One would think the illnesses and deaths from COVID-19 are enough for people to have to endure. Apparently serious illness and death are not adequate because politics and anger have also been thrown into this great American stew, apparently to satisfy those super-patriots among us. Somehow, some group from somewhere in this country decided the basest politics should be also be included in concocting the full scourge of this virus.
As near as I can understand it, here’s the deal: Progressives, Democrats, seem to be the ones wearing the masks without much complaining. The “always Trumpers,” Republicans mainly, are the ones refusing the masks and declaring that "government” is not going to tell them they should wear a protective mask.
You know, we all have significant lessons we learn through life. For me, one of those life lessons was political and it came early. I was a fourth grade student at Lincoln School in Butte when Harry Truman came to town. Even I, at the uninitiated age of 10, could tell the difference between milquetoast political candidates and a genuine kick-ass candidate like Truman. If people had suggested to him that “freedom” meant refusing to wear a face mask, even though it would likely protect one’s family and neighbors from a killer virus, Truman would have cussed and laughed that gang into the last election.
You recall all about those times: a world war had just been won and trust this, the adults in our young lives knew all about freedom, especially what it was worth and, equally important, what it took to defend it. My parents, relatives and neighbors also understood “That there government.” And, although it might be difficult to understand in this current toxic and dangerous anti-government atmosphere, they approved of their government, praised and honored it.
That government had recently asked them to take on a couple of pretty hefty challenges: The Great Depression and a world war. My family, along with all our neighbors, hunkered down for the Depression and joined up to fight the war, and I learned how serious it was when some of them never returned. Yes, those adults understood “that there federal government,” and working together with it they saved our bacon, defended our lives and safeguarded our unique freedoms.
You know, the truth about this current silliness of refusing to wear a mask in order to protect one's freedom from government is the stuff of immature political nonsense. Why, even we fourth grade students at the Lincoln Grade School had far more important political matters in our young lives. With the economy saved and the war won, our parents and teachers carefully explained how it would soon be for us to win the peace.
Believe me, we were eager to join our neighbors, our government, as eager partners in that great challenge and we have been working tirelessly at it ever since.
Pat Williams is a former nine-term congressman for Montana. He served from 1979 to 1997. He and his wife, Carol, live in Missoula.
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