Letter: Echoes of smoking in opposition to masks

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 25, 2020

“This is America. I have a right to choose for myself. If you don’t feel safe around me, you can just stay home.” I’ve seen variations of this recently, and it’s déjà vu. These same arguments were spoken and felt years ago about another public health issue: smoking.

It used to be that anyone could smoke anywhere, anytime — even in hospitals. Then we learned how harmful secondhand smoke was to others and we changed our policies to match the science.

It started with publicly funded spaces like courtrooms and government offices. They banned smoking. Then we protected people in all public spaces: bars, restaurants, all offices and warehouses and eventually in outdoor venues like ballparks. It was argued then, as now, that doing so would hurt the economy. It did for a bit, but not by much and not for long.

We, as a people, resisted at first but came to respect that one person’s right to their own behavior shouldn’t come at the expense of another person’s health and well-being.

It’s time to respect one another in this same way when it comes to wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s not about infringing on anyone’s rights; it’s about protecting one another. If any foreign country had killed off 218,000 Americans, we wouldn’t be arguing about whether we have the right to defend ourselves or not.

Right now, I need you to defend me and you need me to defend you. That’s how masks work. We may be contagious even without having symptoms, so let’s practice what we preach on Sundays: Respect and care for me as I respect and care for you by wearing a mask in public.

Thank you, and God bless.

— Margaret Stridick