Responding to rising coronavirus cases and looking ahead to the big decisions about opening schools, Gov. Eric Holcomb last week made Indiana the 31st state to require its citizens to wear a mask in public.
Long before COVID-19 disrupted our lives, there were many who argued there are too many restrictive laws and regulations. It has always been a point worth pondering, but that doesn't explain why so many self-appointed sentinels of liberty draw the line at masks.
Lame-duck Attorney General Curtis Hill led the way, saying Holcomb's order making public masklessness a misdemeanor was invalid unless the governor called a special session of the legislature to approve it.
A smattering of sheriffs around the state announced they would ignore violations. Whitley County Sheriff Marcus E. Gaston posted a notice on his department's Facebook page declaring he and his deputies “would NOT be enforcing this executive order.”
Granted, listing all the laws your officers won't be enforcing on a given day would be interesting, but why pick this one for special highlighting? The answer, of course, is that masks have become a powerful symbol in the great American political divide.
Holcomb partly folded later in the week, removing the criminal aspect to his order.
So it comes down to us. Businesses, churches, stores. Mask wearing is not just a symbol but the most potent action we can take to slow the spread of the coronavirus. If we want our schools to open, if we want to see our economy blossom again, we've got to get the coronavirus under control.
The 18-year-old store clerk, the shopper, friends meeting friends – we are the ones who must make mask wearing, not defiance, the norm.