To the Editor:
I am becoming somewhat discouraged and alarmed by the number of people I encounter who are not wearing masks or even socially distancing as I venture out to perform essential visits to such places as the grocery store, the drugstore, etc. I suspect that an unseen and unconfronted danger is simply not real to these folks, but I would implore them to consider what life in a free society really means.
Most of us seem to understand and accept that the concept of free speech, for instance, doesn’t mean that you are free to say anything anywhere — you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater, for instance, because it imperils the safety of the other theatergoers. You can’t drive 100 mph through a residential neighborhood because there is a real risk to the lives and safety of the residents of that neighborhood. In spite of the Second Amendment, you can’t take target practice on Main Street for equally obvious reasons. The limitations we must accept to personal freedom in these and a myriad of other situations relate to the common good.
I think we can all agree that masks are uncomfortable, unsettling in public settings, and can even elicit paranoia in less public settings (who’s behind that mask?). But the fact is that they have been proven effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Anyone in doubt about this only need look abroad; with less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. leads the entire world with fully 25% of reported cases of this disease, thanks to our shameful and negligent refusal to address it. Those other countries who have successfully managed their numbers? They're wearing masks.