The marketplace is supposed to be neutral ground. It’s supposed to be an area where everyone can buy and sell, regardless of their beliefs or opinions, race or gender, age or fashion style, socioeconomic status or nationality, or physical or intellectual abilities. That’s why every town throughout the ages has had a market square or commons or bazaar: it was a designated zone where everyone was welcome, because money has the same value regardless of who’s holding it, and money is what the marketplace is all about. The marketplace is supposed to be entirely neutral, meaning that it’s not supposed to advertise or promote identifiers that would prevent anyone from participating for any reason.
The neutrality of the marketplace has recently been heavily compromised by government policy in Canada. I was effectively shut out of most stores in the country for nearly two years because I could not/would not cover my face. I’m still shut out of not-very-aptly-named public transportation for the same reason: I cannot fly, sail on an inter-provincial ferry, or take the train. For someone like me who’s never been able to drive, this has become a major barrier to getting around. So I take taxis and buses instead, but I’m still goaded by taxi drivers to cover my face. Legally I don’t have to, so I don’t. I give the drivers the option to refuse me service, but they all relent. When push comes to shove, my money has the same value as that of customers with covered faces.
Yet I’m still prompted by signs on the door of every business I enter, including banks and hotels, to cover my face, despite the masking mandate having been dropped. The face coverings are, according to the signs, “recommended”. Even without a government-imposed masking mandate for the general marketplace, most people in Nova Scotia continue to cover their faces. The glowering looks I get for not covering my face are a sight to behold. I do not feel welcome in this marketplace because I am not welcome. My bare face is considered as much of a cultural affront as it is for women in Muslim-majority countries. After only two years of being mandated by government edicts to cover their faces, most people in Nova Scotia have adopted face coverings as a cultural norm.
A compromised marketplace that either shuts out certain people or dissuades them from doing commerce is no longer a genuine marketplace. It’s a populist propaganda center that rewards and welcomes those who comply with popular majority opinion while shunning everyone else. I have backed away from criticizing government policy because it’s the business of the worldly government, and the business of the worldly government is not my business as a born-again believer who lives in the kingdom. But the marketplace itself has been set up by God to be a neutral zone that’s open to all. It’s a place where everyone should be able to do business.
Absent government-mandated restrictions that were borne of the state of emergency that existed in Nova Scotia from March 2020 to March 2022, no-one has the right to interfere with free commerce in the marketplace. The current populist-imposed restrictions of glares and rudeness, of “Mask Recommended” signs at the door that say to me “Go Away!” instead of “Welcome!”, are an affront to me and to my God-given right to participate in the marketplace. If the worldly government no longer demands face covering, then neither should the marketplace.
It’s that simple.
I will continue to live and breathe and shop and take local public transit with my face uncovered. I will smile at the glares. I will offer to leave if my bare face is too upsetting.
But I will not cover my face.