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I can certainly appreciate that there are people reluctant to wear a mask in public. Masks are uncomfortable and, unless you're in certain parts of health care or the bank-robbing industry, foreign to our everyday activities.

And I understand the circumstances of the moment may have a lot of folks on edge and looking for someone or something to make either a scapegoat or a target for their sense of outrage or frustration. I mean, to a much lesser degree, this is why people pay hard-earned money for jerseys and tennis shoes just to burn them when one of their sports heroes jumps ship and moves to another team.

There is an analogy that, while it may work only for me, might be helpful.

I always wear a seatbelt. I don't really like to. The best I can say right now is I'm used to it, but I've been at it so long my anger is largely spent. Even someone who would be a gold medalist in Grudge Holding if it were an Olympic sport has to give it up sometime. Or, specific to the times, wait till next year.

The thing is, 99.99 percent of the time, wearing a seatbelt is a waste of effort. I drive a lot -- or at least I used to before, you know -- and virtually all of that time, nothing that would have brought the restraints into play happened.

I mean, if you don't have a wreck, seat belts are just nature's way of keeping you from getting to your wallet or cellphone in a hurry.

But, at least two times in my life, I've had accidents. And while I don't think seat belts came into play as far as saving my life in either case, well, you never know.

The fact I say "at least" should tell you I may have had other wrecks and just don't remember them because nothing a tow truck and an auto body shop couldn't handle took place and the only thing injured was my pride. And that seems to have healed.

See, most of the time, I don't need to wear a seat belt. But on at least a couple of occasions, I was really glad I did. And the moments I needed to wear one didn't exactly announce themselves. I guess that's why they're called "accidents."

Also, it never occurs to me that the state of Arkansas can't require that I wear a seat belt if I'm going to drive a car. Keeping people as safe as reasonably possible certainly seems like something a state ought to be doing. Keeping me from exiting through the windshield seems like it falls into that category.

Now, I understand there are things the state might require of me with regard to driving that I don't like. Speed limits, for instance, seem quite arbitrary to me. However, at certain times the folks responsible for enforcing them have disagreed. Guess who won those debates?

And I suppose I have options if I don't want to wear a seat belt. I can choose not to drive, which seems like a hard way to go if I'm trying to do grocery pickup.

I could just not fasten the seatbelt, run the risk of being on the business end of one of those "click it or ticket" deals and hope the annoying alarm that goes off when I don't fasten the belt runs out before I do. Not likely, unfortunately.

I would also have to hope I was never in an accident. And "hope," as they say, is not a strategy.

Or, I could just wear the belt. It's not that bad. It makes no great claim against my personal freedoms (though, after a large meal it might impede on my personal space).

The belt isn't an "R" or a "D." It doesn't care who I voted for in the last election. It doesn't have an opinion on these troubled times, isn't part of some vast conspiracy.

It's just there to force me to find some other dumb way to injure myself. And believe me, I'm up to that challenge.

And, like lots of other things -- say, face masks in a pandemic -- it really isn't always necessary. Just when you need it. And you never know when that is.

I don't like to wear the belt. I don't like to wear the mask. I don't like what could happen if I don't wear them a lot worse. Seems an easy, if slightly unpleasant, choice to make.

Commentary on 05/29/2020

Print Headline: Masking our pride

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