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This Is No Time To Be a Rebel

There is no way Gov. Jim Justice can force West Virginians to wear face masks. Those who balk at the idea of the government telling us how to live our lives are right about that. The governor, in issuing a face-mask order this week but adding there will be no penalty for disobedience, recognizes it, too.

But government cannot force us to help little old ladies across the street, either, even if our assistance might keep them from being hit by cars. Most of us, noticing someone in need of a little help, are quick to offer it.

Many West Virginians, along with tens of millions of our fellow Americans, are fiercely protective of our personal liberties. So, when the government tells us to do something, we tend often to resist.

For several weeks, Justice’s mostly voluntary approach to battling COVID-19 was embraced by most state residents. We got off easily, in comparison to many other regions of the country. Perhaps it was that success that prompted us to let our guard down, resulting in a surge of coronavirus cases.

A trip to the grocery store on Monday led me to believe many people are reacting appropriately. A higher percentage of other shoppers wore face masks than was the case a few weeks ago.

However, I also noticed a number of shoppers — 15%-25% of those in the store, by my estimate — who were not wearing masks. Most were younger people.

COVID-19 is not a big threat to them. They may carry the virus, but feel fine. So why should they obey the governor’s order — actually a plea? No politician is going to tell them what to do!

Come on, how. It is not as if we’re being asked to give up any real liberties. The nation’s founders would have laughed at the thought of Americans rebelling against wearing face masks for a few hours a day.

They would have stopped laughing when it occurred to them that such rebellion puts some people — again, mostly older men and women — at great risk.

Just how does donning a mask when you’re in a public place harm you? Do you think it makes you appear weak, scared of COVID-19? Actually, it makes you look strong enough to be concerned about other people.

If you’re not wearing a mask in a crowd, you may be spreading the COVID-19 germ unknowingly. You may pass it to the healthy young woman beside you. She transmits it to a teenager at the next store she visits. On Sunday, he visits grandma and gives it to her. And within a couple of weeks, the coronavirus transmission chain of which you are a part kills the little old lady you helped across the street last December.

Get a mask. Use it. You may save a life. Save your rebellious spirit for a time when your liberties really are in jeopardy.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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