Personal responsibility is key

CONTROVERSIAL FACEMASKS — Although facemarks are considered protection for others from COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic disease, many Americans consider wearing them a violation of personal rights. It's a question of personal responsibility.

A retired veteran from Prairieville pulled no punches when he said, “Like millions of other Americans of all races, I am a self-made victim of what I believe is the underlying problem in society today — a lack of personal responsibility.”

The honesty of Bo Bienvenu, in a letter to The Advocate, couldn’t have come at a better time. Bienvenu talked about the bad decisions he has made during his lifetime.

“Now, I am old and overweight,” he said. “I have hypertension and am borderline diabetic. If I get the coronavirus and die due to underlying conditions, it will not be because I am a Cajun, because I lived below the poverty line, because I live in ‘‘cancer alley’’ or because of any other excuse I might use.

“It will be because I continue to choose boudin, cracklings and beer over fruits, vegetables and milk, because I lay around more than exercise, and because I have not paid proper attention to my health and well-being.”

Those of us in our senior years are having a difficult time coming to grips with the failure of so many of our fellow citizens to exercise that personal responsibility Bienvenu is talking about. They refuse to wear facemasks that protect others from COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.

My son-in-law and daughter-inlaw have been buying my groceries for over three months in an effort to protect me from exposure, so I have made as few visits as possible outside my home. The three or four times I went to a store or the post office I put on a mask and tried to get in and out as quickly as possible.

The vast majority of people I encountered on those occasions weren’t wearing masks, and some of them looked at me as if to say, “What’s your problem.” Facemasks can stop water droplets that are a major source of transmitting the virus.

A retired safety auditor in Central, La., said he and his wife saw police officers not wearing masks inside buildings. He said they are setting a bad example for young people and “our lives and theirs” may depend on wearing facemasks.

One restaurant owner said only about 15 percent of the customers he sees on an average day wear masks. The bartender working in a food truck who has been battling cancer said, “A diner with a mask is a welcome — though rare sight.”

Wearing a mask, as Bienvenu said, is an act of personal responsibility. It is the best demonstration possible that the wearer cares about the welfare of others.

Cmdr. Earl Higgins, U.S. Navy (Ret.) from River Ridge, in another letter to the Advocate, said an enemy of the U.S. would do well to discourage social distancing and facemasks among citizens in order to spread disease quickly.

Higgins said. “Those who say that they have a ‘right’ not to wear a mask or practice social distancing put themselves in the same category with those who have a right not to stand for the national anthem or not to say the Pledge of Allegiance or to trash the flag.”

The Advocate in an editorial said the state guidelines that recommend mask-wearing didn’t originate with Gov. John Bel Edwards. They came from the nation’s leading epidemiologists, including those who work for the Trump administration.

“Depending on your view, masks are either a vital weapon in our fight against coronavirus or an overzealous government attack on our freedom — or just uncomfortable to wear,” the editorial said. “But whatever your view, wearing a mask protects you from infection, and it does even more to protect the people you come in contact with …”

The newspaper talked about the 2016 flooding in the Baton Rouge area when the government didn’t force boat owners to fan out and rescue their fellow citizens. They just did it. Then there were the restaurant owners and employees who stepped up to feed heroic health care workers. And when hospitals were short of masks, the government didn’t force people to find spare fabric and sew masks, but they did it.

“We did it out of love for Louisiana and respect for our fellow citizens,” the editorial said. “We know how to be good neighbors. That’s been a theme for Edwards and many other leaders in the past few weeks.”

Unfortunately, there are too many in our state and nation that are setting a bad example when it comes to wearing masks. President Trump is always careful about not being seen wearing a mask, even when others in his administration are wearing them. A number of the state’s Republican legislators are following the president’s bad example.

Bienvenu got it right in his letter when he said, “Eventually, I made some important changes, though not enough, and life improved.”

Our lives would improve — and could even be saved — if more people wore facemasks. I hope I’m wrong, but don’t get your hopes up that it’s going to happen.

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