Opinion: Masks Have Become a Universal Form of Judgement

As the coronavirus has invaded every aspect of American life, preventative measures against sickness has become everyone’s top priority. Masks have risen to special prominence, being recognized by many as the superhero of defense against the virus. 

Masks have had just as big of an effect on America from a social perspective, however. They have become a universal symbol of judgment. Wear the mask, and you’re deemed a responsible, caring citizen. Don’t wear the mask, and all of a sudden, you want to kill grandma and have no regard for your fellow man. 

All that aside, perhaps the second biggest controversy surrounding masks is the rules about wearing them. Who decides the rules? But more importantly than if they can, should the government mandate masks, penalizing, fining and arresting those who do not bow to their commands? 

A few recent examples reflect what can happen:

On Sept.17, Rachel Davis boarded an American Airlines flight with her 2-year-old son who wouldn’t let her put a mask on him. The mother repeatedly tried to comply with the orders to do so, but her son was not having it. This caused the entire plane to have to deboard. After much discussion with the captain and crew members, Davis and her son were not allowed back on the plane. 

On Sept. 23, a group of Christians gathered outside city hall in Moscow, Idaho for an outdoor worship service. Of the 150 attendees, five were cited for not wearing masks, and two were arrested, one for suspicion of resisting an officer, and the other for refusing to identify himself. 

Gabriel Rench, the man arrested for not identifying himself, told Fox News  that the arrest was immediate. 

“We just started singing the songs and …  that’s why they proceeded to arrest me,” Rench said. 

Rench pointed out that the county has seen no COVID-19 deaths throughout the course of the pandemic.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry defended the arrests, citing that the perpetrators were not social distancing or masked, and that the local ordinances suggests that “Those who violate the order are subject to a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.”

Fry added that “at some point in time you have to enforce.”

On Sept. 24, a woman was “tased and arrested” after not wearing a mask at a football game in Logan, Ohio. According to various reports Alecia Kitts was sitting with her family when approached by a resource officer who instructed her to put on a mask. Kitts  insisted that she had asthma, making her medically exempt from wearing a mask. After a bit of back-and-forth between the two, the officer pulled out his tazer, subdued the woman and escorted her away in handcuffs.Here we see three instances of just how strict mask-wearing has become. You can be kicked off your flight, arrested, tased and more. These are just three of who knows how many similar circumstances that have accrued over the months.

So, what does all of this mean? Have people taken the mask dictates too far? Should we push back on government mandates as tyrannical and overreaching? 

The answer is complicated. Yes, the mask measures have gone too far, but also yes, the government has a degree of authority in imposing them. However, given the series of events that have stemmed from the mask controversy, the government should back off and leave it up to the citizens to govern themselves. 

I am not a fan of these surgical/cloth masks because there is no conclusive evidence that they are any bit helpful. Many studies have shown as much. If you want to compare studies with studies, that’s fine, but we need to stop pretending as if flimsy, napkin-like face covers have been absolutely proven — or even close to proven — to be a reliable defense against COVID-19. They haven’t.

Masks have been used for centuries now. Are they JUST NOW figuring out that masks have now garnered some sort of magic powers against respiratory illnesses? There has only now been some revolutionary breakthrough about these pieces of cloth used since the dawn of medicine? I have my doubts.

But efficacy isn’t even the issue; our rights are. So, as much as we conservatives may not want to admit, we have to be honest: states have a lot of public health power under their constitutions (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” – 10th Amendment) and do reserve the right to enforce health measures for its citizens. They have the legal authority within reason to implement civil penalties or fines for people who do not comply with these orders.

So, in a general sense, the state authority can require masks, and they can impose penalties for not doing so. But can the government take that too far and act unreasonably? 

No one should be arrested for not wearing a mask while worshipping God, and no one should be arrested and tased for not wearing a mask when they are pretty isolated from other people.

All things considered, the mask mandates are tough waters to tread. They can be required, but the power to do so can be just as easily abused and used as precedent for more ridiculous measures. Citizens must constantly keep government in check and ensure that a small rule does not snowball into something that turns into an infringement on civil rights. 

Addison Smith is a guest writer.

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