At my second Town of Lamar Council Meeting, my colleagues outvoted me 4-1 to renew Lamar’s mask ordinance for another sixty days. They also shot down my proposal that we reopen council meetings to the public, who can currently only attend online via Facebook Live and Zoom.
That’s precisely what I expected to happen, and I appreciate their reasons: concerns about safety, etc. The big, lingering question—one I can’t get out of my mind—is “when does it end?” At what point are we safe “enough” to remove our masks?
Something with which I struggle to wrap my mind around is the authoritarian impulse. I’m not pretending I’m immune to this impulse—this desire to tell others how to live their lives, backing it up with the threat of force for non-compliance—but the older I get, what little appeal the tendency held continues to diminish.
What I struggle to comprehend is the apparent need to boss people around. I understand needing to be authoritative with children and students—setting clear boundaries, understanding actions have consequences, molding the child to become a self-governing adult—but this desire to boss around perfect strangers is increasingly foreign to me.
This impulse manifests itself in virtually every facet of our lives. It creeps in bit by bit. Modest policy proposals and laws suddenly becomes weaponized Karenism, empowering authorities and otherwise normal people to swagger about with impunity, assured of the righteousness of their cause du jour.
I know, I know—everyone wants to read and talk about the storming of our metaphorical Bastille. I’m going to cover that in-depth in this weekend’s SubscribeStar Saturday post, not because I know it is the event of the decade—and will therefore crassly milk it for subscribers—but because my own observations are so tantalizingly spicy, I have to hide them behind a paywall. Believe it or not, $1 is apparently a major hurdle.
Instead, I’m going to focus on a bit local draconianism that I will hopefully soon be able to address head-on: my small town of Lamar has adopted a mask ordinance. Given our current Town Council, I’m surprised it took this long.
The ordinance, dated 14 December 2020 and effective 4 January 2021—but only received in water bills on 7 January 2021—is entitled “REQUIRING INDIVIDUALS TO WEAR FACE COVERINGS IN RETAIL AND FOODSERVICE ESTABLISHMENTS, AND MATTERS RELATED THERETO.” It features a number of “WHEREAS” justifications, mostly the “recommendations of public health experts.” It then lists the “Use of Face Coverings” in Section 1, detailing that face coverings must be worn indoors at stores and restaurants, etc., with plenty of opportunities to not wear a mask listed in Section 2, “Exemptions”—religious reasons, dental cleanings, etc.
The penalties for infractions—detailed in Sections 3 and 4—are $25 for individuals and $100 for businesses that fail to require employees to wear masks. Section 3 seems laughably unenforceable in a town that has maybe three police officers—and just a recipe for another unpleasant interaction between otherwise law-abiding citizens and police. Section 4 is particularly onerous, though, as it forces private companies to force their employees to wear masks, or face daily $100 fines.
Granted, most business establishments have already bent the knee and have bought into the mask hysteria. In my mind, though, that makes the mask mandate even more unnecessary: if Dollar General is making me wear a mask to buy a $1.26 loaf of bread-based loaf product anyway, why does the Town Council need to ladle an extra dollop of self-righteous scolding?
Last Friday as I pulled up to work, I do what I do every day: pick up my gaiter mask from the emergency brake and put it over my head. As I did so, I experienced every ounce of everyday oppression that modern man endures.
Wearing a mask is, indeed, a small thing to ask, but it’s become the proverbial straw—and my face the camel’s back.
So I decided, then and there, to make an extremely small stand for my own independence. In some limited scenarios, I am going to stop wearing my mask publicly.