The masks came, and now it appears the masks will be gone. Hopefully, they won’t return anytime soon or in force.

Among my impressions is that masks showed us a great deal about the people we have elected to govern. More about that in my conclusion.

My first question about masks was their effectiveness. As you listened to the anointed expert you were probably confused, as I was, when his comments and guidance seemed contradictory. Added to the simple question of effectivity is the sheer variety of materials used that ranged from various medical-type masks to painters’ masks, respirators and handkerchiefs, including designer fabrics and fashion statements.

In my early discussions with other people, we basically agreed that masks had the effect of dehumanizing us. I met a number of people who simply could not recognize me until I spoke or mentioned my name. I didn’t have that problem, but others appeared to be “lost” as they tried to identify me and others.

Every one of us is unique; masks took away some of that uniqueness. States and cities had to change their laws and policies that prohibited wearing masks that obscured one’s identity in public.

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The Lone Ranger would certainly have been in trouble because his mask didn’t cover his nose and mouth. The Phantom of the Opera and Zorro would have the same problem too. The outlaws who pursued stagecoaches or robbed trains and banks in the cinematic westerns would have been fine - their noses and mouths were covered. Hmmm.

Conversations became muffled and sometimes unintelligible. Once sports began, athletes experienced difficulty breathing - not surprising to most everybody except the rule makers.

I felt the pandemic brought out many good things in our society as the entire medical profession responded with everything they had. We learned we didn’t have enough of the proper medical equipment and facilities.

It was interesting how wearing a mask became a sacred duty. The subject of masks sometimes brought out the worst in a few of us - enter the self-righteous, busybodies who lost no time scolding others loudly and vociferously for not following the rules. Now these know-it-alls have transferred their efforts to the vaccination efforts.

For you literary types, I recommend you read Edgar Allen Poe’s "Masque of the Red Death." This gothic short story should evoke some interesting comparisons with your impressions of this past year.

Many of our favorite television series now feature masks on all the performers, shortly after most of the mask requirements have been relaxed or eliminated. The same with many commercials. It’s interesting to note how all these different entities got on the mask bandwagon.

I almost hesitate to mention the increased number of minorities appearing in commercials too. We are an interesting society in so many ways, including how we seek to change our stripes to appear more understanding, sensitive or just-plain politically correct.

Besides the issue of masks, the way the federal, state and local governments handled this pandemic was instructive in a number of ways. Statistics became a game as there wasn’t a standard for assigning cause of death. Numbers were certainly inflated and the media didn’t help with their breathless reporting.

I assume each governor has the provision to assume emergency powers to deal with a crisis. The depth and breadth of those powers probably differs by state and level. Several states had their own internal “civil wars” that played out on the national stage as the governors and legislatures jockeyed for position and power.

I’m not going to say anything specific about Minnesota. Here, as in other states, the total response was affected by the number and type of medical facilities and equipment immediately available to treat the worst cases of infection. I believe that led to some over-reaction that set the tone for the rest of the rules, restrictions and decisions.

What followed could have and should have included cooperation of both political parties and the legislative branch. That could have increased the understanding and acceptance of the restrictions that followed.

Whether it was true or not, at national, state and some local levels, the appearance of the “I’m in charge” demeanor was all too apparent. Let’s hope this is a lesson learned.

That’s how I see it.