Commentary: Mask opponents proved ‘terrifying’ at Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting

This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
(CDC / Alissa Eckert/CDC / Alissa Eckert)

I have just returned from the site of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, where I stood with other leaders in what we thought would be a socially distanced opportunity to share our plea for a return to the mask order.

We know the numbers continue to rise in Orange County and masks make a difference.

What I witnessed left me trembling and in tears. I say this as someone who is not unfamiliar with hatred.

Their jeers during my prayer, accusations that I was liar or a fake pastor were not new experiences. I’ve been called a witch, told I work for Satan and that I’m luring my flock away from the true teaching before.

As an advocate for LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter and a supporter of Muslims, I’ve been criticized and mocked. So my trembling and fear today did not come from their cruel words hurled at me as I spoke.

My shock came in that, despite having been in situations like this dozens of times, I’ve never actually feared for my life. I’ve received threats before, phone calls, and I’ve even been the recipient of cursed name calling.

But what I experienced was vitriolic hatred, a desire to hurt one another, not just a plea for “freedom,” but an active threat to those of us who are standing asking for masks.

To tell me that they think they have the coronavirus and to stand next to me, invading my personal space, with the intent to spread it, saying my “mask won’t do any good,” is terrifying.

They brought me to tears with their cruelty. I am shocked that they thought this was an appropriate way to get their message across by commandeering our press conference and threatening us with a virus we are actively asking for protection from.

These are the people the Board of Supervisors are listening to — not scientists, not doctors, not pastors like me who share a belief that our call is to care for the least of these among us and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The board should be focused on keeping us safe, should listen to facts, and quite frankly should care about our community’s health, safety and well-being.

But instead they are listening to the ravings of people who would seek to will a lethal virus upon a pastor and others they do not know simply because we are asking to keep our community safe. I tremble at the lack of humanity I witnessed today. And I pray leaders will emerge who care about this county and the people who live here.

I am still shaken. I’m still afraid of what they may have passed to me and the hatred that they spewed.

Orange County, we must do better. We owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters.

The writer is a pastor at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.