We went shopping at the big supermarket in our closest big town yesterday, and got to load up our cart with an abundant haul of fruit, veggies, pickles, organic meats, and a few of our favorite snacks and indulgences. Almost everybody was mask-free, including the employees, which is a welcome change. It takes a little getting used to, seeing people’s faces again. I’d gotten accustomed to being the only maskless person in most stores, but now suddenly we’re all maskless. All except for the children of course. Our baby girl of four-and-a-half months, riding in a carrier on Mom’s chest, gets a pass, and charms all the other shoppers—especially a man wearing a bright-red Xfinity t-shirt in the checkout next to us (she loves the color red, and particularly men wearing the color red). We saw two other babies sitting up in shopping carts, also mask-free. All of the children walking under their own power, however, were wearing masks—per CDC guidelines—accompanied by parents or caretakers without masks.

How did we reach a point where people are readily demonstrating their willingness to sacrifice their children to authorities? Putting a mask on your child, while you enjoy the sweet freedom of breathing fresh air and interacting as a human, is like holding that child up naked to the maw of the beast and bowing your head and saying “here—you may have my child if you so desire”. I can imagine the saliva dripping from that maw, the slow grin of satisfaction at this fresh life being offered up for their enjoyment. “Ah yes”, says the beast, “we’ll start with a little injection”.

I have to imagine that most adults—or at least a good portion of adults—must be enjoying the feeling of not having to wear a mask in public. Perhaps they’re thinking “ahhhh, this is nice. Finally back to normal!”, and as they stretch their arms in satisfaction, maybe buy some tickets for a summer concert, and take the mask off of their rearview mirror, they turn to their children and say “Sorry bud, you’ve got to keep yours on for a while longer”.

What they’re really saying is that they are willing to jump through all of the hoops they are told to jump through, and they’re equally willing to shove their children through more hoops as instructed. The evaporating mask mandates and eased restrictions, to them, are proof that the authorities are to be trusted: “See? I knew that if we all just did as we’re told, we’d get through this”. Never mind that the kids still have to wear masks.

I watched two boys move about the store with masks on, their caretaker chatting to them about snacks, their eyes darting meekly about, their entire bodies loaded with hesitancy and trepidation. I saw a dad follow his three kids into the store, all wearing masks, and his face said he’s being a good citizen by making his kids wear their masks. I remember last summer watching a dad chew out his teenage boy for not putting his mask on right away as they made their way from one end of the beach to the other. I could see him casting about, desperate to demonstrate to all the other beach-goers that he wasn’t some ignorant Trump-voting redneck, that he was “following the science” and keeping his kids in line.

Where is the concern for the actual health and well-being of one’s children? Does that factor in at all? In order to believe that the coming vaccine is for their benefit, and thereby actually believe that it makes sense for them to be wearing masks now, you would have to believe that COVID-19 presents some sort of threat to their lives. Doesn’t everybody know that children are 10 or 15 times more likely to die of the flu? Was it really as easy as all major media outlets suddenly using the phrase “rising hospitalizations among adolescents” to convince parents that their kids need this vaccine and should keep wearing masks until they can get it?

I don’t think so. I don’t think most parents actually feel like COVID-19 is likely to kill their kids, and I don’t think they actually think the mask does a whole lot to protect them (although surely there are plenty that do). It’s hard to imagine that two pillars of the narrative thus far: that children are not at risk of serious COVID-19 disease (but may simply spread it to those who are), and that masks do little to protect the wearer (but may protect others should you unknowingly be infected), can have crumbled in the public consciousness so quickly. Masks on kids now directly contradicts both of these statements. But so says the CDC, and so the parents shrug their shoulders and shake their heads and say “sorry bud, you’ve got to keep wearing the mask”.

The sickest part of this is to imagine that these parents may very well have spent the past year explaining things to their children as follows: “There’s a flu going around bud, and lots of people are getting sick and dying”, to which the child might ask “Am I going to get sick and die?”, “No sweetie, you probably won’t, but if grandma were to catch the bug, she could die, so we’re all going to wear masks for a while to make sure that the bug doesn’t reach granny”. “When will it all be over?” “Well the scientists are making a vaccine that will protect granny, and so we’ve all just got to do our part to protect her until they finish making the vaccine and she can be safe”.

Well granny got the jab in January, Mom and Dad. What now? Now do you tell your children that they are suddenly at risk of dying, and so they also need the vaccine? Were you lying to them all of last year? Do you try and cling to your role as knowledgeable authority to your children, and explain why it’s now important that they get the vaccine themselves, or why it’s now important to wear a mask to protect yourself? Do you play a Dr. Fauci and claim that you were lying to them last year when you said it was to protect granny, and that they weren’t at risk, because you didn’t want to scare them? “I lied to you for your own good, bud. Now that granny’s safe I’m gonna level with you: you were actually at risk this whole time, I just didn’t want you to be scared”. Or do you just shrug your shoulders and explain that directions from adults don’t always make sense, that even Mommy and Daddy don’t always understand why the CDC or The School or The Government tells them to do certain things, but the important thing is to just do it, because those are the rules.

My sense is that this is the big takeaway for most families: whether explicitly stated or simply left for the sharp minds of children to put together, the message is that we follow rules no matter what, that rules don’t have to make sense, that in order to be good citizens we obey orders, and in the end everything is okay.

Great! Until it isn’t. Until you encourage your son to get the vaccine in order to attend basketball tournaments, and he gets blood clots in his brain and nearly dies. , or your daughter gets the shot before returning to college, suffers myocarditis, and dies. At that point, will the government that you trusted like a parent be there to make everything okay? I don’t think so. You will be told it was just a coincidence, that your healthy child would have developed those blood clots or heart inflammation anyway. The government will offer you nothing. You will not be able to sue the criminal companies that manufactured the vaccine. You will be left with nobody to blame but yourself.