Oseye Boyd

If someone would’ve told me back in March that asking, requiring or suggesting people wear a mask would cause fights, assaults with bodily fluids and even deaths, I probably would’ve laughed and told that person to stop making up stories.

I never thought something like a mask would be so controversial that it would cause adults to behave in the most vile, disgusting, vitriolic ways. I understand when people say they don’t like wearing masks or don’t want to wear masks, but to take it to the level of spitting or coughing on people or hitting someone about a mask is extreme. I mean it’s just a piece of cloth that can be removed. 

But here we are months into a pandemic and we don’t seem to be better off than when COVID-19 first hit the U.S. Although we’ve been told more than a bazillion times to social distance and wear a mask, many of us refuse to do so.

This is America, they say, not a communist country. We have rights that won’t be trampled on. Many of those who refuse to wear a mask don’t believe the novel coronavirus is real or don’t think it’s as bad as government officials are saying. Some also believe it’s a slippery slope to losing the liberties that we’ve come to expect as Americans living in these United States.

As an American, yes, you have rights. However, your rights end where mine begin. If not wearing a mask puts others in jeopardy — even if you don’t believe it does — is it asking too much to just comply? (See what I did there?) 

You never know what illnesses someone is dealing with. Everyone doesn’t always look “sick.” Chadwick Boseman was a great example. It wasn’t until recently that people noticed his weight loss and gaunt appearance. Little did we know he had been dealing with colon cancer for four years and undergoing chemotherapy. For much of that time he looked to be the picture of health — at least what we saw. 

Countless people in the Black community have asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure — underlying conditions — and no one knows as they go about their day-to-day lives.

This tells me that Americans are selfish. We talk a good game, but we don’t care about others if it inconveniences us or we don’t agree. This brings me back to the whole freedom issue.

This lets me know that not only are we selfish, but we are either forgetful or ignorant. It used to be a common occurrence during my childhood and teen years to see “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs posted on the window of stores and other businesses. It was understood that a business would turn you away if you didn’t comply. These privately owned businesses had the right to do this. Now, maybe people protested like they’re doing with masks and we just didn’t see it because cell phones weren’t a thing, but I don’t remember watching the news or reading a newspaper article about someone getting into a fight because they couldn’t go into a store barefoot or shirtless. 

In my lifetime I’ve seen seatbelts go from optional to mandatory and smoking in public places banned. There was a big stink about both. I’ll tell you, I was never for the seatbelt thing. It took away the ability to look cool while driving. Yes, that was my reasoning and it sounds so silly now. I was all for the smoking ban because I don’t smoke and didn’t want smoke in my hair or on my clothes, nor did I want to get lung cancer from secondhand smoke. In both situations, my thought process was only about what I liked or didn’t. 

The U.S. didn’t collapse and we didn’t lose our freedoms. We came to accept the safety benefits of wearing a seatbelt and the health benefits of not exposing people to cigarette smoke. Both of these were permanent changes. The masks are temporary — unless we never get it together and the pandemic never ends.

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