The city councils in many Oklahoma cities and towns, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, have mandated citizens wear masks in public settings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. The action has been controversial, with some taking to social media to condemn what they describe as "government overreach."

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. They contend the masks can help prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading it. They write: Cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. Three observations:

•First, mandating masks does affect individual liberty. But so does requiring individuals to wear a seatbelt, making them take their shoes off going through a TSA checkpoint, or having a speed limit on highways. Americans have submitted to those restrictions on their liberty with barely a whimper. The State of World Liberty Index was created to score countries in three categories: individual freedom, economic freedom and government size and taxation. The 2020 ranking does not have the United States in the top 10. Americans have been losing liberty at a steady rate since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. A case can be made that the Patriot Act actually punished Americans more than those who planned the attacks. Make no mistake, individual liberty is sacrificed when government authorities mandate anything, including masks.

•Second, medical experts say masks help stop the spread of COVID-19. The vast majorities of medical people encourage people to social distance and wear masks. There are skeptics who believe the COVID-19 pandemic is overblown, political, and a conspiracy of the deep state. Clearly, some (on both sides of the aisle) are taking political advantage of the situation, but the COVID-19 virus is real. If wearing a mask helps our neighbor, what’s the harm in doing it? It just seems dying on the hill of not wearing a mask while ignoring an out of control national debt and a crumbling country is a bit ironic.

•Third, people who wear masks are not weak, meek or lacking in faith. Those who don’t wear masks aren’t stronger, have more faith or courage than their mask wearing brothers. Maskwearers are being cautious and it is their God-given and constitutional right to wear the mask. They shouldn’t be heckled or put down by the non-maskwearers. Conversely, those who choose not to wear a mask shouldn’t be heckled or put down by the maskwearers. That is the principle of personal liberty.

The debate on wearing masks borders on the insane. Name-calling, insults and caricaturing of those who disagree is often unkind and unchristian. Insulting elected officials and questioning their political leanings is the order of the day. Wearing a mask or not wearing a mask may or may not stop the spread of COVID-19 — only God knows, but wearing or not wearing a mask will not be the instrument that destroys America. Not recognizing others the right to disagree impedes liberty more and is far more destructive.


Steve Fair is 4th district chairma of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at okgop@aol.com. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.


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