Now more than ever we (re)learn how much masks protect.
They protect you from me.
They protect me from you.
We’re calling them PPE now – more than a mask; a shield, a barrier holding back a pathogen.
A barrier to protect those I love from my very breath.
Every blown bubble, every song sung, every trumpet blown. Every cough and sneeze a profane herald of pestilence. Except for those masks, or hankies, or self-control (remember that oft o’er-looked fruit of the spirit?)
Masks protect our loved ones. That’s why heroes wear them; not to hide their identity for its own sake, but to protect their loved ones from retribution, to protect their loved ones from being used as pawns.
But it’s not just about protection for our heroes. It’s a symbol. It’s that the hero isn’t just an individual, but that they represent something good about their community. Or something darker that needs to be channeled through one person. And it means anyone can take up the mask and become a hero. It’s the mask that matters, not the man or woman.
Masks protect Storytellers when the Truth they tell is dangerous. Masks protect Storytellers from becoming the story. Masks Protect our sense of self, projects an “otherness”, maintains our privacy. The Masks of Comedy and Tragedy help manage expectations, help prepare us, help distance us.
And we all have our own masks, masks to protect our hearts. Masks of “I’m fine” when you’ve learned that the person who asks “how are you?” isn’t interested in the answer. Until they are and their interest and kindness and the fact that you matter strips you of that mask… until fear and anxiety brings it back on occasion.
And right now, while people are Zooming into my face, invading my personal space, where only a precious few would usually have a place… so of course it’s “Shields up! Red Alert” and the mask which has kept me alive risks slipping.
But love tears it off completely and I am exposed.
Exposed to the Virus of Community, the Virus of Selflessness, the Virus of Kindness. The Virus of “YOU MATTER”. No one is an island in this brave new world of masks.
And no-one is an island in this brave new world where veils are torn in two.Where the curtain is pulled back, where those who wear masks not to protect but to deceive, manipulate and profit are exposed.
Like the wretched Scooby Doo Villains they are, their masks of civilised discourse and “Our country First” are being torn away in an apocalypse. Their true nature of self first, causing pain second, and others not even a distant third is open for all to see. They and the death dealing systems of “The Normal” so many are keen to get back to are denied their masks of deception in this time of Apocalypse and masks of protection.
Except some of us have seen them all along. We’ve seen this Gog and Magog rattling behind the curtain, crouched behind a mask they thought no-one could see. We’ve seen them put disabled bodies to sacrifice to their gods, Black and indigenous bodies under their heel, Queer and Female bodies used only for convenience. Owned. Rejected. Killed. For profit. For pleasure. For Power. And we screamed and shouted “behind you” but you treated us like the Boy Who Cried Wolf… And really we’ve been Cassandra all along.
Will your desire to “go back to Normal” let these hucksters, these mendaciously cruel ideologues, these Villains pick up their masks once again. “Normal” was broken. We Cassandras knew that from the beginning. Will you listen to us and burn that wooden horse with the enemy hiding inside? The enemy is the Broken System. The Soldiers, just as much victims as anybody. The generals, the Kings living in indolence made possible only by the broken bodies at their feet… please, let’s not allow them to pick up their masks again.
And it is an “us” thing. This apocalypse is something only possible because of “we”. No one is an island in this brave new world.
And no-one is an island in this brave new world where veils are torn in two. Torn in two to reveal the God who suffers and dies… and then is victorious. Victorious not by initiating violence, but by smashing the myth of redemptive violence altogether. The God who defeats his enemies by making them His friends. His Apocalypse was made possible through love, through sacrifice, through the unknowable community of The Trinity. A “We” that created. A “We” that protects. A “We” that gives us a symbol of Hope. And a “We” that tears the mask from deceivers.