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Don Rogers: Masks bigger than politics

True, you risk being mistaken for a Democrat wearing a mask in those tight public spaces. But you’ll be correctly recognized as moronic if you don’t.

The evidence is in. Masks help limit the spread of this disease. They work in cultures where people wear them to help protect those around them, where a heart for community trumps selfish righteousness.

Even the president took to wearing one last weekend and suggested this week Americans follow face-covering guidelines.

The reasoning makes for a lovely patriotic irony:

… it’s time for all of us to do our part and help our community in a very simple, practical way.

You don’t wear a face covering for yourself. The mesh is too coarse for that, not to mention openings left from less than ideal fits, along with germy fingers to the face, adjusting.

No, you wear a mask to limit your spray from talking, even shouting, as well as coughing, sneezing, clearing your throat. The virus’ main means of transmission, we’ve come to learn, is through respiratory droplets. You wear yours to protect others, and they wear theirs to protect you.

This is like the parable of the long spoons, which shows up occasionally in sermons. The essence of the story is a picture of hell in which people find their utensils too long to feed themselves and so they all starve. In heaven it’s the same exact picture, except people use the too-long utensils to feed each other.

Got it backward

Conservatives have hollered the loudest about the economic consequences of the lockdowns and the need to reopen.

Well, the best way to blunt the new surge of cases — and ominous uptick again in hospitalizations and deaths — is not by returning to lockdowns but wearing our masks, keeping our social distance and washing our hands.

We know this from watching South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, none of which locked down in the way we did. They didn’t have to. Their people wear their masks.

The case for lockdown is not nearly so clear as the case for masks. And that’s not counting the side-effect wreckage of the economy, funding crises for public entities depending on tax dollars, and a long list of other major consequences.

I’d think the proud church-going Republicans would lead the march to mask up for the sake of the vulnerable, to keep our businesses going, to protect and support our communities. That’s what would make sense.

Besides, they tend to be older and far more vulnerable to a disease that’s well on its way to killing more than three times the number of Americans as a bad flu year before 2020 is done.

I wouldn’t pick on them like this, since “they” are we, too, right? We’re all in this together, like it or not. The bug isn’t distinguishing between our political affiliations.

But they tend to be the ones ready to die on a hill for a principle counter to what they stand for: community, free enterprise, liberty.

These protests and refusals to wear masks aren’t in favor of our country’s exceptional ideal, though. This is about license, a form of liberty absent responsibility. Over something so easy and so slight an inconvenience as putting on a mask in a public space so that all Americans might experience greater freedom than we have now.

Rather than the last straw on the back of the Constitution, the modest face covering is the best means of breaking the pandemic and getting back to business. Perhaps even for re-electing a president foundering so badly right now.

In any case, it’s time for all of us to do our part and help our community in a very simple, practical way. Just be, you know, Americans.

Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 530-477-4299.


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