Piqued by the statement that “the mask is a symbol of fear,” I decided to do some elementary research. My conclusion is that the construction and use of masks has a rich history in human society, but little mention as a “symbol of fear.”

As one might expect, there are references to fearful occasions in which masks have played a part, but most often masks seem to be an expression of the history and culture of those who use them. In our present era, they are most frequently associated with fun and excitement, as on New Year’s Eve and at kids’ birthday parties. They can be part of an enjoyable and enriching experience.

Now, due to our current concern with COVID-19, masks take on a utilitarian role, one that endures from the great flu epidemic of 1917-18. Masks represent one means by which we attempt to control this disease. And, it should be noted, that the efficacy of masks in this effort is still uncertain.

However, I would suggest that they are a symbol of love, not fear. My use of a mask conveys the message that I care about your well-being. If that small measure provides a hint of hope, or sense of solidarity, the minimal effort is worth the time. And though it may not be visible on my morning walks, I send the same smile of best wishes.