Quit bitching and wear the damn mask!

Face masks.

If I’d told you a year ago that masks would be the poster … thing … for human, constitutional and even abortion rights, you’d pass me off as crazy. Perhaps I am, but I would’ve been spot on.

It’s true that protesters of face masks have used the battle cry “My body! My choice!” while others have hung their hats on the First Amendment (free speech) in their disdain for a five-inch-square cloth that was designed to cover to the nose and mouth. There are numerous accounts out there of people who are abusive in their attempts to shop and dine in businesses that require face coverings.

Just this week, a bar patron in Houston caused the barkeep 10 stitches and a concussion by smashing his forehead with a glass. The reason? The bartender reminded the customer that masks were a requirement in the county and establishment. No word yet on the attacker’s excuse for such a violent assault. My guess: He’s a narcissist … with some psychosis thrown in.

Know that I’m neither a lefty nor a snowflake. I’m just a guy who prefers that everything makes sense.

I live in Texas, where I was born and raised. Not only do we own the record for capital punishment, we also get to drive 85 mph on certain roads, and many of us pack enough heat to rob a bank. These are our inalienable rights, after all.

Despite widespread belief, the gun thing here isn’t necessarily a Wild West fiasco.

I own a shotgun that resembles a pistol. It has a broom handle grip , and short barrel and a pump. When discharged, it can be heard half a mile away. Its appearance is mean. If you’re on the receiving end of it, this weapon most assuredly will maim you — if not send you into the afterlife.

Having this weapon, according to the Second Amendment, is my right. But the constitution does not preclude me from qualifying to own this deadly piece of machinery.

In fact, I’ve never been arrested. Neither have I received a traffic citation. I’m an Eagle Scout. I have a master’s degree. Not to mention, I qualified once to adopt a child. Regardless, I was required to swear this and promise that — in addition to submitting to a federal background check — before I was able to walk out the door with my new gun. Interestingly, it was much the same as getting my first driver’s license, minus the 20-minute driving test with the overweight state trooper.

The masks though…

Truth be told, in my 50 years on this rock, I’ve only worn masks on Halloween and occasionally when mowing the fields during a drought. I despise them for many reasons, not the least of which is the coffee breath that causes me to replace my masks on a regular basis. Admittedly though, the face coverings have come in handy for days that I don’t feel like shaving. They also provide a built-in disguise for obscuring my occasional snarky facial expressions. But those are just personal observations.

While the average mask does not provide ironclad defense against spreading or contracting viruses, we do know that it improves our odds … just like an SPF 50 betters our chances of not getting sunburned on the lake or at the beach. Or, more appropriately, just as a seat belts improve our chances at surviving a car crash. Have I somehow missed the protests against sunscreen and air bags?

Where were the objectors when the government told us that cooking pork to 145F was safe? Were they too busy protesting the surgeon general’s warning that smoking causes cancer?

I have every right to eat raw pork or spend the day near the waves with nary a drop of applied sunscreen lotion. Those actions might result in unfortunate consequences — for only me. If I decide to speed through traffic or fire my gun into the air over my neighborhood, I’ve crossed a line. Yours.

Face masks are required but ill-enforced in most areas. In other words, they’re a choice with virtually no punishment for non-conformists, other than an evil eye here and there. When you refuse to wear one, particularly with the massive amount of information out there as to how they protect you and others, you’re just being a horse’s ass. Not to mention, you’re crossing my line.

You believed in science when you bought those hand warmers for your hunting trip or chose to have your children vaccinated on schedule. You certainly believed in statistics and physics when you chose the .40 caliber over the 9mm … or the eight cylinder engine instead of the six banger version. And, when is the last time you dined on medium rare pork chops?

Finally, if you believe that masks are an infringement on your rights, what are your thoughts about clothing? After all, if covering your nose and mouth with flimsy cloth is something akin to communism, I can only imagine your suffering because of shirts, shoes and trousers.

Double standards abound

I’m 50.

I am a lifelong asthmatic. That’s probably my mother’s fault, since folks didn’t know in the late 1960s that smoking a pack (daily) of Benson & Hedges might affect your unborn child.

I’ve lived with diabetes for a decade, along with high blood pressure and cholesterol issues for which I require daily medication. Those problems are my own fault. After all, I’ve always believed that fried is a food group. Not to mention, watermelon-flavored Jolly Ranchers and Lemonhead candies have been my go-to for longer than I can remember.

Yet, I go about my business — socially distanced and with a mask. I wash my hands too, but that’s nothing new since I’m a lifelong germaphobe.

Like most others, I frequent the local grocery store, gas station and my workplace. Despite the real statistics that involve diagnoses, illnesses and even deaths, I seem to see more and more people who appear to be in denial.

I’m not political in my beliefs and actions. In fact, I’m the most centrist person that I know. Yet, during a weekend visit to my local H.E.B., I noticed several people brazenly shopping with nary a mask.

“Trump people,” I thought. At some point, they were led to believe that masks were wrong … that the U.S. Constitution didn’t require protecting one’s inhale and exhale. And I was likely correct. It’s true that our president has effectively been in denial about this pandemic, if only because of the many gatherings he has organized in lieu of medically based warnings against such.

But there are others.

I work with people whose jobs require them to do their jobs in person. Most of them follow the rules by masking up, keeping their distance from others and sanitizing their hands to the point of being constantly chapped. Despite these preventatives, the risks remain.

Many of these same people take care of medically fragile elders. And though they seem nervously content about their own daily routines, they insist that their school-aged children play by different rules as virtual learners.

The statistics are real. Children who are being schooled virtually are failing as a whole.

Sure, some virtual students are passing their courses. Some are even acing their lessons. But many of them are also missing out on the all-so-important socialization that goes along with traditional school. So too are many children suffering mental anguish throughout this ordeal. Pick your search engine and source: depression and mental anxiety among children is way up since this time last year.

Where are our priorities?

Of course, most of us put health and safety and the top of our list. That’s totally understandable. But, if we are willing to follow the rules and work in-person, what do we expect to accomplish by not insisting that our children do the same — by masking up, keeping clean … and not hugging everyone during the passing periods?

Fact is, most of us are guilty of mingling with co-workers. We find their familiarity comfortable, after all. But many of us also rub plenty of elbows — as inadvertently as it may be — at the supermarket, gas station, and even at our mailboxes (When’s the last time you wore gloves to check your mail?).

The only way to be (arguably) truly safe is total solitude … all of us.

But if health and safety are your concerns in a world where co-mingling is expected, should you not expect the same from your children as you work to experience every day?

Do they not deserve such important life lessons from us?