It’s not Friday, but I had an idea (this does not mean it is a good idea) pop in to my head for a story. I thought, what the heck, I’ll go ahead and write it. Here it is.
The Great Unmasking
There was a vaccine. After months of widespread illness, isolation, fear and mask wearing, the universal availability of an effective vaccine had led to, initially an idea, and ultimately the plan for “A Great Unmasking.” There were supporters of the idea in every country on the planet. They came together, virtually of course, to finalize the plan. A date and time was chosen, when masks would be publically removed, exposing the facial expressions (and supposedly the personal character) beneath. As with most widespread, highly publicized events, there was great anticipation and many misconceptions.
The time was set. It did not vary by location. Some would be unmasked to the rising sun, while others’ unmasked faces would reflect the colors of the sunset. Those unmasked where it was night would have the advantage darkness provides, limiting the risks involved with immediate exposure. Some strategically travelled to the places where it would be night.
I was in a place where the event took place at mid-day. My location was afforded neither the softening beauty of sunrise or sunset, nor the cover of darkness. The sun was directly overhead as we emerged from our homes, masks still in place.
Throughout the pandemic, I had marveled at the variety of masks. The variety included style and material. Some were makeshift consisting of scarfs pulled up over the nose and mouth while others were made of paper and looked clinical and plain. Others were beautifully crafted and ornate. Some were cunningly clever.
I had always suspected that the style of the face covering reflected the character of the wearer. We had been masked for a very long time. I was anxious to see the faces behind the masks. I had long ago forgotten where there was beauty and where there was not.
It was an election year. I strongly disagreed with those supporting the “other side.” I suspected that once unmasked the faces of those with signs in their yards supporting the “other side” would reveal an ugliness of spirit that I was sure drove their political bus to the polls. I anticipated a ray of sunshine would highlight the righteousness of my beliefs revealed on my face as I removed my mask.
The morning of “The Great Unmasking” seemed to drag on as long as the pandemic. The time from ten a.m. to eleven a.m. seemed three times as long as the time from six a.m. to seven a.m. had. I had put on my very best mask before preparing to run outside and rip it off. Now the final countdown had arrived: 11:50…, 11:51…., 11:52….., 11:53…….., 11:54………, 11:55…….., 11:56……….., 11:57………….(my hand on the doorknob), 11:58……………(my hand turning the doorknob), 11:59……………(my hand pushing the door open), NOON! I ran from my house and tore off my mask. Why had I taken the time to carefully choose what was to be so enthusiastically discarded?
I scanned my neighborhood, examining the newly exposed faces of neighbors. I anxiously looked for the monstrous and/or righteous truths I expected to be revealed. Their faces were just faces. Some smiled at me, even though signs in their yards proclaimed support for ideologies very different from my own. Some scowled, even though signs in their yards mirrored those in my own.
There were good and not so good people underneath those masks, regardless of the signs in their yards. My expectation of what truth would be revealed by unmasking was not validated. Not all who subscribed to beliefs different from mine, or wore different styles of masks than my own, were monstrous or even bad. Even more surprisingly, not all who agreed with me, or wore masks similar to mine were good. Some who unmasked in the dark bravely moved to the light where there was no hiding what had been covered by a mask. Some who unmasked in the light quickly moved to the shadows. Hope grew. Maybe removing masks of political ideology would reveal our intentions and motivations, rather than rhetoric, allowing us to come together to discuss and truthfully examine the merits of our individual beliefs?
There were those who chose to remain in the dark to continue to hide what their masks had previously hidden. The truth of their beliefs were immediately suspect due to their unwillingness to expose them to the light of examination.
I had expected “The Great Unmasking” to reveal angels and monsters, and there were a few. What surprised me was that while the unmasking did reveal our individuality the greatest majority of us were beautiful and blemished. For most the unmasking revealed neither halos nor horns, but differences that required examination to reveal their merit, not their condemnation. That was the gift and the truth of “The Great Unmasking.”