02 mask take out FlagWhile reading Margaret Dickson’s column for this week’s issue, something she wrote hit me like a gut-punch: “COVID is now the leading cause of death in the United States, taking more people than cancer, heart attacks and strokes. The daily death toll is approximately one 9/11 attack every single day…”

Read that again. The daily death toll of COVID-19 is about one 9/11 attack every day.

If that doesn’t put this virus into perspective, I don’t know what could.

What did you do on September 12, 2001? Did you cry, vow to do your part to defeat the evil ones who perpetrated such destruction on our country? Did you donate blood? Did you plant American flags in your yard? Did you enlist in the military?

Did you, like me, decide with your family that you would not be leaving the military as you planned but would stay to do your part and help where needed?

Folks, it is another September 12 moment in this country. We all need to help where it is needed. Right now.

We all have to do our part to stop the spread of this virus. It is evil — not in the form of violent men crashing airplanes into buildings — but in the form of an illness that may spare one but kill another. You may have it and not know it. You may spread it without even knowing you have been exposed.

I am just as tired as anyone else of wearing a mask. I am just as ticked off at politicians who tell us not to spend holidays with our loved ones, and then go on vacation with their families. I am disgusted at lawmakers who close down businesses but sneak in the back door to get their own hair done.

But I try not to confuse this kind of frustration with civic responsibility.

As a beneficiary of the enormous freedom I have as a citizen of the United States, I believe I owe it allegiance, participation in its defense, a commitment to see that it endures for my children, and a responsibility in the care of its people. If that means I have to give up a little personal comfort and wear a mask, then so be it. It is the least I can do. It is what is needed. Right now.

I grow weary of the folks who want to throw words like “freedom” and “government control” around like we can’t follow simple safety precautions without infringing our own personal freedom. Wearing a mask in public does not make me a slave to the government. It doesn’t make me a liberal or a conservative. It makes me a considerate, responsible citizen who doesn’t want to unknowingly pass a potentially fatal disease to someone else.

I am not a fan of any elected official telling the rest of us who is “essential” and what businesses should be allowed to remain open. I am a huge proponent of people being responsible, accountable citizens. And right now, that means wearing a mask and staying away from others as much as possible.

I personally do not want to sit down in a restaurant with a hundred other people — all of whom could be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. I can keep doing the take-out thing. But, for those who choose, they can still go eat out in restaurants. That is the very definition of “freedom,” folks. I choose what is best for me and my family. You choose what is best for yours. As with everything else in life, there are limits, and we should view them through a lens of civic responsibility and common decency.

As Americans, we are so spoiled that we believe that being told to do anything is an infringement on our rights. Somehow we have lost understanding of the central idea that my rights end at the point where they endanger yours. I can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, I can’t drive 80 in a school zone, I can’t shoot off a firearm into the air in a public place. It is not government control to establish and enforce policies for the common good. If I am being a responsible person and citizen, I do my part to not put others in danger.

It really is that simple. I have no time for those who want to argue the finer points of slippery slope logic. They want to dog-pile the public health conversation with every conceivable notion about comparisons with the flu, being conditioned into giving up freedoms, etc. They are missing the point. Choosing to prioritize the risk to others above your own personal preference and comfort is not giving up freedom — it is a commendable exercise of
freedom.

Doing the right thing is not infringing your rights. To those who are burning their masks is revolt, I say this: get over yourselves. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and until everyone is safely vaccinated, please, keep your distance.

Pictured: Choosing to prioritize the risk to others above your own personal comfort is a commendable exercise of freedom. (Photo illustration by Dylan Hooker)

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