Publisher's note: This informational nugget was sent to me by Ben Shapiro, who represents the Daily Wire, and since this is one of the most topical news events, it should be published on BCN.
The author of this post is Frank Camp.
Cars were not always fitted with seatbelts.
From 1908, when the Ford Model T changed the way the general public could travel, to the late-1960s, when the federal government mandated that cars come installed with seatbelts, there were no large-scale rules regarding the usage or presence of safety belts in vehicles (though belts were indeed invented and used prior).
Now, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
(IIHS), "with the exception of New Hampshire, all states and the District of Columbia require adult front-seat occupants to use seat belts," and "adult rear-seat passengers also are covered by the laws in 30 states and the District of Columbia."
There was great debate about seat belt laws, and though the fervor has almost gone silent in the modern era, discussion continues in some circles as to the appropriateness of such mandates.
In the age of COVID-19, a similar issue has come to the fore - this time with face masks.
Despite successful mitigation in several parts of the country, cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in states like California, Texas, and Florida, and Americans are seeking both personal safety and economic recovery.
With a vaccine far in the distance, and the long-term effectiveness of post-illness immunity untested, what's left is a set of guidelines that can greatly reduce the spread of the virus. Aside from frequent and thorough hand washing and social distancing, the primary guidance from the medical community is the wearing of face masks.
Like the controversy surrounding seat belts in decades past, there has been debate surrounding the enforcement of mask-wearing.
Appearing recently on a CNN affiliate, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden indicated that he would like to make masks mandatory. "I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public," Biden stated
On Sunday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said
it was "long overdue" in response to George Stephanopoulos asking if it's "time to mandate the wearing of masks across the country."
Some leaders, however, are leaving the option of mask mandates to localities.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R), for example, has allowed mayors to make such decisions. One of several cities in Arizona to issue a mask mandate is Chandler. According to a tweet
from Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke, everyone in the city "over the age of six shall wear face coverings in businesses and public spaces where continuous physical distancing of six feet or more is not practical or feasible."
Despite surging case counts in several states, the nation appears to be floating through a kind of COVID fatigue. As states have begun allowing some economic activity to resume, news footage continues to show throngs of Americans refusing to follow even the most basic requests pertaining to masks and social distancing.
Areas that have been hit harder, such as New York City, continue to see fairly large-scale mask usage, but in other areas, the footage suggests that masks have been left at home.
The issue has only been complicated by the politicization of mask-wearing.
For months, the mainstream media maintained that to leave the house without a mask was tantamount to "killing grandma." When anti-lockdown protests occurred in several states, the media coverage was largely negative.
Despite record unemployment and thousands of small businesses going under as a result of stay-at-home orders, Americans who wanted to work and feed the economic engine that keeps us quite literally healthy and alive were talked about as if they were "selfish" or "greedy."
That mindset rapidly changed when hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets in protest over the death of George Floyd. Suddenly, the media that previously took a hard stance on mask-wearing appeared to sand off the sharper edges of their health-related admonitions when discussing the large public protests and riots in which many individuals didn't wear face masks.
Even some health officials across the country who had earlier been urging Americans to stay home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 seemed to modify their positions on the issue.
Wearing a mask became less a necessity and more a personal choice, so long as it was under the auspices of a political movement sanctioned by progressives.
The hypocrisy was astonishing to many observers. Not only had the media changed its tune in neck-snappingly quick fashion, but progressive politicians were also using their platform to bend the narrative in the same way.
Unfortunately, the spin has created a backlash among some conservatives, who feel as though they were duped, and have now come to see face masks as a political prop.
Media hypocrisy isn't the only reason that a number of conservatives aren't keen on wearing masks. The fact that the President of the United States refuses to wear a mask in public has likely also contributed to the notion among his supporters that facial coverings are ineffective, or that to wear them would be to cede symbolic ground to the Left.
During two recent rallies in Oklahoma and Arizona, thousands of mostly mask-less Trump supporters seemed to demonstrate this thinking by packing themselves into indoor venues in order to see the president speak.
It's not unfair to argue that had President Trump himself worn a mask from the beginning, and continued to wear one, more of his supporters would wear them as well, and the political nature of mask-wearing would not be so intense.
Even Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) recently said
: "I wish the president would wear a mask when it's appropriate because millions of Americans admire him, and they would follow his lead."
This Right/Left divide has made the simple, effective, and apolitical act of wearing a face mask into a symbol, one that conveys piousness among progressives (unless you're protesting without one) and weakness, paranoia, or anti-establishment rebellion among Trump supporters.
Media malpractice, political posturing, virtue displays, symbols of rebellion - not a single one of these things should be the reason to wear or not wear a mask, yet this is where we are as a nation.
Aside from offering some protection for the individual wearing the facial covering, a mask can catch much of the aerosolized particulate that is jettisoned from the mouth when speaking or even breathing, therefore lowering the risk that the wearer (symptomatic or asymptomatic) passes on the illness to someone else.
With the basic facts pertaining to the efficacy of facial coverings in mind, wearing a mask is not simply a personally responsible action, but one that, if practiced widely, would likely allow the United States to move forward during this pandemic without further lockdowns.
The question we then face is this - in a free society, on an intensely politicized issue, when is it appropriate that a state or local government mandate masks when it is understood that doing so could create a safer environment, one in which the economy can function, people can work, and Americans can have some version of their lives back?
Further, when faced with political leaders advocating a national mandate, should those opposed to such a thing fight for more local control?
Lastly, if the right to swing your fist freely through the air ends when it comes into contact with another person's face, does your right to go about your day without wearing a mask during a pandemic come to an end when you might infect those around you?