I will start by thanking all those businesses whose employees wear masks, and especially those working to protect our community by requiring that their customers also wear masks. I’m sure it has led to uncomfortable conversations with some customers and turning business away.

I understand that a mask is not comfortable or fun to wear; personally, I hate the feeling of breathing in warmed air. But I object to the talking point that a requirement to use a mask violates liberties or rights. Rights guaranteed by the Constitution – such as the First Amendment freedom of speech – all come with reasonable limits for the good of our society. A famous example of this limit is that the right to free speech does not protect a person falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

Saying that the government can’t force you to wear a mask is like saying the government can’t force you to stop at a red light. Yes, it can be a nuisance to stop and wait when traffic is light, but we accept the requirement because we understand that a moving car is a potential danger to others’ lives, and we want everybody in the same situation to have to stop. Wearing a mask during a pandemic – like obeying a red light – reduces the risk to others. To argue that it is all about your rights is saying that those rights are more important to you than the lives of those in your community – especially essential workers exposed for long periods to public indoor air.

If you feel that a mask infringes on your rights, here’s a compromise: wear a mask for the health of our community, and exercise your First Amendment right to free speech by writing on the mask “This mask violates my rights.”

Kris Wolmar

Mount Shasta