June 26, 2020 9:31:08 AM
When I was kid, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I never wore a seatbelt. Nobody I knew wore a seatbelt. In fact, the seatbelts in my mom's 1964 Plymouth Valiant or my dad's 1962 Chevy pick-up truck had slipped beneath the seats, and you would have had to fish them out if you wanted them. It never occurred to any of us to do this.
When seatbelt laws were implemented, we generally -- if not consistently -- complied. It took a while to develop that habit, I'll admit. We would often be halfway to wherever we were going before somebody suddenly said, "Seatbelt." We would fish around for the ends of the seatbelt and click in. Nobody got all emotional about it.
I do not remember much protest about having to wear seatbelts. My dad, a conservative, certainly didn't believe that the government was trying to take his freedoms and liberties away. I think this was because he was a rational adult and recognized that wearing a seatbelt was common sense.
I wish more people were rational adults when it comes to wearing face masks during the current pandemic, which has now taken more U.S. lives than two Vietnams in four months.
In Mississippi, we're just now getting a real glimpse of just how serious the pandemic can be. On Tuesday and Wednesday alone, there have been 1,703 new cases reported. While the death totals are still relatively low (16 over those two days), that's probably misleading. What we know is that COVID-19 cases often spread among younger, healthy people who remain asymptomatic and ultimately suffer only mild symptoms. But those asymptomatic carriers spread the virus throughout the broader population until, at some point, the vulnerable population is infected. Those 1,703 new cases will ultimately result in more deaths. These numbers do not account for the lag time. Deaths and coming, perhaps a lot of deaths.
Given this robust increase in cases, a response is necessary. If our state had effective leadership -- and it's obvious we don't -- the Governor would immediately implement an order requiring all citizens to wear masks when in public places.
I know how my dad and people of his generation would have responded.
They would have said, "OK. This is reasonable. It's something we can and should do to help people stay safe."
But there are far too many people who don't think that way anymore.
That's obvious. When you are out in public there are as many people not wearing masks as there are people who do.
I've heard every possible excuse for not wearing a mask.
But I've yet to hear a good reason.
If our government requires us to wear masks, it isn't some socialist/communist/Antifa/Democratic Party conspiracy to rob people of their rights.
To believe that is silly. And if you had suggested that to people of my father's generation, you would be laughed at and dismissed as a crank.
So, if you are among those who refuse to wear a mask, I'll assume you are misguided, self-absorbed or ignorant.
I am going to start politely telling people to wear masks when I see they aren't. I don't intend to be confrontational. I won't be drawn into an argument, either. I'm just going to say, "You should be wearing a mask," and leave it at that. Who knows, if they hear it often enough, the weight of those suggestions may alter their behavior. Take it from a master procrastinator: Being reminded of something repeatedly ultimately does the trick.
When it dawns on you that wearing a mask can save lives, all the arguments for not wearing a mask fade into insignificance.
So, please, wear a face mask.
Oh, and while you're at it, be sure to buckle up on the way home.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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