Rights – Paying your dues

The news has featured certain people who defiantly refuse to wear masks because they say it infringes upon their God given rights. Here’s a frank rebuttal by a veteran who has paid his dues. Years of distinguished military service give his words weight that “flag-pin patriots” can’t shout down.

OP/ED – Stop being an Ugly American and wear a damn mask

JD Lock, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired), 17 July 2020

To my fellow Americans, what part about a pandemic do some of you not understand?!

Let’s start with the Pandemic 101 basics, a definition – “Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people with a disease and, because there is little to no pre-existing immunity or no vaccine against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.”

Fortunately, despite this lack of immunity and the fact that this virus is nefarious and more deadly than most, we are not defenseless against COVID-19.  Viruses are fragile.  They can be contained without vaccines or pre-existing immunity if we use common sense and are willing to make a minor sacrifice for the common good of all.

What’s this sacrifice I’m talking about?  It’s simple – wear a mask.  Per our nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask.”  Masks mitigate infecting others by limiting airborne virus droplets and vapors from those who’ve been infected, especially those who are asymptomatic and showing no signs.

Aside from a vaccine, masks are the most powerful, inexpensive and easiest weapon we have to confront this virus.  To wear a mask is an act of selflessness, courtesy and respect for others.  Wearing a mask is the act of a responsible, caring and empathetic American concerned about protecting others, protecting their families and protecting their community.

Yet, there are those who publicly pontificate and bellow about their “Constitutional rights” being infringed upon.  Really?  Your rights?  My father in law, Andrew ‘Ange’ McGirr, God rest his soul, was one of the most intellectually gifted individuals I’ve ever known, and I consider myself to be relatively smart, though not a “most stable genius.”  Ange was a B-25 Mitchell bombardier-navigator in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II.  He flew 71 combat missions, 68 as the lead aircraft, attacking the Gilbert Islands, Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, Saipan and Guam.  He flew close air support during the invasion of Okinawa, bombed mainland China and Japan.  On 9 August 1945, his squadron watched as a mushroom cloud rose over Nagasaki.  He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals and a Presidential Unit Citation.  He lived in tents for years, he endured all sorts of deprivation and fear.  He lost four years of his early 20s fighting a war and, yet, never once in my talks with him, did he ever complain about the years stolen from his life or imply that his ‘rights’ had been trampled.

For those of you whining and sniveling about your rights being infringed upon for simply being told to wear a mask to protect others, you’re pathetic, selfish and as un-American as they come.  From what I’ve seen, I tend to believe that the vast majority of you who screech before the cameras earned your ‘Constitutional rights’ simply as a function of having been fortunate enough to have been born an American, not through any singular service or sacrifice to the nation.  To paraphrase the movie A Beautiful Mind, “Your rights are a luxury of those on the sidelines.”

Personally, I could care less whether you become infected.  Stupidity is also your right.  As Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol character Ebenezer Scrooge declared, “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”  However, your stupidity and rights stop at the maximum range of your breath’s vapor.  At that point, you’ve crossed a line and have become a clear and present danger to me and my loved ones.  Let me ‘Trump’ your professed right with another recognized Constitutional right – that of self-defense.  You’ve been forewarned.

Like my father in law, I’ve served, twenty-eight years active duty Army – West Point graduate and professor, Ranger, Master Jumpmaster, etc.  My lungs were damaged at the WTC ground zero and I’ve already had one bout with COVID-19.  My bride of nearly three decades made me a mask from one of our grandchildren’s crib sheets.  Personally, I find it rather chic and stylish, and I’ve even been complemented on it – thanks Babe.  It doesn’t make me feel unmanly, and I don’t feel my rights being infringed upon wearing it in pubic.  In reality?  I feel I’m serving the nation in a small way, once again.

The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Do not take advice from a reality show carnival barker who recommends drinking bleach as a vaccine while he cowardly hides behind layers of tax payer funded self-protection.  Follow the advice and recommendations of health care officials on the front lines, who have been doing this for their entire professional life.  Try to at least be a shadow of the Greatest Generation.  Stop being an Ugly American and wear a mask.  It doesn’t take big hands to put one on.

John Lock is the author of Rangers in Combat: A Legacy of Valor.