We need love and respect - not constitutional arguments


Apparently, the mask ordinance proposed for better enforcement in Jasper has struck a nerve. But, frankly, I find it hard to criticize the Jasper City Council at all.

There are some minor points, starting with Gov. Kay Ivey already has mandated we wear masks in the state during a health crisis. That should have been enough for anyone, but it turns out how you enforce it is a problem. Without an ordinance, you would have to arrest someone, and no one really has much stomach for that. I think the prevailing view is the stomach is not as big a concern as the hip where you hold your wallet, and if some people had to pay $300 in court fees, the lighter hip would drive them crazy. Either way, the council is really engaged in debate not on wearing a mask but how to enforce it. 

What gets my goat is that we are seven months into this pandemic and we are still arguing about wearing a mask. Really? 

First off, masks are not about you and your precious constitutional rights. It is about saving other people's lives. If you wear a mask, the other person is not infected. Christian charity and concern in what should be a war-like setting should drill us that we have to help others. 

Instead, we have people talking about constitutional rights not to wear a mask, which is is just selfish legal mumbo-jumbo. We have health laws that allow this. We have had presidents to even suspend civil liberties and censor news (think Lincoln and FDR) in times of war, so I think they can require us to temporarily use a mask for mass health protection in times of pandemic. 

And, yes, you can breath in a mask. I have a three-layer washable masks (Pure Mask, at puremask.com), which I ordered online, and I have sat through two-hour local government meetings and didn't suffocate. (What I heard and saw at local government meetings almost made me suffocate, but not the mask.) Only in some rare cases would have have this problem. 

Frankly, I asked my doctor, Dr. John Bivona, early this year, point blank, if I was at risk for COVID-19, and he said with some seriousness on his face and in his tone, yes. I have had my share of chronic respiratory problems in my life, including mild asthma, sinus drainage, bronchitis and pneumonia. (Oddly enough, not much of the flu, but I've already had my shot, and you should, too, especially in October.)

I am certainly overweight, and while I am thankfully not 80, 57 is marching up the ladder. (I also have to consider my father, who I do see a few times a week, and he is in his 80s and has mild COPD.) And, let's face it, my job takes me sometimes into some dicey situations. 

So I have taken this seriously. I worked at home a couple of months, and finally came back. I still watch church online. I don't go to events and hardly go out of the county, even to funerals (which has been sad at times to deal with). I limit my shopping as I can, and have learned about pick ups at Walmart. I interview a lot more on the phone, and photos are sometimes sent in. 

Except for Dad, I have not eaten out with anyone and even then we have ate some at the apartment. (Dad got suspicious of procedures at a fast-food place he goes to breakfast at in Winfield and stopped going. A couple of weeks later, they had to shut down for a day to clean for COVID.) 

I finally broke down and ate out with a friend on Tuesday, after hearing Dr. Anthony Fauci on "60 Minutes" and the online "60 Minutes Extra" piece that had spillover material.  He was asked how long could we need to wear masks, and he said if a vaccine came this winter and maybe 70 percent of the people got their shots, then we might start easing off on mask and restrictions in the fall of 2021 - and then it would continue. 

It is obvious this will be a two-year event, and I will have to occasionally eat with a friend in a safe situation, or I will go mad. ABC 33/40 anchor and reporter Stephen Quinn (who is excellent and a super nice guy) was working in town Tuesday, and happens to be a great conversationalist. We sat at a favorite Jasper haunt, which I consider pretty safe, and I know he has been quite responsible. I had a blast, even as I know I can't do this that often. 

I think officials recognize there is COVID fatigue and that will make it harder. However, in general, we should still follow the basics of masks, distancing and hand washing. One health expert said on CNN Wednesday morning that the efforts people have made have helped in ways that have helped healthcare workers, though still worn out, not to suffer even more by overloading hospitals with more patients. Moreover, she said it bought the health system more time to get a vaccine in place, and that is still needed until the final solution is found in the labs. 

Science is going to get us out of this. It makes me mad that at a time when we need science, people who want to take out their frustrations on the establishment have declared open war on science, its officials and its methods. Fauci and his wife (whose mother is in assisted living and got the COVID at one point, meaning she couldn't see her mother) take power walks with federal agents guarding them, as the whole family has received death threats. 

I doubt the president would know that, as he doesn't convene his coronavirus task force much anymore, and is depending on Fox News talking heads he appoints, people who completely counteract the health experts at every turn. The president criticizes Fauci at every chance he gets, even after causing a super spreader at a Rose Garden event, where no one was wearing mask, and after contracting the virus himself. Trump supporter Chris Christie, an asthma sufferer who stayed in the ICU for a week with COVID-19, now regrets not wearing a mask. 

But the president, despite making some statements of support for masks and such, obviously is not giving genuine backing and emotional support. It is all about him, and whether you like him, whether you are against him. He is wrapped up in own concerns, and would rather lead the nation to rage against perceived elites and slights, even where none exist. 

It has almost felt like the situation and the attitude has become criminal in its own right, and would serve as a ludicrous Gilbert and Sullivan satire if it were not true and tragic. But the attitude from the top has lead us not to trust our institutions, and has led us to this point. 

We should get past this. This is war against an unseen enemy. Yes, we should live our lives as best we can, and move on when we can. I, for one, found it easier to work in the office instead of at the apartment. I have to cover meetings that usually don't have Zoom. It is a risk, but a calculated one, with masks and distancing and timing. Ordering at a fast food place and still not wearing a mask when the door notice says you must wear a mask until your are seated is not cool, is not correct and is a danger to others. (I saw that the other day, by the way.) 

Not only would I not get concerned about the Jasper ordinance, but I would urge all of us to soldier on or take up your arms - er, masks - to continue forward. We have to consider carefully what to give up during the holidays, how to distance. This can mean life and death to someone else. Your liberty is precious, but so is life to someone else. 

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise," the old verse says. And if you would not have that done for yourself, I would pray you learn to respect yourself more. It is not constitutional arguments we need now, but love, respect and concern. 


Ed Howell is news editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or ed.howell@mountaineagle.com