Sid Salter

SID SALTER

Erstwhile DeSoto County state legislator and failed GOP gubernatorial contender Robert Foster is certainly entitled to his opinions about government mask requirements. He is also free to apply whatever overwrought definitions to freedom, liberty, and tyranny that he chooses.

Likewise, I am free to point out that one of the great things about America is that here, your cheese can slide all the way off your cracker and there’s not much to be done about it.

Here’s some of Foster’s anti-face mask rants on Facebook: “So, this isn’t about a mask mandate, this is about control. This is about standing up to a governor that is acting like a dictator. When did the legislature vote on a law to mandate masks? I must have missed them taking up and debating this significant change in public policy. This is about government constantly pushing, more taxes, more restrictions, more licenses, more regulations, more fees, more fines, more loss of liberty, one little bit at a time.”

One wonders what sort of rhetoric Mr. Foster would generate were he afflicted with some actual tyranny? And let’s be honest, Foster’s social media musings about the supposed vast government and left-wing conspiracy to take away our freedom and liberty with cotton or nylon face coverings (some of the better homemade masks have Mr. Coffee filters in them, but I digress …) have been shared by congressmen, ministers, and occasionally by President Donald Trump, although Trump finally donned a mask in public over the weekend while visiting wounded troops at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The national political tempest in a teapot over government-mandated face coverings seem rooted in what Business Insider Editor-At-Large David Plotz summed up in this recent writing: “Some on the right have become enthralled with a highly selfish conception of liberty that equates freedom with being able to do what you want. Historically, conservatism has embraced a more expansive idea of liberty that emphasizes balancing your own desires with your obligations to protect and serve others. This selfish libertarianism spread on social media and into conservative media and influenced the president.”

Whatever one thinks of Tate Reeves’ service as governor, the suggestion that his administration’s COVID-19 policies have been either tyrannical or out-of-step with the best advice of federal and state medical experts is simply just not true. And Foster’s disrespectful dismissal of the work of Drs. Thomas Dobbs and Anthony Fauci is contemptible.

The notion that the advice of public health experts should be ignored contradicts a great deal of American history. There are more than a few easy examples of science changing how we live.

When I was a kid, people could smoke whenever and wherever they chose to light up. In restaurants, on airplanes, on buses, in taxis, you name it, you had ‘em, you smoked ‘em. I remember in the 1960s seeing people smoke in doctor’s offices and in hospital beds.

In that day, cigarettes were cheap and if you could see over the counter, you could buy them at any store that sold them. Now, laws, customs, and a broader knowledge of carcinogens changed that behavior.

And don’t get me started on seat belts. During my childhood, there were no car seats or seat belts. I remember when Dad bought a 1966 two-tone tan Chevy Bel-Air that had two features I’d never seen in our family car – lap-level seats belts and air conditioning.

Food packaging years ago didn’t bother with those pesky freshness dates – not even milk. Canned goods were seemingly good for eternity. Two things would withstand nuclear winter – Twinkies and SPAM.

Governments regulate. Sometimes well, sometimes not so well, but government regulation is a long way from tyranny.

Thumbing one’s nose at a governor for mask mandates makes good political theater for those seeking media attention (which coming from the “My Pickup, My Rules” Guy certainly appears to be all this is …), but in the middle of a global pandemic that’s killing his fellow citizens, it’s just self-serving gibberish on social media. Nothing more.

Annoy Robert Foster. Wear a mask.

SID SALTER is a syndicated Mississippi columnist. Readers can contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

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