President Joe Biden’s recent European trip raised many issues, including (with apologies to Shakespeare) “To mask, or not to mask, that is the question” and to further abuse “Hamlet”: “Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the risks of agreeing to shake hands or opposing them.”
Consider the person who receives world class medical advice, the U.S. president, for guidance on best practices.
President Biden began his European trip descending the stairs from the Air Force One wearing a mask walking next to the first lady Jill Biden, who was mask-less. Does this establish a rule of a husband should wear a mask but a wife should not? Does no one else being near them mean that this rule also applies whenever they are alone?
When meeting the mask-less politician at the bottom of the stairs, the president removed his mask. Is there a special exemption for politicians? Foreign politicians? When the other person is mask-less?
The president was mask-less when meeting the mask-less pope. Does this imply that religious leaders are exempt from COVID? Or that the pope had been vaccinated and vaccinated people do not need masks?
Their reaching out their right hands for a handshake raises the question of the appropriateness of this type of greeting. What about handshakes?
There is a theory that this type of greeting originated centuries ago as a non-threatening way to greet people. You see, most people are right-handed, which meant they used that hand to swing their weapons, be it swords or knives, so extending an open right hand and trusting another person to do the same was a sign of peace.
Both parties furthered that offer by permitting the other one to hold their hand which, in effect, disabled it from delivering a blow. This action of agreeing has been extended into other circumstances, such as when parties “shake” as a form of indicating agreement.
Then came COVID and all its uncertainties and fears.
Suddenly the country followed the expert on COVID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, when he said handshakes and even contact with inanimate objects could spread it. Immediately the centuries-old tradition of handshakes was stopped as many of us also became wary of anything we touched.
Then it was “discovered” that it was not spread by touching inanimate objects, before learning Dr. Fauci had been opposed to handshakes long before COVID.
Of course, during this time, we were told that it could be spread by inhaling someone else’s breath, so we should wear masks. Then we learned that people more than six feet away were not a risk, before learning that the type of masks we were using might not be effective, before learning that masks were not needed outside.
While these “discoveries” were summarized in a few words they do not capture all the inconveniences, and accusations for the non-compliers, during the months it took for each of these revelations. Were they preventable?
The answer to this lies within Dr. Fauci, so we probably will never know since he has a “dog in that fight,” meaning conflicts starting with his funding “change of function” research at the Wuhan lab in China where COVID originated.
Dr. Fauci’s recent denial under oath in the Senate was contradicted by his own memo written in January 2020. The essence of which was that he was using taxpayers’ money to create the taking of a virus from bats, from which humans have no natural immunity but which could not be spread to humans, and “changing its function” so it could be spread to humans.
Since the World Health Organization supported the research, that organization also helped misdirect the search for the causes.
Shamefully, not only was Dr. Fauci not prosecuted for lying to Congress, but according to Sen. Dr. Paul Rand, the research continues in the U.S. This raises the question of Dr. Fauci’s involvement with the president’s unmasking polices when he is in Italy.
President Biden traveled from Italy to Glasgow, Scotland, for a meeting of the U.N. Counsel on Climate Change.
In Scotland, we were not able to see inside the 85-vehicle caravan of cars carrying the U.S. contingency so are unable to issue a status of masks. The mask-less president greeted other mask-less leaders while shaking hands. Is the rule that only handshaking in the U.S. is dangerous?
A rule cannot be that masks are not needed in Scotland since he wore a mask when walking alone. The president did demonstrate that wearing a mask does not prevent one from taking a nap during speeches.
Wearing masks have been a part of our fictional literature since at least 1919 when the American pulp writer Johnston McCulley used the concept of a man emerging from hiding to protect the oppressed from an oppressive Spanish regime in Pueblo Los Angeles (1769-1821) to create the character Zorro.
Unmasked, Zorro hid in “plain-sight” as Don Diego de la Vega, who is described as “a coward and a ‘fop’.” FYI a “fop” is a “silly or a foolish person” (Merriam-Webster).
His wearing a mask became so important that his 1920 movie, “The Mask of Zorro,” can still be enjoyed on Turner Classic Movies.
In a 1933 film, another hero wore a mask to conceal his identity and honor his fallen brother: The Lone Ranger, who stood for “That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.”
In 1939, yet another mask wearing hero appeared in comic books: Batman. Note even the fictional writers created masks that did not inhibit the ability of their characters to breath or eat, and each of these heroes would be harmed if they were “unmasked.”
Each of these heroes could be harmed if unmasked despite their good deeds. Similar to today? The Lone Ranger stood for “That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.” Can we shake on the best practice being to unmask the truth?
Brent E Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. Formerly he taught at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law” and “Products and the Consumer” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”