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  • Last modified 39 days ago (Oct. 21, 2021)

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When liberty
and patriotism collide

The same ultra-conservatives who think the biggest issues our schools face are transgendered students, critical race theory, and whether vaccinations should be required tend to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”

It’s a classic American right to be wrong, so they’re free to worry less about whether children are learning and more about how they use restrooms, play sports, and are allowed to read only censored texts devoid of any thoughts some may disagree with but students doubtlessly will encounter elsewhere.

If some want schools to be like madrasas of the Muslim world, exposing students only to what faith seeks to indoctrinate, that’s their right — just as it is everyone else’s right to oppose their efforts.

But it’s time for all of us — right, left, and center — to learn not from our own history but also from the customs of the very same Asians some of us sneeringly blame for COVID-19.

In Asian culture, it’s considered impolite to venture into public without covering your nose and mouth if you’ve had the slightest chance of being exposed to anything contagious, even the common cold.

It’s a common courtesy, like holding a door for someone who’s infirm or carrying a cumbersome load. It costs you nothing but can save others anything from minor inconvenience to serious illness or death.

The “I ain’t a gonna wear no mask” folks who proudly refuse to be polite are cut of the same cloth as those who let doors slam shut on the elderly, steal accessible parking spaces they aren’t entitled to, and do such uncouth things as spit, belch, fart, and pick their noses in public.

Whether we legislate their morality or simply expect it from them as members of civilized society is far less important than our reaction to such individuals. Anti-maskers need to understand they are social pariahs, not freedom fighters.

Asians have it right. Lack of a mask in public should generate at least as much finger-pointing as the most odorous fart.

We also can learn from our own traditions.

In American culture, we’ve faced endless scourges — diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A and B, varicella (chicken pox), influenza A, pneumococcal conjugate, and meningococcal — all of which essentially have been wiped out by requiring vaccination of all children in schools and preschools.

Do any of the vaccines guarantee you won’t get the disease? Not on your life. But they so reduce the chances of spreading the disease and allowing cases to become life-threatening that they essentially have wiped them out and we wisely have decided to require them of all school children.

Adding human papillomavirus, yearly influenza, and — yes — COVID-19 vaccinations to that already long list wouldn’t be some newfound intrusion on families’ rights, whether it’s proposed by a Democrat, a Republican, a Whig, or a Bull Mooser.

It would just be common sense. If you don’t believe it, just look at the tragic deaths, locally and nationally, that might very well have been prevented if some Americans hadn’t insisted on their right to be rude and oppose science because they perceived it to be coming from another political party.

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Republican like this writer, consider this: The biggest plot evil Democrats could ever hatch might be to encourage Republicans not to wear masks and not to get vaccinated, then watch as our numbers dwindle. It’s a ridiculous conspiracy theory, of course, but no more ridiculous than those cited by some Republicans as to why they won’t wear masks or get vaccinated.

How many deaths and serious, long-term illnesses will it take before people stop playing politics with the life of our communities?

We’re heading into peak season for viruses like COVID-19 and we’re already at double the rate of new cases than we had last year at this time.

There’s not a lot any of us can do to persuade those intent on exercising their right to be wrong. But we can try to reward those who care more about their fellow community members than they do about their own supposed rights and their own political agendas.

So next week, for one week only, we’ll be offering 50% off the cost of advertising to any private business that prominently features in its ad — and enforces at its workplace — a requirement that all customers and employees wear masks and that strongly encourages all employees to get vaccinated.

Otherwise, we fear, the only growth business to pursue will very literally be labeled an undertaking.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 21, 2021

 

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