In recent weeks, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to mushroom, more and more states and local governments have required people to wear masks in public. A growing number of businesses have begun requiring masks on their premises. This is grounded in mounting scientific evidence that proves wearing a mask protects those around us from the droplets that spread the virus, thereby slowing its spread. However, all the explaining and parsing in the world still isn’t enough for a significant element of the population who fear that requiring masks tramples on their freedoms.
Much of that fear has been stirred up by elements of the religious right. However, one of the most ridiculous arguments against masks comes from an Indiana-based evangelist who claims that wearing a mask is actually a sign that you’re living in fear.
Nelson Schuman helms Restored to Freedom, a ministry based in Carmel, Indiana; a suburb of Indianapolis. He splits his time between the Indianapolis area and his home in Columbia City, near Fort Wayne. On Friday, he was at a Kroger in Fort Wayne and noticed that an elderly shopper was practically the only other person in the store not wearing a mask. Schuman was so giddy about it that he took to Facebook to post about it.
He made a similar post on Instagram.
Schuman is of the mind that if you wear a mask, you’re “submitting to the fear” that is supposedly being ginned up over this virus. The woman was of the same mind, telling Schuman that she couldn’t understand why so many people around her seemed to be so afraid of the virus.
Apparently Schuman hasn’t considered that his warped idea of bravery puts people who are at the most risk for catching this virus in real danger. Perhaps Schuman ought to talk to people like Lori Wagoner, a general store clerk in eastern North Carolina.
Wagoner has asthma, an auto-immune condition. Wagoner told The Washington Post that whenever she sees people pull into the parking lot without masks, she tenses up. The sheriff in her county refuses to enforce a statewide mask requirement, even though dozens of people stop by her town while traveling along the Intracoastal Waterway. On most days, by the time she goes home, the plastic shield over her register is coated with spit. Despite increasingly stronger-worded warnings at the door about wearing masks, anywhere from five to ten percent of her customers refuse to comply. At one point, she had to take 12 days off due to the stress.
So riddle me this, Nelson. Are you willing to tell Wagoner she’s living in fear when she’s speaking out about people exposing her to this virus? After all, if she catches it, she has little to no chance of fighting it off.
At first blush, this appears to be a case of recklessness on par with people who continued going to bars and nightclubs to show that they weren’t letting this virus scare them. But Schuman then veers into anti-vaxxer hokum, claiming that stirring up fear of the virus is the next step toward making them get a vaccine that will get them sick. Who’s the fearmonger now, Nelson?
What Schuman is peddling here isn’t just wrong. It’s callous and dangerous, and he must be called out for it. Let him have it on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. Also give him an earful on his ministry’s Facebook page.
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