Mask Madness, Civil Disobedience and John Lewis

Several weeks ago, I received a few dozen emails warning me that “Mandated medical interventions have no place in a free society.”

Yet requiring masks is one of the only tools we have left to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19.

My grandmother, “Nana,” wrote in her memoir about being quarantined, once for the measles and once for diphtheria. “We were quarantined for three weeks. A card was tacked outside the door. No one could enter except my father who had to work.”

Nana’s experience reminded me how important it is for all of us to think more about the “we” than the “me” during a crisis.Thanks to modern medicine and vaccines, we no longer live as my grandmother did with the constant threat of childhood killers like measles, diphtheria, and polio. For this reason, I have long feared that our society has forgotten how much is at stake when we decide that our personal beliefs outweigh our moral obligation to live in community with one another.

Is a society that refuses to protect its citizens actually free? Or is that society held hostage by disease, superstition, and the lack of a moral conscience?

In Georgia, “conservative” ideological beliefs about the role of government are failing us – costing us lives and jobs. Our Governor has decided to add to these burdens a legal battle to force the City of Atlanta to remove its mandate for mask wearing in public places.

Hospitals are nearing capacity, and many are now unable to accept new patients while community spread soars. School systems and parents of school-aged children are faced with terrible choices whether they provide in-classroom learning or go virtual.

Yet, our Governor believes that everyone should be able to do what they want, no matter the cost to others around them. This is immoral, and it is anarchical thinking that inspires him to refuse to allow cities and counties to enforce their own ordinances to protect its citizenry. He has made us a tragic example of what not to do for societies in crisis.

It is time for civil disobedience from our local leaders.

One need look no further than our own late Congressman John Lewis to find the inspiration to take these steps. As a teenager, Lewis’ parents begged him to “lay low” and “stay out of trouble”, but an inner voice led him to defy his parents advice and dedicate his entire life to calling out and fighting iniquity, which sometimes meant getting into what he called “necessary trouble”.

It’s not time for our local leaders to “stay out of trouble.” It’s time to enforce the ordinances they have already passed. It’s time to defy our Governor.

P.S. If you can’t get through the Governor’s phone line (404) 656-1776, you can also submit a message digitally at the following link: Choose “COVID-19 – other concerns” from the list of selections. There is a 400 character limit, so you must be concise. Please remember you can also mail letters to: The Office of the Governor, 206 Washington Street, Suite 203, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. Make your messages passionate and personal.

John Lewis and Sally Harrell