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Mask clash: It’s ‘blessings of liberty’ vs. ‘general welfare’

A crowd converged on the Massachusetts State House on Monday afternoon to protest the shutdown orders in the Commonwealth.
A crowd converged on the Massachusetts State House on Monday afternoon to protest the shutdown orders in the Commonwealth.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Front-line health care workers are the model we should extol, not gun toters

Contrast the courage of health care workers — doctors, nurses, and all others who transport or minister to patients suffering from the coronavirus — with the behavior of demonstrators in Michigan who entered their statehouse bearing large, intimidating-looking firearms (“Militia at Mich. protest raises tensions,” Page A4, May 3). The health workers, in masks, gloves, and gowns, put their bodies, their lives, on the line to help fellow humans. The demonstrators in Michigan are standing up for their rights but apparently are afraid to do so without weapons.

I will take the bravery of a nurse in scrubs over that of these flagrantly fierce “freedom fighters” any day of the week.


Laura Deford


These Michigan demonstrators fail the ‘patriot’ test

Media coverage of these so-called patriots almost certainly suggests an importance and impact far beyond their actual numbers. The narcissist in the West Wing views them as “liberators” and urges the governor of Michigan to make a deal with those who recently entered the statehouse with assault weapons. And the right-wing media are laboring overtime to suggest that these so-called protesters are the real patriots in America’s pandemic-fueled culture war. Nothing could be further from the truth.

History tells us that patriots are almost always motivated by lofty and high-minded visions, have the ability to tolerate hardship and deprivation for months or years in pursuit of their cause, and act in self-sacrificial ways that demonstrate both empathy and a generosity of spirit. In the face of this proud tradition, our modern-day “patriots” seek instead the right to drink in a bar, get a haircut, or cluster with others on the beach. They have grown weary after a few weeks of staying at home and social distancing. And they are more than willing to sacrifice the weak, elderly, and marginalized to fulfill their own self-gratification.


Michael Knosp


Our public education clearly has failed us here

It has taken me many years, and six weeks of isolation, to realize how our public education system has failed us. What brought me to this conclusion is the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have failed too many in science and political science.

The science is easy. It is both surprising and scary how many people do not understand that COVID-19 is passed from person to person just by breathing in someone else’s wet breath (an involuntary and almost invisible act). Yet how simple it is to thwart the spread of coronavirus by physically distancing, wearing a mask to subdue the path of one’s breath and block other people’s breath from reaching you, washing hands, and keeping surfaces that you touch continually clean.

The failure of political science is more complicated. The preamble to the Constitution has a mission statement to “promote the general welfare” and “secure the blessing of liberty” for our citizens. In the case of the pandemic, these two missions appear to be at odds.

But that liberty does not allow one person to injure another, or as the old saying goes, the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.

In this pandemic, the blessing of liberty does not trump the promotion of the general welfare. Seeking liberty, some people feel, incorrectly, that it’s OK to jeopardize other people’s health. What’s more, even if that minority accept the risks of getting COVID-19 themselves, there are real economic and social costs of treating them with finite public medical resources that only make the spread of the coronavirus worse and prolong the nation’s recovery.


Yes, I am now sadly observing our public educational failures.

Peter Perlmutter


Baker’s mask order is laudable, but it still leaves us playing game of chance

Re “Baker orders masks in public” (Page A1, May 2): I am a physician living on Cape Cod, and I’m grateful I live in a state that will be ruled by science. I agree with Governor Baker’s order, which takes effect Wednesday, to wear masks in public but wish he had made it mandatory for everyone outside the confines of their own backyards. The mandate now states face coverings are mandatory if you cannot maintain a distance of 6 feet from others. The problem is that you can’t really be sure that you can distance yourself from others.

On my early-morning walk today, not many people were out. Even so, I had to dodge six people without masks. I think I did it successfully, but why should this be a game of chance? You don’t know when you will run into someone unexpectedly, and without testing you can’t know whether you or they might be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.

Wearing a mask says: I will do all I can to protect my community from harm. It’s similar to the way many of us wear an “I voted” sticker to say we care about our democracy. Only in this case, it says I don’t want you to get sick or die because of me.


Dr. Susan Shelton