MINOT, N.D. — Several decades from now, I expect that I will struggle to explain to my future grandchildren the reasoning behind opposition to masking during the Great Pandemic of 2020.
I imagine being asked why so many refused to do something as simple as cover their mouths and noses amid an outbreak of a terrible airborne virus. How to explain this mass departure from rational thought to future generations?
The explanation to my imagined progeny will be as difficult to execute as explaining why there were so many violent protests against oil pipelines, given that every single person who has ever objected to a pipeline will, today, as you read this, use a product made from petroleum that was shipped through a pipeline.
"You mean they used the pipelines they were protesting, Grandpa?"
Yes, my fictional dear ones, they did.
They threw rocks and set things on fire. They blocked roads and chained themselves to machinery. They even tried to justify the violence and chaos by citing goofy mysticism that reporters took more seriously, given the news media's left-wing sympathies, than similarly spiritual justifications would come from, say, Christian activists.
If a Catholic starts citing scripture to explain an abortion clinic protest, you're sure to get rolled eyes from the press corps of the sort you're not likely to see when a Native American activist starts talking about the "black snake prophecy."
Religious fervor is actually a useful lens through which to see the irrational political movements of the early 21st century. Many Americans, but for their self-identification as right-wing or left-wing, would have no real issues with masks or pipelines. Like so many sheep, these people see themselves as belonging to a team, and when the team takes a position, you're obliged to take it as well, even if it doesn't make a damn bit of sense.
That's how you get adults, living in one of the most prosperous societies human history has ever produced, the products of a robust system of compulsory education, assaulting a teenager because they don't want to put on masks during a pandemic.
If you think that behavior is any less rational than grownups using gasoline-powered cars to get to a demonstration where they will purposefully get themselves arrested in protest of a pipeline that facilitates gasoline production, that has more to do with your political loyalties than clear thinking.
Many of us will one day look back at this moment in our history and wonder why so many let ideological loyalties trump rational observation of the real world.
For all the bellyaching about nanny state mask mandates and climate-change armageddon, the biggest threat we face today is rooted in the earnest and ardent political activities of those who have convinced themselves they can't possibly be wrong.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.