Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is often attributed as saying, “My right to swing my fist through the air ends where your nose begins.” What that means is that I have no rights that interfere with or infringe your rights. When we live in a structured society, as most of the world does, we are necessarily, by law, statute or ordinance, required to relinquish or hold in abeyance some of our rights.
For example, you have the right to drive on any public street, obeying the traffic laws governed thereby. However, when you come to an intersection that has a traffic signal and that signal is red, you are required to relinquish your right to continue traveling until the light turns green. Countless other examples of this temporary loss of some right or freedom can be cited. If this were not the case, anarchy would ensue.
When we are asked to “mask up,” it is not for our protection but for the protection of those around us. To paraphrase Justice Holmes, “Your right to go without a mask ends where the infection possibility of those around you begins.”
It has been shown that wearing masks can also lessen the possibility and severity of other illnesses. We have a daughter who teaches in a charter school. Wearing masks is a required part of the school’s dress code. She gets a cold virtually every summer. She said that the cold she had last summer was the mildest cold she had ever had. ”Masking up” is an indication to all that we have a common concern for our fellow citizens and are doing our part to eliminate the pestilence that plagues the world.