Joe Henderson: Freedom doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear a mask in public
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Florida Keys residents David Sloan, second from right, and Heather May Potter, right, approach a life-size sculpture of Marilyn Monroe adorned with a protective mask Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Key West, Fla. "Forever Marilyn," inspired by a famous photograph of the actress in a white dress with a blowing skirt, was crafted by the late American sculptor J. Seward Johnson and stands outside the island's Tropic Cinema. Johnson, best known for his life-size cast bronzes placed in public settings, was a part-time Key West resident. The Florida Keys are temporarily closed to visitors because of COVID-19. People in the Keys and in many other parts of the world are being advised to wear masks in public to reduce potential virus transmission. (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

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Of all the stupid battles to fight, people chose to make their stand against places that require them to wear a mask during a global pandemic. It's selfish and rude, not to mention dangerous.

When the founding fathers laid out the principles to guide this nation, freedom was the top of the list. Freedom of religion, the press, speech, bearing arms, and so on. I guess they ran out of ink before the part about not wearing protective masks in public during a global pandemic, though.

Over the just-completed Memorial Day weekend, we heard stories about those who died to preserve these most precious American principles.

And not once – NOT ONCE – did anyone link those stories to the modern-day freedom-lovers who consider it their divine duty to go in public without a mask, even if they might pass on a deadly virus to others.

Catch my drift?

You all saw footage of mass gatherings at beaches and other places. You heard people basically say they aren’t afraid of the big bad virus.

Well, they should be.

Medical experts around the globe say masks help stop the spread of COVID-19. They don’t protect the wearer as much as those around that person from breathing his contaminated air. There are universal recommendations that no one should venture out in public without one. A lot of places won’t let you in without one.

We’ve all seen those louts scream FREEDOM BABY when asked about that. Remember the guy in Miami who became irate and profane when a local Publix wouldn’t him in without a mask?

“You’re in violation of my constitutional and civil rights, there’s no pandemic,” he screamed. “I’m filing a lawsuit. I’m allowed to buy groceries!”

Consideration for others never seems to be part of the equation.

Of all the stupid hills on which to plant the flag of freedom, these people pick protective masks.

We’ve also seen them ignore recommendations about social distancing. During a national crisis, their right to party trumps someone else’s right to be protected against a virus that plays no favorites.

Why do they do this? Besides the fact that they’re rude and selfish, I mean.

Because at some point, they got into their heads that no one has the right to force them to do, well, anything. If a business owner requires patrons to wear a mask, that’s trampling on their freedom. That onerous requirement must be met with screams of protest and upraised middle fingers.

Of course, some of these patriots also love to quote the U.S. Constitution, which tells everyone what they can and can’t do.

But that’s different, right?

So what if about 100,000 Americans have died from the virus, a number that certainly will increase – maybe by a lot, now that the country is open for business again.

Haters say these masks are icky and ugly. They’re uncomfortable.

Tell them that they aren’t as icky and uncomfortable as COVID-19, but that won’t matter. It’s as uncomfortable as attending your best friend’s funeral because he died from the virus, but, heck, he doesn’t look sick right now.

The message from many Republican leaders (looking at you, President Donald Trump) is that if people die, they die. But we have to protect the economy.

That makes a great talking point, right up to the point where your spouse or best friend can’t breathe, and you wouldn’t wear a mask.

Places are opening. You can go to the beach, a restaurant, or a park. All those leaders ask is that you practice social distancing, and you wear a $%&@!!! mask!

Is that too much to ask?

The great Janis Joplin once sang that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. These days, she would have to add another line: Nothing left to lose, except maybe someone else’s life.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Ron

    May 27, 2020 at 5:23 am

    That’s right, Joe. Get it through your head. No one has the right to force me to do anything. They can ask me, they can persuade me, they can convince me, but they cannot force me. 99 times out of 100, I will do the right thing, but 100 times out of 100, I will do it out of my own free will. If we can’t trust each other to do that, then apparently we can’t be fellow citizens of a free nation.

  • missy

    May 27, 2020 at 8:29 am

    Hey Chicken Little…..Are you also going to advocate REQUIRING anyone having sex to wear a condom? Personal choice is a personal choice….I chose to expose myself to covid, common cold, common flu, pollution, farts, etc….that’s MY choice. You don’t want to expose then don’t! Keep your mask on or stay at home. That’s your option.

  • Henry

    May 27, 2020 at 9:09 am

    So you are ok with a business requiring someone to wear a mask even if they do not want to but that same business can be sued if they refuse to make a cake for a homosexual wedding. I will use your logic now. It does not say anywhere in the constitution that a business must make a cake for homosexuals does it? I just went back and checked. Nope the word cake and the word homosexual does not appear in the constitution either. Hypocrite.

  • Henry

    May 27, 2020 at 9:10 am

    My body my choice right? Or does that only apply to killing babies? Hypocrite.

Comments are closed.


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