By Yanky Goldman*
I can yet recall the days when I knew what it felt like having human dignity. Sure, things were far from perfect and you faced your own set of struggles.
I could ponder this country’s virtue of being one in which your own destiny is largely in your own hands. You may critique political winds that you may feel strip you of portions of it, but by and large when you looked into the mirror you knew that the person looking back at you was the most dominant determinant of your destiny.
But then came the lockdowns. It came with overwhelming challenges to survive. I needn’t expound as we’ve all lived it and know.
But the mandatory placing of masks on our [formerly own] faces outside of clinical settings is the day that human dignity died. The state asserted ownership over your body, let alone executing its claim on the portion of the body that is its crown. The body’s ventilation unit must be draped by a flimsy device.
One may get a temporary respite when they know they aren’t breathing their offending air near enough to others to constitute a rational threat to another’s wellbeing, even if an active carrier of the virus.
But then, all too often, quickly arrives the reminder via snide remarks, piercing gazes and spontaneous meltdowns, reminding you that your body was nationalized and is now communal property.
The feeling of contemplating my existence with only memories of when I held autonomy over my own body leaves me gravely dispirited. And there is no end in sight. Though the death rate is already long flat and virtually akin to a typical year, these mandates have no end in sight.
And the shul where I go to energize my spiritual feeling of connection is where I no longer feel welcome. Sure, nobody has disinvited me from shul, but the conditions to enter is so oppressive that I feel like I’m entering anything but a sanctuary.
I suffer through the prayers to ensure my local minyan survives but I feel that I’m casting aside my emotional wellbeing every time I go into shul. This is very unfortunate.
I understand that many locales have guidelines that leave them fearing they’d be shut or fined heavily if they don’t employ masking protocols. But too many congregations exceed mandates and become petty enforcers of how high up the face the mask reaches.
Community leaders and Rabbis must work on a concrete set of goals to phase out the masking. Perhaps having a stringent section and a more liberal section free of enforcement. This I believe must be done sooner rather than later. Too many people are deteriorating spiritually and psychologically and the gravity of oppression is taking a large toll.
* Knowing the passions running so high on these issues and wishing to protect my family from being demonized, I’ve elected not to put my real name to this email