Saturday, May 1, 2021

If Blue Bloods characters talked masking

Blue Bloods has been a mainstay of network TV for more than a decade. While Tom Selleck gets top billing for playing NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan because even his mustache enjoys gravitas, the commissioner's unflappable competence makes him a “Mary Sue'' compared to other members of the cast. That’s why supporting characters in the series fit into mashups that Frank doesn’t. 

Think instead of Bridget Moynahan and Steve Schirripa, who play Frank's daughter, Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan, and her chief investigator, Anthony Abetemarco. What might those two say to each other if they were arguing about, for example, mask mandates in church?

Both Anthony and Erin are at least nominally Catholic. Irish and Italian backgrounds give them common cultural and religious references. When they volley back and forth, it's not always a foregone conclusion as to whose thinking will impress enough to become an anecdote at the Reagan family dinner table next Sunday night.

The following conversation hasn't actually happened. But with a respectful nod to the Blue Bloods script writers, it probably should:

Anthony broaches the subject of mask compliance while on his way out of Erin’s office after a long day. He pauses with his hand on the knob of her frosted glass door to look back over his shoulder and sound her out. The pose is familiar to both of them:

“This mask thing in church is getting to me, Erin.”

She looks up without saying anything. She'll wait. She’s the counter-puncher.

“I mean, I get it,” Anthony adds, stepping tentatively toward her desk. “Nobody wants the covid. But when somebody says that vaccination doesn’t keep me from catching the virus and spreading it, then I gotta wonder what the shot is for, you know?”

“I can’t see fighting your parish priest on that one,” she replies. Thanks in part to her job within the criminal justice system, Erin has always been quicker to bend the knee to authority than Anthony ever will be. “The diocese doesn’t want legal trouble, and the churchgoing crowd skews older. When the governor’s trying to keep everybody safe, the archbishop can’t afford to look callous.”

Anthony looks disappointed with that answer. He knows when his boss tries to skate past a point by being glib.

“It’s not the governor’s job to keep everybody safe,” he says. “That’s what people like you and me do. That’s what your brothers do. And most of the seniors who want the vaccine already have it. Even when the teachers’ unions were calling their members 'front-line,' seniors had first crack at vaccination.”

“But masks help slow the spread of the virus,” Erin suggests.

“Do they?” Anthony pushes back. “The doctor who talks most about masks is making bank, but even Congress can’t get a straight answer from the guy. Let's face it: Tony Fauci hasn’t had a bedside manner since before Giuliani was mayor.”

“The mask thing is about following the science, Anthony. You know that.”

“Maybe it was once. It’s not now. I trust the CDC about as much as I trust the FBI. Even little kids still have to mask up. Little kids! And what do we hear from public health officials? ‘If it saves just one life.’ Or baseball analogies. Like nobody outside insurance understands risk assessment anymore.” 

“You don’t like masking? Nobody does.”

“I’m not anti-mask. I’m `pro face’. Especially in church. To be honest, I’m more of a Christmas and Easter guy than a regular churchgoer, but the idea of people being made in the image and likeness of God ought to give pastors pause, don’t you think? All I hear is fear. You'd think going maskless for an hour on Sundays was like playing with rabid dogs.” 

“Can you blame shepherds for not wanting to lose any sheep?”

“How much caution is too much? You see bodies being stacked like cordwood in Florida and Texas and Mississippi? I don’t. Last I checked, science was science even in places like Georgia. I guess the archbishop watches TV news. With those guys, it’s all case count and who needs a ‘vaccine passport.’ They wouldn’t know context if it bit them in the ass! They don't say jack about unintended consequences, either. I need to share my medical history to get on a plane or go to a show? I guess HIPAA doesn’t exist anymore. And the people pushing vaccination louder than anyone else just give you a deer-in-the-headlights look if you ask why we should all be guinea pigs, which is what we are if the nurse with the syringe in his hand has to tell you that you're getting a dose under an emergency use authorization.”

“I understand your cynicism, Anthony. You sound like Danny trying to sell me on a prosecution despite problems with chain of custody in the evidence room. But if you have this conversation with your pastor and he says, ‘I still think protecting you from me is my duty,’ then what?” 

“Like my pastor's gonna listen to an old detective when there's epidemiologists who can't get a word in edgewise? But maybe I start talking to Saint Jude again.”

“The patron of lost causes?”

“Bet you didn’t know he was a paisan.”

“Good night, Anthony.” 

“Good night, Erin.”