THE GREAT UNMASKING

 

There is an undeniable fact about tragedies and trying times – they reveal people. They strip away niceties, facades, pretentions, and show with stunning clarity who people really are underneath. Sometimes we see courage, resilience, selflessness that had previously remained hidden. Other times we see cruelty and callousness that shocks us. It’s ironic that in these grief-stricken times, with a pandemic sweeping through this country and snuffing out lives, the wearing of face masks has become such a divisive issue. Because in a very real sense, we’ve all been unmasked. Whether you don a face mask to protect others, as well as yourself, or whether you angrily refuse to take that precaution says everything about you.

A woman in my neighborhood walks her dog every day with no mask, making no effort to steer clear of others, and in fact even deliberately brushes past them. We are all seeing more than just the lower half of her face. We’re seeing her arrogance, her ignorance, and her disregard for others. A local gardener, when informed that the city is enforcing the wearing of masks and issuing fines, went on a rambling monologue about how only weak people get Covid, so he’s not worried about getting it. There have been instances of violence and stunning cruelty around this issue, unmasking everything about the enraged people who don’t care that they might infect others.

There have also been heart-wrenching acts of kindness and compassion – nurses sitting with patients dying from Covid-19 so they won’t die alone, people starting donation groups to have food delivered to overworked, exhausted medical workers. Humanity at its best unmasked in the midst of pain.

Countries can be unmasked, too. It once seemed like America couldn’t be toppled. Our Constitution seemed infallible; it was our protection – a brilliantly designed document that would keep us safe from tyrants and wanna-be dictators who might see the nation as their own personal property. But Donald Trump, the uncaring, unmasked leader of this nation has shown us that by intimidating those who are supposed to enforce our system of checks and balances, he can essentially rip up the Constitution and no one will stop him. That we have grown casual about the Trump family’s violations of the Emoluments clause is bad enough, but consider what’s happening in Portland, Oregon, where peaceful protesters are being beaten, snatched off the streets, and tossed into unmarked cars.

Michael Dorf, a professor of constitutional law at Cornell University, said, “It is a standard move of authoritarians to use the pretext of quelling violence to bring in force, thereby prompting a violent response and then bootstrapping the initial use of force in the first place.”

My father called America “a shining city on the hill.” Now, we are a crumbling city and the hill is being eroded. Countries that once looked up to us now pity us. The fault lines that were always there have been exposed and are widening – the racial divide, the economic divide, the simmering rage that Donald Trump brought to a boil. The concept of “divide and conquer” is popular with some for one simple reason – it works.

But what is broken can also be mended. Those who believe that America is capable of true greatness – greatness that comes from humanity, compassion, and freedom for all – still outnumber the enraged screamers who think America should only belong to white people. Here is another truth: When broken places are mended, they aren’t the same. Sometimes they’re weaker, sometimes they’re stronger. If we can heal America from these broken years this country will be different – more humble, with less swagger and with more understanding of what can go wrong and why the strength that comes from vulnerability is strength that lasts. As a nation, we have been unmasked. We’ve been revealed and exposed. It’s a painful place to be. But that’s the place where healing has to begin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.