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Jan Hillard: The meanings of my mask, which has become an object of symbolic importance

Throughout American history, inanimate objects have taken on symbolic importance.

American flag stickers, peace signs, and MAGA caps are only a few of the many symbolic objects. To display these objects or not display them carries with it indications of the owner’s politics and character.

The objects can evoke prejudice, hatred, comraderies, and belonging.

Today, the virus mask has become this sort of symbol.

This is both divisive and dangerous. COVID protesters are now mocking mask wearers and have been photographed tearing off masks. Chants of “No more masks,” “Mask wearers are weak,” and “Real Americans fight without masks,” are heard at demonstrations across the country.

I have listened to Trump’s refusal to wear a mask, along with his fanning the flames of protests for liberation. In times of crisis, everything a President says and does has critically important meaning. Trump’s mixed messages about the virus are standard fare from someone who demonstrates little care or understanding of this crisis. “Take bleach on the interior to kill the virus” is all you need to know about Trump’s total lack of understanding.

Yesterday, a protestor in Columbus Ohio went after a reporter who was wearing a mask, jeering and threatening her as well as refusing to honor the reporter’s social distancing. Likely the protestor felt emboldened by the President and the nonexistent Constitutional right to leave home during an emergency.

While some may want to jeer at masks or threaten those using them. My mask has only one meaning. Safety for me and safety for others.

I don’t go out without it. It is my seat belt as I walk the isles of the grocery store or wait in line at Home Depot. I am not un-American nor a wimp for using my mask.

It is my weapon against a hidden threat.

Guns, military garb, or outrageous slogans are totally ineffective against this enemy. And those cartoon-like protestors who display weapons and battle gear have no protection from this foe.

In their zeal to appear as freedom-loving, they have in fact taken away their own freedom, the freedom that comes with wearing a mask.

Jan Hillard is a Faculty-Emeriti of Northern Kentucky University and a senior editor for the NKyTribune. His opinions are his own.

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