This past Sunday I attended a pancake breakfast at a Catholic church in Manhattan Beach, California. This event had been held regularly before 2020, but after the Wuhan virus made its way to our shores, all group breakfasts at the church were halted. The pancake breakfast was resurrected right after Easter, in line with scripture, and it has been well-attended. This time I noticed for the first time that not a single person in the hall, out of several hundred people, was wearing a mask. Even the volunteers taking the money, serving the food, and clearing the tables were openly displaying smiles on their faces: Hallelujah!

Then the priest walked in. Hiding his face behind a diaper, he made his way from table to table, greeting parishioners and inquiring about important events in their lives. He shook hands, he hugged, he patted shoulders—all while masked. He looked like a fool. And no one confronted him. Everyone smiled, chatted with him, pretended that this was perfectly normal. This man who is responsible for providing guidance and wisdom to a community of hundreds is expressing fear, compliance, and ignorance to everyone who attends his service. And he cannot explain his behavior by citing “city ordinance” or “Diocese rules.” He is doing it voluntarily. He is making a fool of himself. Worse, he is normalizing truly destructive values and modeling them through his behavior. His mask-wearing is a corrosive force on society.

We must ban mask-wearing.

But what about “my body, my choice?” This is the Libertarian (and, ironically Left-wing) argument universally cited when I challenge a mask-wearer. And on its surface, it appears to be a strong argument. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, so the argument goes, you should be allowed to behave as you wish. And yet, just as this argument fails when applied to abortion—it’s not your body that you are harming but rather another life growing inside your body—it also fails when applied to mask-wearing. Those who wear masks ARE harming themselves, as covering one’s face in public is degrading, to say nothing of the physical harm to the skin and teeth, as well as respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune systems. For these reasons, masking children is an act of child abuse. Masks should be banned for adults as well, though, because wearing them harms another body—the social body.

Many destructive behaviors are illegal: public intoxication, urination, and nudity; littering, graffiti. All these practices are allowed in one’s home, however. Why are they disallowed outside? We don’t allow them because they degrade society. They lower the quality of life for everyone. Our social norms inform our laws, which are then invoked when social pressure alone is not sufficient to enforce compliance with those norms. We need to do the same with masks.

Those who wear masks outside their homes vandalize society. They are no different than the graffiti “artists” who deface public property, the vagrants who set up tents on the sidewalks, and the litterers who dump their bags of fast-food trash onto the ground outside their car in the In-N-Out Burger parking lot. “My body, my choice?” No. Not even close. The mask-wearers defecate on the social contract that we all agree to when we engage with one another in public. They hide behind “my body, my choice” as a rationale for giving the middle finger to the expected display of respect for the social environment. It is as if they have refused to shower or launder their clothes, subjecting everyone around them to their stench while demanding that their victims not only tolerate their poor hygiene but praise them for it, as if slovenliness were now a virtue.

To many, universal public mask-wearing indoors and out is now seen as a virtue. Our social norms have been redefined by the sick. It’s time for the healthy to reclaim them. It’s time for masks to be banned. I’m not suggesting a legal ban, although that may become necessary if public shaming is not successful. A more effective and proper approach is to shun the mask-wearers—ban them from private businesses (as the unmasked were for nearly two years), disavow them from conversations, and walk away from them when they come toward you. Treat them the way they treated those around them who refused to hide their faces, but without the display of abject hysteria and bursts of physical violence they engaged in. They’ll soon learn their lesson. And they’ll comply. After all, cowardice and compliance are what define them.

It’s time to retake our public spaces. Like clearing a homeless encampment in the local public park, we need to clear the perpetual maskers from our midst, send them scurrying back to the shadows, and not invite them to return until they promise to behave as socially responsible adults. A masked priest is not a leader. A masked citizen is not a member of the local community. Anyone who wishes to be treated with respect must first show respect to those around him. That starts by showing your face.

Mark McDonald, M.D.

Psychiatrist and author of United States of Fear: How America Fell Victim to a Mass Delusional Psychosis and Freedom From Fear: A 12 Step Guide to Personal and National Recovery