You people who think it’s your decision about whether to wear a face mask in public during the coronavirus pandemic are thinking about it all wrong.
You could be wishing that my mother was dead. She’s 93, physically fragile. She can’t leave my house except to visit the doctor. But if you breathe on me and I catch the coronavirus that you didn’t know you had, and then I go home and kiss my mother, before either of us know it, we are both infected. Not to mention infecting others that we might have come in contact with.
Fifty-two years ago, wearing seat belts became the law of the land. My dad resisted, refusing to buckle up.
I did too, for nearly 20 years. It should be a matter of personal choice, we said. No victims, we said, except for maybe the people who didn’t wear them.
To anyone who would listen, Dad told the story of a friend who had been driving a low-slung sports car when it slid under a semi trailer.
If he hadn’t been thrown out of the car, his head would’ve been cut off, Dad said, as if that made all the numerical evidence go away.
So I continued driving without a seat belt until about 1988, when I became close friends with a volunteer fireman and paramedic. He said I would buckle up for sure if I’d seen some of the accidents he had where people didn’t wear seat belts.
If you don’t care about your own life that’s OK, he said, but think about your wife and kids after you die or are have to spend months in a hospital and rehab.
The idea of “no victims” is wrong.
Statistically, we know that seat belts save lives and help prevent more serious injury.
But if you look at it as a matter of choice, a lot of people still wouldn’t wear them.
The government eliminated that choice.
It reminds me a lot of the current debate over wearing face masks in the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s really not a political issue, although some would have you believe it’s about the right to make personal choices.
Health experts have been telling us for months that we should wear masks when we go out in public and can’t stay at least 6 feet away from others. After months of dithering on the matter, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb two weeks ago ordered Hoosiers to do just that.
In this community, most either refuse to wear masks or take it lightly. Community leaders have said it’s unenforceable, making it OK to disregard the governor.
Tuesday, I went into a local fast food place for lunch and all the staff wore masks. It’s just that they didn’t care to wear them correctly. Some masks hung over just one of the wearer’s ears; none of the masks covered noses; and some masks — like the general manager’s — were just hanging down in front of their necks.
Ironically, a sign on the door said customers had to wear a face mask to enter. Six or seven customers came in while I was there. All but one had a mask on and wore it correctly.
The cashier apparently didn’t notice; she never fixed hers.
I thought about calling the police to the restaurant and then remembered that local officials have made public statements that the governor’s order mandating face masks is unenforceable, so “don’t call us.”
People used to say that about seat belt laws. Now, police give out tickets for not wearing them.
Public health experts have been telling us for months that the idea of wearing face masks is to help protect other people who might get close to you and breathe in the moist air that you just blew out of your lungs.
Officials have been telling us to stay home (“shelter in place”) for months, except for vital trips out: shopping, doctor visits, work. That’s the best way to keep from getting the virus, which is very contagious and can kill.
Then, if you have to go out, and must come close to other people, wear a face mask. Just like with seat belts: if you don’t care to protect yourself, at least wear a face mask to help protect others from the harm that you might be doing to their futures.
So, you people who think it’s a matter of personal choice and the rights of red-blooded Americans, just leave your seat belt unbuckled and go looking for a big ole tree to crash into at high speed.