Foes of masks, the Denver Post reported, “waved American flags, cheered and whistled” at the marathon school board meeting. Then a newly reconstituted, newly partisan board sided with them.
Left out of the discussion: administrators charged with keeping children, teachers and staff safe.
It had been impressive for quite some time that in Douglas County, a starchy Republican fortress south of Denver, the school district had boldly required masks at school despite the bleating by foes primed for battle by Fox News.
That policy was explained politely by the superintendent as the best way to keep people healthy and in school.
Back when the pandemic first roared in and school went remote, Republicans said in-person classes were imperative.
Now students are back. That merits, say policymakers not cowed by MAGA mentality, the simple and demonstrable precaution of face coverings.
From the strain of civility cultivated in the Trump era, mask opponents have treated board members and administrators backing masks with the kind of wrath reserved for child molesters.
It’s shameful. In a pandemic, it’s also stupid.
It’s part of the equation by which this nation, with 200 million of us now vaccinated, still deals with exceptionally high rates of infection.
But enough about basic prevention. Let’s talk about those American flags.
We’ve heard anti-maskers address this matter as one of freedom and personal choice. The only problem with either claim is the matter of when one’s expression of freedom harms others.
No one can trace the phrase, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” It doesn’t matter. The truth and the responsibility inherent are as plain as that nose on your face and mine.
In a free country, by anti-maskers’ standard of “freedom,” speed limits would not exist. Traffic lights would be optional.
By these standards on campus, Junior could show up in second period with his personal pizza and wolf it down while classmates salivated. And how about a six-pack? It’s a matter of personal liberty.
We don’t want Junior to be inconvenienced, even if he might spread a disease that may infect a classmate and the classmate’s family.
But you say Junior’s not sick. One, he doesn’t know that. Two, a little science-based inconvenience might keep him that way.
I teach on a college campus. My students have been back in classrooms since summer session. When we are inside we are masked. (Next semester our system requires that all are vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID.)
Wearing a mask is a hassle, but you wouldn’t guess it from my students’ comportment. They have embraced it as the price of being there.
I’ve seen the same embrace in the lively steps of little ones at the supermarket wearing their own masks at the side of caring and careful parents.
Once again, we are in a pandemic. We do not require this apparel out of whim. I taught remotely via Zoom. Though it was workable, one thing that was hard to do was be one-on-one with students.
When masked, a student and I can sit down a couple of feet apart and address individual needs with less fear of infection.
I am vaccinated. I am boosted. The science says that if I get COVID-19 it will be relatively minor, and the chance of getting it is remote. I could conceivably go about my business without a mask, but I wear one in whatever indoor setting I visit.
I wear it for two important motivations: (1) me; (2) others.
Those who think of the American experience as simply about “me” haven’t read about what it took to be “us.” If it were all about “me,” not one volunteer would have climbed into the amphibious crafts that assaulted the Normandy beaches or air-dropped into the Ardennes Forest. They sacrificed for all. The trudged into battle encumbered by a lot more than a piece of cloth.
What a hill on which to place one’s banner, the battle against a simple face covering. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes of “the transformation of American conservatism – the movement that complains about ‘liberal snowflakes’ – into a collection of malignant whiners.”
The flag of the whiny anti-masker isn’t one with 50 stars and 13 stripes. His flag has one star, and he is it.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.