Many people among us refuse to wear masks because they perceive it to be an infringement of their personal freedoms.
But if that’s true there are quite a few other strictures that could also be considered to compromise our freedoms. We’re not allowed to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We can’t cruise the Interstates at 100 mph. By law we must stop for school buses. We must wear seat belts. I’m a lifelong motorcycle rider and in my state of North Carolina I’m forced to wear a helmet or face a stiff fine. Do these laws compromise our personal freedoms? I don’t think so. Without such laws we’d have far more needless deaths and injuries, higher insurance rates for all of us, and higher health care costs. I don’t believe any thinking person wants a lawless society in which anybody can do whatever they want in the name of freedom.
A recent study by the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research projected that mask wearing and social distancing can cut virus deaths by two thirds, and statistics in areas that have observed those simple rules would seem to bear that out.
At least if a motorcycle rider chooses to not wear a helmet, or somebody refuses to wear a seat belt, flouting laws which are intended to save those same people from severe injury or death, it’s only their lives that are in danger.
But people who drink and drive or cell phone and drive or drive like NASCAR contenders or don’t stop for school buses are putting others at grave risk, which is of course why we have laws preventing such behaviors.
As near as I can find out no other nation in the world protests the required or suggested use of masks to help fight this current common enemy of all humankind. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases, spoke out last Friday about people congregating without any recommended precautions. “They’re not physically distancing and they’re not wearing masks, and that’s a recipe for disaster.”
In our current circumstances, those who flout the rules and the best advice of pandemic experts like Fauci and refuse to wear masks in public or to social distance because it compromises their sense of freedom are not only risking their own lives but also potentially exponential numbers of other people’s lives as well.
And they have no right to do that.
Even in free America.
Especially in America, where we’re supposed to care about each other.