixabay

Masking

To mask or not to mask, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged Karens, or to use research against a sea of shaming and by opposing end it? With profuse apologies to Shakespeare, this is where I find my brain wandering off to these days. I’ve had conversations and read numerous comments regarding the wearing of masks. I fall on the side of masks have become a symbol of compliance rather than a useful tool in the (endless and perhaps foolish) fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 or the Wuhan flu or CCP flu (pick your favorite name). I do not wear a mask when I’m out for a walk or otherwise simply mucking about. I will put it on in stores that require one as I don’t want to get them in trouble, but otherwise no.

Here’s the thing. The stated reason behind the wearing of masks is for the greater good. That greater good is based on the assumption that everybody is a potential carrier of Wuhan flu and everybody is a spreader as well. I have said for a long time now that the more realistic response to this virus was to isolate the sick and protect the vulnerable (elderly, immuno-compromised) people. People who show no symptoms should not have to curtail or end their daily lives. Yes, but, I’m told, you are contagious before you show symptoms. Yes, this is true. It is also true for a number of other viruses, including the corona viruses we know as the common cold and other strains of the flu. So why do we treat this thing so differently?

For one, the world received bad information from the Chinese government. They had their own reasons for not being upfront about things, primary among those was the desire to maintain the facade that the CCP is totally in control and does not make mistakes. This attitude has cost millions upon millions of lives throughout history. I also think that there were those in Europe and the US who saw this as a political opportunity. It is not an exaggeration to say that there are those who despise Trump so deeply that there are few if any limits to the depths to which they will go to ensure he is not re-elected in the fall.

But, beyond the geopolitical implications, fear is playing the largest role in keeping people from going outside and when they do venture out, fear makes them wear a mask. Also, and this is a strong reason as well, they don’t want people to think they don’t care, and wearing a mask, in their minds, shows they care. Right now, as states reopen, cases are rising…because testing is rising. But deaths appear to be flat and even lowering. If you look at the CDC numbers you can see this. But the fear engendered by the rising cases is bringing renewed panic. This is not a disease that kills on contact like Ebola. It is not waiting in the air for you to step out of your house so it can attack you. This fear is being drummed up.

None of this is to say that the Wuhan flu is not a matter of concern. It is, especially if you or someone in your family falls into one of the vulnerable groups. But, and here’s the big part, for a large majority of us, that is not the case. As with the regular flu strains (which cause something like 20,000 deaths in the US annually), the usual precautions can be taken and have a good effect: wash your hands, sneeze/cough into your elbow, don’t touch your face, and if you’re sick, stay away from people.

Back to masking…sorry, that was a bit of a detour. No, I don’t like to wear a mask and I do not wear one whenever possible. I have eczema which is aggravated by a mask, especially in hot, humid weather. I also get claustrophobic if I have one on for too long. I have not yet been yelled at by a Karen, although I’ve received some sideways glances (all of which I’ve ignored). I don’t think states, cities, or other municipalities should be making rules regarding wearing a mask. Especially when doctors writing in NEJM suggest that mask wearing is not effective outside of a hospital setting and is indeed a reflection of fear and anxiety over the pandemic:

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public spaces therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

Klompas et al, “Universal Masking in Hospitals in the COVID-19 Era”, NEJM, 5/21/20

This should be your guide to mask vs. no mask along with other general information, easily found, covering other strains of flu. Not fear of social ostracization.

Image by Elliot Alderson from Pixabay