Do our part as cheerfully as possible

By David Grima | Sep 11, 2020

Saw a bunch of pumpkins for sale last week, in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Thomaston. Later, I saw a whole field of the things, all bright and orange in the sunshine, but I can’t remember where.

* * * * *

Also last week, I talked with a friend who is currently working within the RSU 13 school system, which is based in Rockland. (Used to be called SAD 5, but I am slowly getting over the change.)

He told me about a staff orientation held a few days before, in which protocols were shared about reopening school. It does not seem to have been a happy event, and indeed many staff members were very worried about even being ready to work with their students under the current circumstances of Modern Plague, let alone trying to get any real education done.

A school administrator from a district elsewhere in the county also told me a similar story.

As you may already know, there have been various signs and banners placed here and there these past few months, claiming to honor the “front-line workers” during this plague. Well, all I can say is that banners and signs are cheap stuff compared to the costs and terrors involved in real people actually doing their work while trying to observe the tough public health guidelines that are meant to be in force.

I say “meant to be in force,” because as we also know, many people refuse to cooperate.

One or two of the public signs placed downtown by the city, requiring the use of face masks, have been vandalized, for example. Customers are persistently going in and out of stores and other places of public accommodation every day without wearing face masks.

Far too many people act as if wearing or not wearing a face mask is their own private decision. They seem oblivious to the fact that they are increasing the health risks for store workers, fellow customers and for the public in general.

Some act as if the whole thing is simply a question of their own political situation, arguing rather unwisely (in my opinion) that wearing a face mask in compliance with government guidance turns them from citizens into subjects.

There never was a greater demonstration of the general lack of understanding about life in a civilized community and in a free society, for this absurd and unpatriotic argument ignores the foundational fact that to enjoy rights paid for largely by others is only one half of a free citizen’s life; the other half consists of fulfilling duties and accepting responsibilities.

If it were a fact that a face mask is used merely for one’s own protection, then we could agree there is an argument to be made that it is indeed a matter of personal choice. If someone were to choose to run the demonstrated risk of being infected, getting sick and possibly dying, then that would at least be their own call. But this is not what our public health guardians tell us. Not at all.

This disease is spread from person to person, without either one necessarily being aware of it. Wearing a mask protects others, including those who are wearing one themselves.

Infectious diseases do not respect persons, nor do they respect personal choices. Instead they are a call to a far higher purpose than mere personal preference.

If, for example, we were facing a great military peril threatening the very existence our nation on a par with World War II or anything like it you might care to mention, then refusing to serve either in our armed services or in some vital civilian work in defense of our nation’s liberty would be nothing less than a betrayal of our country. A personal decision not to become involved does not come into it, beyond a few limited situations that are defined by law.

I think the same argument applies in our current situation.

Here is one small story about something I observed on Sunday, really little more than an anecdote, but it suffices for my purpose in writing this.

Of all the places on God’s green earth, I found myself that afternoon in an Army and Navy store in New Hampshire, said by many to be a state west of here. I was taking a short vacation for the Labor Day holiday in North Conway, a community more heavily dependent upon the tourist industry than even our own.

Everyone, save only very few, was wearing a face mask, even if they were just walking on the busy sidewalks. Even the giant plywood Sasquatch figure outside Patch’s Market in the Town of Glen was wearing a face mask, for heaven’s sake. The life-size fiberglass GI standing guard outside the Army and Navy Store was also wearing one.

Inside this store, too, masks were on until one young fellow walked in quite barefaced.

Immediately a store clerk went up to him, pointed out that masks are required for everyone, not just most, and added that the customer had walked straight past the sign on the front door that explained this. He gave the customer a choice: Either leave this store now, or go to the checkout and buy a mask and put it on.

So, all credit to him, he did.

In all these months since March 15 – our state’s 200th birthday if you forgot, and who would blame you? – the day when the truth about Coronavirus started to dawn heavily upon us, I have never seen a store clerk enforce this rule. Nowhere.

Store clerks shouldn’t have to.

I am convinced that if we are to be free of this horror that has infected 6.3 million people in the U.S. and has killed 189,000 of us, we all have to start performing our duties in the name of collective freedom, and accepting our responsibilities as citizens of a justly constituted state every day.

For if we do not, then we make a mockery of the people who really are fighting this battle for our welfare, in our stores and in our schools, to mention only two of many places where it is being fought.

Those of us who do not step up to the plate to do our part as cheerfully as possible are in the same position as a draft dodger who wants to enjoy liberty as a private benefit, but will not lift a finger to defend the liberty of anyone else.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 11, 2020 11:40

How difficult is it to put on a mask, go into a store and follow the arrows as well as listening to the message of why this is being asked. The answer is quite difficult as many just ignore the signs and announcements and do as they wish. I just look at the shape of their head and forgive them.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 11, 2020 11:13

Excellent article. Just came from the doctor's and he stated that there should be a mandatory $100.00 fine.   If somebody gave us the social finger we would be upset, yet they are doing the same thing by refusing to mask. :)

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