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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: A Lack Of Responsibility, Unmasked

Tommy Tomlinson

Here’s a useful public service announcement about the coronavirus from the Red Cross: “Wear a mask and save your life! The man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.”

So, as you can see – wait, let me check something. Hmm. Turns out this is not about the coronavirus in 2020. This is a Red Cross ad about the Spanish flu from 1918.

It still applies.

As of Friday, North Carolina requires you to wear a mask if you’re out among people in public, with a few exceptions. Everyone from Dr. Fauci to your family physician recommends it as one of the best ways to slow down the virus that has killed more than 125,000 Americans. Cases are spiking so fast in both Carolinas that three Northeastern states have put us on a travel advisory. If you fly to New York from Charlotte, for example, you’ll have to go into quarantine for two weeks once you get there.

North Carolinians are currently considered too dangerous for New York City. Think about that for a second.

The longer people refuse to put on masks, the longer it’ll be before we get back to anything resembling normal life. It’s not just medically recommended, it’s simple common sense.

Unfortunately, our country is full of people whose supply of common sense appears to be running on empty.

I’m still not going out much these days, but everywhere I go – the grocery store, the post office – about half the people aren’t wearing masks. Some people whine about it being an inconvenience – it’s harder to breathe through a mask, they never fit quite right, etc. Other people feel like it’s their constitutional right as an American to do whatever they damn well please.

This country is, in fact, built unlike most others, designed to give its citizens the maximum amount of freedom. But the part people forget about is that their freedom comes with responsibility.

America doesn’t work if everyone is simply out for themselves. It’s also our job as citizens to look out for one another. Refusing to do that is profoundly un-American.

As we’ve been told over and over, wearing a mask isn’t as much about protecting you as it’s about protecting other people from you. If you’re infected and don’t know it, the mask keeps you from infecting others. At this point, it feels like a basic test of how much you care about your fellow humans.

Nobody wants to wear a mask. It’s a pain. But it’s such a small thing to endure, when the payoff is fewer people dying, not to mention getting all this over with sooner rather than later.

Those who can’t see that by now … well, the Red Cross had it right 100 years ago. Dangerous slackers. They’ve always been around. But these days, they’re easy to identify.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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