Strange that masks are unmasking America’s ugliest impulses.

The Great Mask War of 2020 features people turning face masks into cultural and political symbols. Yes, in the middle of a pandemic that has killed 100,000 men, women and children in the United States, a simple effort at public hygiene has been twisted into an absurd interpretation of our nation’s founding principles.

One of the meanest attacks in this new Civil War has been launched in Virginia.

Alleged Christian Jerry Falwell Jr. tweeted his version of the Battle of Chancellorsville when he said he “was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!”

And he included the image of a mask emblazoned with the racist photo from the 1984 medical school yearbook of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), which shows someone in blackface next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robes. Last year, Northam denied that he was in the photo, although he acknowledged darkening his face to imitate Michael Jackson in a dance contest later that year. He apologized and refused to resign.

Falwell, the president of conservative evangelical Liberty University in Lynchburg, has been having a very public temper tantrum over the pandemic and was even sued by some of his students when he kept the campus open earlier this year despite a stay-at-home order.

He compared covid-19 to the flu and speculated that it was a Christmas present from China and North Korea. A vocal supporter of President Trump, Falwell also got on board the crazy train suggesting the global pandemic is a worldwide conspiracy created to undermine the former reality TV star who stumbled into the presidency.

“Impeachment didn’t work,” Falwell claimed, “and the Mueller report didn’t work and Article 25 didn’t work and so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”

The whole world is in on this?

Like Union Army Gen. Joseph Hooker at that Battle of Chancellorsville — where a Confederate force half the size of opposing Union troops won — Northam has not shown the best decision-making either.

He is not only the governor and not only the governor who finally issued an executive order that everyone wear face masks in public indoor spaces, he is also a physician. And he got scorched last weekend during a visit to Virginia Beach when he greeted, strolled and took selfies among the throng on the boardwalk while unmasked.

But that didn’t keep him from being compared to Trump, who has refused to wear a mask and whose surrogates have mocked the masked, especially former vice president Joe Biden.

The mask war has become so divisive that a bar owner in Texas reopened after the shutdown with anti-mask defiance:

“Sorry, no mask allowed,” read the poster taped to the front door of the Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin last week. “Please bare with us thru the ridiculous and fearful times.”

These guy, including our president, are peddling a dime-store bravery when they ridicule masks as a sign of fear.

Do they also mock people who wear seat belts, helmets, sunscreen, Kevlar vests, shooting range safety glasses or ear protection?

For many, masks are about safety and survival.

Singer and author Rosanne Cash was livid when a man called her daughter a “liberal p---y” when she was out buying groceries and wearing a mask.

Cash’s daughter was in the ICU for a week when she had H1N1, and contracting the coronavirus could be fatal to her.

Those bullies have no idea what invisible, underlying medical conditions are behind those masks.

But what about the macho masters of the universe in tiptop shape, the folks convinced they’d crush covid-19 like a pimple if they got it? Why is government telling them, ahem, what to do with their bodies?

Because of other people.

We know very little about this mysterious virus that involves everything from headaches to blood clots to respiratory collapse.

What medical professionals have figured out is that someone can carry it and be such a hardcore Captain America God of Awesome that they wouldn’t even know it.

Those people feel fine but can also spread the virus to someone vulnerable just by talking to them.

Wearing masks isn’t political. It isn’t about having freedom trampled, or liberty infringed.

Refusing to wear one on political grounds is nothing more than selfishness unmasked.

Just ask a couple of other governors, both Republicans.

“Wearing a face covering is not about politics — it’s about helping other people,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Tuesday in a plea over Twitter, echoing comments by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) last week. “This is one time when we truly are all in this together.”

If that’s not enough, maybe the Bible will help.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” the New Testament urges in Galatians 6:2.

But maybe they didn’t cover that one at Falwell’s Liberty University.

Twitter: @petulad

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