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I recently shopped at one of our superstores in my area and was distressed because so many people were not wearing masks. Earlier, the store had employees in front of the doors making sure everyone entering wore a mask, but that was not so this time. In fact, a few of those not wearing masks were actually smirking at the people who were wearing masks while they were walking through the store. I continued to avoid those not wearing masks and asked, as I checked out, what was going on. The response was simple: They had discontinued requesting masks because (their words) "It was not possible to tell whether those not wearing masks had a medical reason for their actions."

Obviously, that was not the actual reason. The real reason was that they did not want to confront those not wearing masks. I somewhat understand that problem. I hate confrontations, but sometimes they have to occur.

As I checked out, two of the offenders followed me and were purchasing a couple of bags of potato chips. Big deal. My wife and I normally spend between $500 and $1,000 a month at that store. Other people do the same thing, and I had noticed a number of shoppers avoiding those without masks as if they had the plague. The situation caused me to consider doing my shopping elsewhere.

I've emphasized some of these things in my articles before, but they bear mentioning again. There are three important issues here.

First, people need to get their facts straight. People not wearing a mask apparently think they have the privilege of either getting the virus or not getting it and to ignore other people. The truth is any mask does little to protect a person from covid-19, but they do a great deal about protecting others from getting it if you happen to be a carrier -- and asymptomatic carriers often do not know they are spreading the virus. The mask keeps the virus contained within your mask. Thus, not wearing a mask has little to do with an individual's desire to be exposed to the virus; it has everything to do with inflicting the virus upon someone else if a person happens to be a carrier. Frankly, I am willing to give the people not wearing masks the privilege of exerting their own independence, but I am not willing to allow them to inflict me and my wife with the distinct possibility that catching it may cost us our lives.

Second, it is totally ridiculous to think that wearing masks is not important. I also have heard some people say that more people catch covid-19 wearing masks than those not wearing them. Those thoughts are not only erroneous; they are simply the products of political positions. If wearing a mask was not essential in preventing the spread of disease, why is it that every medical person has been gratefully wearing a mask during surgery or attending sick people with communicable diseases for eons? To my knowledge, every medical scientist dealing with infectious diseases has strongly supported wearing masks -- that is, all but the noninfectious trained medical person hired by our president, who merely agrees with whatever he says.

Third, our president is doing more to spread covid-19 in our country than anyone else by having so many large political rallies with more than half of those attending not wearing masks and no one practicing distancing. In all probability, these rallies will lead to the deaths of hundreds of people (if not thousands), since more than half the people attending are not even wearing a mask let alone practicing distancing. He is the only one advocating this. Of course, he has held these rallies fighting for his political life, but getting elected should never be an excuse for causing people to catch the virus and die.

Having said these things, I hope that people will recognize the most important thread in all of them: When people do not practice distancing or wear masks, the focus is always upon themselves, not others. This is a sad commentary on our American freedoms. If we do not stop thinking of ourselves and start thinking of others, we will continue to have around one-fourth of the coronavirus cases in the world right here in the United States, and around one-fifth of the people inflicted with it in the world who die.

It causes me to remember the biblical admonition, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Always remember that the lives you are dealing with are the people around you. You don't want others to give you a disease; so please don't try and give them a disease by ignoring safety considerations.

Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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