“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
Dear Cranky Old Lady,
You gave me quite a shock this week, when you turned to see me behind you in the Post Office.
I was wearing a face mask. That upset you very much.
You began to abuse me for wearing the mask, yelling loudly at me, and then you tried to pull the mask off my face.
I’m not quite sure why you were so angry, but you certainly were. Over and over you pointed out that no-one else was wearing a mask, and that we don’t need to wear one any more. ‘Take it off. Take the damned mask off!’ you kept shouting.
There was no point trying to talk with you, so I turned around and left. Then I sat in my car until I felt that I was okay to drive again. My heart was racing. I was shaking. I hoped your spittle that landed on my face and in my eye was not a vector for any kind of germs. I was upset with myself that you had rattled me so badly.
After a while, I wondered whether you were just mean, or maybe if you had dementia or anxiety. I felt bad for you, because I had obviously upset you too.
But you aren’t the only one. I’ve been loudly abused three times in the past four weeks for continuing to wear a mask, and trust me when I say I don’t go out much. ‘Crazy paranoid bitch’, one guy called me. Another told me I was ‘a fascist and a bloody dickhead’. One young woman ranted at me as I tried to walk through a grocery store early one morning, telling me that masks didn’t work, that I needed to wake up, that people like me needed to stop oppressing others, and that she was trying to educate me about the dangers of facemasks because I was destroying my blood cells, depriving my body of oxygen and could die.
Some shop assistants, who have dealt for months with people wearing face masks, now say to me, ‘What? What? Sorry, I can’t hear you. Can you take your mask off?’ while eye-rolling and then talking behind my back while I am still in earshot to complain about me. Other strangers, while not abusive, have come to tell me that I can take my mask off and that I don’t need it anymore.
Sorry. I do.
My cardiologist and other specialist medical physicians insists that I wear a mask in public, that I avoid large gatherings, and that I don’t dine indoors at cafes or restaurants. I have an enlarged heart, chronic systemic illness, a badly compromised immune system, and a degenerative neurological condition. Although I am vaccinated, it is better for me to avoid COVID, the flu and any other germs that are circulating in my community. I wore a mask BEFORE the pandemic when I was in periods of high risk. I will likely wear a mask in various situations for the rest of my life. A mask has prevented illness before, and I am counting on it as an extra line of defense now. My husband wears one too, because if he becomes ill he will bring infection home to me.
I also received this message sent to one of my inboxes just before the floods here on the East Coast of Australia:
“This is for all of us …
If you do not support the protesters IT’S OKAY because:
If mandates get lifted I would like to remind you:
*You can still stay home. No one will rip the mask off your face
*No one will force you to dine in at a restaurant
*You can drop your children off at their leisure activity and wait in your car
*You can still say no to family gatherings and events
*You can live within your 4 walls and NO ONE will stop you.
*You can still choose to not employ people who have done no wrong and have been a true loyal hard worker for many years
*You can choose to not let people into your business who have supported you since you opened
I will not judge you for your choice – I will just be glad you have one.
That is the point of FREEDOM of choice!
A member of the small fringe minority with unacceptable views
You stay safe, I will stay free!”
I have always supported personal choice, and I uphold this person’s right to theirs. I’m so glad for the majority of people who can return to a more normal life, who don’t have to wear masks, who can invite people to their home or go out to dinner or to a movie and not have to think twice. But this message is ableism in action. It actively discriminates against the disabled and those with health issues. And sorry, it’s judge-y. You ARE judging me. This is passive aggression directed at me!
For us, there is no freedom. Yes, it’s our choice to wear a mask, or to stay home. To remain in the car while we drop children at their leisure activity, or to miss the family gathering or meeting up with friends. For some of us it’s a choice between maintaining some kind of quality of life, or adding to our health complications, or perhaps even dying. Or possibly harming or ending the life of a vulnerable loved one. That isn’t really a choice, is it?
So many people in the disabled community, and chronic and terminal illness community are now effectively prisoners in their own homes. Their freedoms have been severely limited, and they are stuck within four walls. You don’t see us. We’re mostly invisible, and many of this community are already too tired, too sick and too dispirited to add ‘convincing the general public of their need to wear a mask and socially distance’ to their list of things to do when they are already struggling with the basics of simply living.
For those of you now enjoying your freedom but who have problems with mask wearers and people still limited by their disability or health issues, can I ask that you consider practising inclusion and empathy? That you might try compassion and kindness?
I would like to sat that your ignorance and ableism do not affect me, but they do. I already have enough on my plate. I don’t need your hostility and judgement too.