– August 29, 2020
faceless

“Will he ever return? No, he never returned. His fate is still unlearned…He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston, the man who never returned…” 

So I recall the old song about “Charlie on the MTA.” 

Perhaps it was an earlier incarnation of Charlie Baker, who finally did return as the lockbrained “phasist” Republican governor of Maskachusetts.

In any case, you had better read this Prophecy quickly because I may not return to write any more. Charlie has taken over. I may have been unmasked as part of a “troubling cluster” of “private recreational activity.” I am wantonly exhibiting my face to the world in defiance of Anthony Fauci and his covidocracy.

After a near crisis at a Starbucks in Santa Barbara, where the restroom was closed for the “safety and well-being of our customers,” I received on my way home a serious warning from an Alaska Airlines flight attendant. I smiled but she did not have a sense of humor. 

I was told that I was seriously jeopardizing the safety of guests and employees by my failure to fully cover my nose with my face mask. In the fusiform gyrus, the human brain is geared to respond to faces, but in the absence of faces less refined mental responses arise.

I tried to explain that as an 80-year-old man, I use my nose to breathe. I guess I was feeling facially feisty, as an aftereffect of my recent trip to Moscow, Idaho, where I was interviewed by Pastor Douglas Wilson on his “Man Rampant” Interview show. His healthy congregation of 1,400 gathers unmasked, with Wilson maintaining that its worship services are a protest demonstration protected by the First Amendment. But “Man Rampant” or not, in these dark days, I do not recommend talking back to the healthcare nomenclatura. 

Alaska Airlines upholds the prevailing prevarication that “wearing face coverings significantly reduces transmission of the COVID-19 virus.” To a virus thousands of times smaller than the mesh of a mask, a cloth appears like an immense lattice of large and completely open windows and doors. 

Its chief effects are to make politicians and pettifogs feel important and citizens feel ignominious. The cloth confines larger bacteria, aerosols, and sputum near receptive surfaces, such as your eyes, nose, and mouth and thus cultivates both mental and physical disease.

A punctilious study by Swiss researchers pored through dozens of peer-reviewed analyses on the impact of masks and found no significant benefits and several downsides. 

Oh well…Such evidence is no longer relevant in America. Almost utterly suppressed are the key facts in the central debate in our politics. Handing me an alarming yellow card, Alaska informed me: “This is your final notice to comply with our policy.” Reading on anxiously to determine whether I would be arrested on arrival at O’Hare or whether I might instead be cast out of the plane before landing, I learned my fate.

“If you do not [comply], you will not be permitted to fly with us again, for as long as our policy remains in effect. This suspension will occur immediately on landing, and will include cancellation of any remaining portion of your itinerary (connecting and return flights).”

This may result in my confinement for 14 days in a quarantine near O’Hare, under the wanton violation of the interstate commerce clause by invidiously posturing governors playing their silly tit-for-tat games.

I hasten to say that I don’t blame Alaska Airlines, or the poor faceless flight attendants. It is an effect of runaway media and power mad politicians gratuitously attacking a crucial dimension of the personal identity of fully healthy American citizens.

Perhaps aware of rising resentment toward the inexcusable lockdowns, the COVID panic patrol now maintains that business reopening depends on mandatory masks. The politicians who have brutally botched the economy are now holding businesses hostage to their humiliating masquerade. But masks are near the root of the crisis.

The Alaska Airlines flight was rather full and several people wanted to shift seats in order to sit with their friends. But because of the masks these ordinarily routine negotiations were unsuccessful. Amid the noise of the plane, and missing the usual context of facial signals, people from different cultures could not understand what each other were saying or feeling. 

One young Asian woman in an aisle seat took off her mask to make herself clearer to the young man in the window seat who was seeking to move. Under normal circumstances being addressed by a beautiful face would be a pleasant experience. But he recoiled, barking, “Put your mask back on!” 

The woman in front of her who was seeking to move next to the man at the window then turned around to join the fray. “Please put on your mask before you speak to me!” she exclaimed. By the time the plane took off no one was in their wanted seat and everyone was seething. Everyone felt insulted.

Later during the flight, the man in the window seat needed to get up to use the bathroom. The young woman on the aisle was plunged into a fugue state and seemed unable to move or speak. She just sat in a trance looking straight ahead through glazed eyes. He eventually called the flight attendants and they clumsily and facelessly forced her to move. 

Greeting the Asian woman on arrival was a cluster of Chicago police, who surrounded by faceless people speaking in a blur could not understand what had happened. The woman had disrupted the plane by removing her mask and later refusing to move. She was in the wrong, but it was an utterly unnecessary contretemps.

Put it down as another incident of mental illness, miscommunication, conflict, and resentment caused by the egregious overreach of politicians reducing their constituents to a faceless mass of fearful and fractious nonentities. A nation without faces cannot be free or civilized.

A nation without faces cannot even talk to one another. We cannot rise to seek a common truth epitomized by the face of a unitary God. We are consigned to C.S. Lewis’s mythical nation of “Glome” in his novel ‘Till We Have Faces. Glome is a barbaric, pre-Christian world, where the heroine learns that we cannot grasp the will of the gods or the nature of the universe, “till we have faces.”  

With one of the two major presidential tickets joined in demanding a mandatory mask rule through Election Day and beyond, this election has become a test of the face of a nation.

George Gilder

George Gilder

George Gilder is a Senior Resident Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. Mr. Gilder is one of the leading economic and technological thinkers of the past forty years and is the author of nineteen books, including The Scandal of Money and Life After Google. Mr. Gilder is a founding fellow of the Discovery Institute, where he began his study of information theory.

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