In restaurants across this country, millions participate in the bizarre fiction that masks are not only efficacious but required except when we are eating and drinking, at which point they are no longer necessary. (Presumably the virus understands these basic human needs of ours and agrees to hold off until we have to use the bathroom.) In the cow-like atmosphere of sports journalism, only Fox’s Troy Aikman has dared to say what millions of fans know: that the league’s separate mask policy for coaches and players makes is risible, not least because both groups are subject to the same daily testing regime. (Among players he has a few allies: No one from the NFL has explained to Richard Sherman, the 49ers cornerback, why players who are allowed to tackle one another cannot exchange greetings after a game.) The use of these fetish objects ought to be the province of anthropologists, not doctors: who could possibly believe that the inconsistent manner in which they are worn corresponds to any known body of evidence, as opposed to ritual law?

The elders of our tribe certainly understand the juju. Everywhere governors like California’s Gavin Newsom and mayors like Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., flaunt travel restrictions imposed on their own citizens, attend parties that are illegal for everyone else, and send their own children to private educational establishments that remain open, unlike the public schools that they have closed at the instigation of teachers’ unions. The speaker of the House of Representatives, who months ago insisted upon having her hair dried at a closed salon in San Francisco without wearing a mask, is preparing to host an indoor dinner for her fellow Democrats.