Wineke: Don’t be a jerk, wear a mask

Face Mask

The great American populace – or, at least, that portion of it that likes to make noise and threaten people – has spoken about the use of masks, saying, in effect, “Hell no!”

They’re a minority, I admit. But you see them on the evening news broadcasts, screaming at security guards, waving Confederate flags, sometimes brandishing assault weapons. We are Americans. We don’t let people order us to wear masks.

I kind of appreciate the frustration. It was only a few weeks ago that our medical leaders were telling us – and telling us in no uncertain terms – to forget masks, to leave them for medical professionals, to understand they will do no good whatsoever when it comes to protecting us.

Now, we’re all supposed to wear them.

I don’t get out much these days, just an occasional trip to a grocery store or to a pharmacy. But, when I do, I wear a mask.

The reason why is that I don’t want to be a jerk.

I understand that a mask might not do much to protect me. But I’m pretty well convinced the mask might go a long way toward protecting others from me.

When I go into that grocery store, or pharmacy, or medical office, I fully expect there will be clerks and technicians and other staff there to serve me. They are required to go to work every day and, as part of their jobs, confront hundreds of strangers, any one of whom might expose them to a potentially deadly illness.

If I want them to continue taking that risk on my behalf, the least I can do is to hang a piece of cloth over my mouth and nose.

And, while I am shopping, I may well share the space with a critical care nurse or respiratory care technician on her way home from a 12-hour day working with patients who carry one of the most contagious viruses on the planet.

If I don’t care enough about the risks those people are taking to put a piece of cloth over my mouth, then do I really have the right to expect them to show up for work tomorrow?

There are a lot of hard trade offs that must be made at times like these. Keeping our economy largely shut down has long-term consequences and opening that economy back up will most likely that short-term consequences. I owe it to those who must make those decisions some respect, even if I may not agree with the decisions they make.

But wearing a mask when I’m out in public doesn’t involve some agonizing decision. It just involves having some respect for the men and women who have no choice about being in public.

It just means trying not to be a jerk.