My journey to increasing self-awareness grows as my journey back in Jersey continues. While living in Missoula had its times and place and has helped me find myself, coming back to my hometown has helped me see things from even another perspective.

I thought having been in a ”safe space” would have been best for me; while okay for temporary recluse, it can’t be relied upon as a panacea response to anything and everything. It just becomes an echo chamber, and it dehumanizes anyone who may have any kind of differing opinion from us—I started realizing this, a major reason why I finally dissed Discord and other social media.

While in Missoula, I was not a fan of their governor banning mask mandates; as a good ole boy, I tried to wear a mask any time I was out and about. I neglected on getting my booster (until recently). Since then, I am no longer an advocate for mask mandates. More and more people than ever are now vaccinated. People are good about improved hygiene and practicing social distancing. I avoid large crowds. Numbers are dropping.

My glasses keep fogging every time I have to don a mask, which forces me to fiddle around with everything on my face—which counters the medical advice to not touch your face while we’re still in the depths of this pandemic, least of all risks the chance my hands not just touching my eyes (a not-often talked about entry point when discussing the communicability of covid-19), but also risks leaving smudging on my lenses. I’m working out now, and wearing even one of those ”athletic” masks makes it both hard to breathe when exercising, and all that sweat the mask absorbs leads to irritation.

We have where I work a policy that requires vaccination and boosters (plus compensation to take time off to get shots), but only recommends masks if you’re high-risk or if the risk elevation is high. I’m damn well taking advantage of it. It feels weird “returning to normal” for the first time in years, but I am very happy for it.

I practice social distancing, and still avoid large crowds like sporting events and concerts. If someone is noticeably sneezing and coughing, of course like hell I stay away from them. I wash my hands frequently with anti-microbial soap. I got vaccinated and boosted. Though, it seems like cloth masks and those disposable ”surgical” masks are now not enough—but how are people who are on welfare, underemployed, or are working poor supposed to afford n95 masks when they cost $2-3 each and supposed to be changed daily?? And with only just three masks being sent out to each American…that’s a joke, Biden. Seems like the advice was not changed based on ”science”, but only since the price increased 6-fold to help boost the sales of ”legitimate” providers of such masks.

I’ve read up on how n95 masks work, that while their pores are still larger than the virus, the ”electrostatic” whatever it’s coated with are supposed to attach the virus to the masks, reducing even further the chances that they enter the body. Still not exactly zero chance they’ll enter, and for the ridiculous price these masks are commanding, I doubt they are worth it.

Lockdowns didn’t lower numbers like they predicted, nor turned COVID from a pandemic to an endemic diseases. The disease has peaked and dipped multiple times, just like the flu and other seasonal diseases. Rates may be high, but deaths have dropped significantly, because of vaccination.

If a business I love to frequent still mandates a mask, I have no problem donning one, so long as they provide one for customers. If I am with others that request I wear a mask in their presence, I got no problem wearing one. For me it’s not about idealism or politics; my relationships matter more to me than my personal opinion on something.

Zero-COVID policies have shown, are still showing that they do not work. People can’t just stop working, because we still have rent, food, utilities to pay for—and those companies need to make income somehow so they provide their workers with an income for them to pay their own bills, and so forth. How can I pay them if I don’t have income? How can countries continue to run if our taxes are being deducted from paychecks? You can’t have people just stop working, because we need farmers to grow food, factories to build for our infrastructure, utilities workers to maintain our infrastructure, doctors and nurses to care for our sick, truck drivers to ship and receive mail (especially medical goods for people who seriously need them!!), snow drivers to clean and maintain our roads during the winter time, and yada yada. And our government can’t provide unemployment and other welfare benefits if there’s no taxes to collect, when no one is working!

Maybe also the idea of urbanization as “optimal” for land usage is also bad. Rural areas help keep communicable diseases endemic, as opposed to epidemic.

More than enough companies now provide for order pickup, so if you are seriously immunocompromised, you can still go out to pick up your order if someone else can’t. There’s online shopping, catering and courier services to deliver you things with same-day service, services to do whatever you want do you don’t have to leave home to do anything to protect your health, so the rest of us can move on with our lives, get back to work, and continue to foot your government handouts—unless you’re one of the few mature enough to get one of the plenty of jobs where remote-working is still an option.

”My body, my choice” runs both ways, unfortunately. I don’t want the government banning abortion or access to gender affirming therapies, but that also means the various levels of the US government are in no place to mandate masks, vaccinations, and shutdowns. (I mean this for the US government, as we as a culture value individualism and autonomy; it is not my choice how other countries mandate things, as their cultures also value things differently from my own.) A business, being a private entity, can still mandate it if they want; as a consumer, I have the choice to follow their house rules, or go go elsewhere if I choose not to. As a worker, ”at-will employment” allows me to continue working for a company if they choose or not to mandate masks, and the right to quit if I disagree with the new policy.

The left mocks conservatives for their hypocrisy about banning abortion, but they are just as hypocritical wanting abortion but mandating masks and vaccines. Without resorting to hyperbole, you can’t have it both ways—only mentioning ”bodily autonomy” when it suits your politics, but then discarding it when it’s inconvenient or somehow counters other corners of your political ideology. ”Bodily autonomy” means my body, my choice, for better and worse.

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