Arkansas has some of the most onerous clothing-requirement laws in the country. You just try going naked around here.
Show your personal parts to someone other than your spouse or doctor--let's say at the grocery store or Walmart--and the authorities are apt to hit you with a $2,500 fine quicker than you can say bare behind.
The law refers to being naked for sexual-gratification reasons, but nudity for the non-sexual kick of it probably is not a distinction to try to hang your hat on--if you had a hat, or some place to hang it.
Get cited for being naked four times in Arkansas and it's a felony, and nudity in jail is not generally recommended.
Yet nary a yahoo sheriff in Arkansas has yet spoken up to say he will not bother anybody who runs around naked in his jurisdiction because of the Constitution and liberty and democracy and government overreach and all those things.
But you just let a conservative Republican governor, one forced to deal with the sad and frightful reality of a health emergency, impose a simple executive order that everyone must wear a small mask that covers mouth and nose if the person is within six feet of another. Suddenly, you get every grandstanding local excuse for Arkansas local law enforcement crowing about how the liberals have gone too dadblamed far this time.
It's in the Constitution, or at least the Ten Commandments, they'll tell you. In one of those, surely, it says "thought shalt not expose thy this and thy that, and you know which we're talking about, but thou shalt always expose thy mouth and thy nose no matter what anybody from the government sayeth."
The sane fact is that being officially told to wear a face covering to save others' lives is no more unconstitutional, and a darned sight more humane, than being told officially to wear drawers because somebody might shriek.
Actually, it's probably the case than nudists are harmless, and viruses aren't.
So, here we are, in the twilight zone of 2020.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, watching covid infections and hospitalizations rise alarmingly, signed an emergency executive order requiring the wearing of face coverings. Then, with utter and banal predictability, right-wing sheriffs and quorum courts started putting out their little statements and offering up their little resolutions about the freedom to infect others if one damned well feels like infecting others.
I, frankly, don't care as much about that as maybe I ought. These jokers mostly want attention for being showoffs--which is what right-wingedness is all about--and I've already given them too much.
The point is that we now have a sound public health policy in effect. Our dominant stores are enforcing it. The result will be more germs kept inside more masks rather than freed to run up the nostrils of others, and then others, and then others, with one or more of the others vulnerable to life-threatening complication.
If germs stay trapped inside more masks, then lives will be spared and there'll be a better chance that the economy can stay open and we can avoid financial calamity.
And if flagrant, super-spreader flouting of the mask mandate takes place in any of these primitive showboat jurisdictions, then the governor can run the State Police in to disperse the indecently exposed faces, maybe write some tickets and ideally yank a knot in the head of the sheriff.
It's like seat-belt laws. We have them. They lead to greater use of seats belts. Some lives are saved. But some jokers drive on down the highway unbuckled, and we don't try to give all of them a ticket.
You pick your fights.
A public health policy trying to save lives is not a civil war. It's just a public health policy trying to save lives.
So I choose to take comfort in the universality of mask-wearing in the grocery store in my neighborhood. I choose to be heartened by the mass human decency evident in that. I choose to appreciate a public policy that has taken mask-wearing in this store from 80 percent to 100. I choose to celebrate the 20 percentage-point increase in human-to-human regard.
And, in the spirit of human-to-human regard, I choose to hope for the good luck of good health in the silly jurisdictions as well.
May y'all live happily ever after in your self-contradicting right-wing resistance, always au naturel in or about the mouth and nose.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.