Opinion: Look at the facts and protect yourself and neighbors


As the dawn of a new school year breaks, parents and children alike are concerned about the new mask mandates that will arise in a new era of COVID-19. Gov. Henry McMaster let it be known during a press briefing that he will not be pushed from his stance that masks cannot be required in South Carolina schools, even as the number of positive cases continues to escalate and local municipalities and school districts try to oppose the mandate and require masks.

While those who believe that school should require public policy that students should wear masks are pointing the finger at Gov. McMaster, it should not be forgotten where the actual blame should be placed - upon the members of the South Carolina Legislature who created and passed state legislation (Proviso 1.108 of the 2021-22 General Appropriations Bill) that placed this restriction upon the public schools. I suppose that is the nature of politics - legislation created to fund schools that for some reason also takes a stance on a public health measure that would be more competently understood by those trained in medical science and employed in the various state agencies that exist to protect and promote public health. But as DHEC officials have expressed clear and unequivocal opinions that our schools and those who attend will be better protected if masks were required, our state Legislature felt it proper to wrestle public health policy away from these experts and place it in their own hands. In return, those who favor the legislation have increased their political well-being among the political base that has put them in office and will keep them in office.

With a bid for reelection on the horizon, McMaster understands that the door to public office in South Carolina is opened, and closed, by Donald Trump. Keep Trump happy, and you are good. Just ask Sen. Lindsey Graham, who after famously proclaiming "count me out, enough is enough" to distance himself from Trump after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, quickly reset his political barometer when he soon realized that the storming of the Capitol did little in the public perception of Trump among Republican voters in South Carolina. From the words of "count me out," we find Sen. Graham a fond friend of former president Trump, attempting blatantly to secure his spot in the next senatorial election. Based on the fight Jaime Harrison put up this past senatorial election, it is obvious that Sen. Graham feels the need to secure his Republican votes rather than dwell in the debauchery of the storming of the U.S. capitol. You can "count him in" from now on, as Trump is a solid force, awakening in the midst of a severe political divide and proceeding to create a sense of security for many Republican voters: They don't have a politician, they have a "hard-working businessman" they can trust. And from that, we get a false sense of reality in the midst of a global pandemic. And, we get the awakening of a new kind of ignorance, one which grasps at the corners of everyone's mind, creating a sense of unease as the false reality of the political divide continues in the midst of the pandemic.

Everyone knows where Trump stands on the mask issue. That explains Gov. McMaster's stance, nothing else. That explains why in a bill to disperse public money to the public schools, state legislators included a provision on masks, a provision that will get the full stamp approval of Trump and help keep them in good company with the most influential individual in South Carolina politics within the state Republican Party. The little logic McMaster had was laughable and quite alarming in some ways. He boasted that South Carolina's numbers are not as bad as they were earlier in the year (77 percent now compared to 81 percent before). It was so astonishing to me that one person could be so nonsensical to the masses and how most people there ate those words up. Yes, we have decreased, yet we are steadily rising to an equilibrium, or a pass, of the previous highs earlier this year.

Fear is rising again in the hearts of many Americans. There are those out there with serious health conditions who may be at risk going grocery shopping because some fool decided not to wear a mask and spread their germs everywhere in the store. Wearing a mask is a two-way ordeal … to ensure full protection, both parties must wear a mask.

Gov. McMaster also attempted to deflect the real reason behind his anti-mask stance by stating that "We have seen what happens when our children are subjected to wearing masks in the classroom, they can't perform or learn." To be fair, maybe Gov. McMaster may honestly believe that to be true, and it may not be a reflection of his need to placate Trump, but a legitimate concern for children. Yet, McMaster fails to take into account that children under the age of 12 are not vaccinated yet. And as the vaccine is effective in reducing the risk and strain of COVID-19, we are subjecting children to going to school and risking getting severely sick or even dying without the vaccine and without any mask. To keep it simple: These are sons, daughters, sisters and brothers you are putting at risk because you don't want to enforce masks in school.

In 2020-21, I was a senior at Wilson Hall. I witnessed firsthand what it was like to be quarantined and what it was like to see friends get COVID-19, how it affected their lives and the people around them. Yet, the people who did wear their masks diligently suffered nothing besides having to call on zoom if quarantined … no coronavirus, no spreading it to other family members. And most importantly, we all still learned in a mask-mandated environment. I worked the hardest I've ever worked this year, and I can say the same for a lot of my fellow classmates. We got through this year, and we performed. We showed up and showed out. We got things done, wearing masks.

What really drives me crazy, though, is the comment I often hear from the public in general that mask mandates violate the Constitution. The Constitution was not created to create a government that included an endless set of civil liberties and freedoms. It was created because our original plan of government was so dangerously lacking in being able to assert order within the republic that all our civil liberties were at the mercy of mob rule and anarchy. If Shay's Rebellion is any consolation to the fact, we found out the hard way that placing too much faith into state governments to take matters into their own hands is much too hard of a task: We need a strong federal government to oversee the protection of everyone's civil liberties. McMaster is falling short, and we need a nationwide call to place more responsibility into the federal government to make sure that the states are doing their part in protecting everyone's natural liberties. In Shay's Rebellion, we saw the Articles of Confederation fail to protect the state of Massachusetts as countrymen sought to overthrow the government. Although it failed, it was a beckoning to the nation that we must have a strong federal government to enforce the laws and provide protection to every man's natural liberties. Our country has shifted to provide liberties to a larger range of people, as we grow more accepting and more educated. Yet, the absolute ignorance shown by Gov. McMaster to the hierarchy of this nation and the duty that he, as a governor to a multitude of people, was given by the people, showcases the neglect of the natural liberties of citizens and the gradual replacement of politicians striving for the good of this country to power-hungry politicians who strive to climb the ladder right into the White House. To protect our basic liberties and freedoms, those enumerated in The Bill Of Rights, the Constitution we enjoy today clearly and carefully equipped the government to impose such restrictions on public behavior as deemed necessary, "to promote the general welfare." That is why we have speed limits, laws that prohibit drunken driving, voter registration, a military draft when needed, and taxes. And might I add, in the world of social media, we have drifted away from sensical, independent reasoning and are headed straight toward passionate, persuasive reasoning brought on by radicals and expanded by internet fanatics and shared endlessly until you feel as if you're suffocating in these Facebook posts made by family members you didn't even know you had. The Constitution guarantees "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" … but alas, we cannot have liberty and happiness if we keep pushing back the growing delta variant of COVID-19 and acting as if everything is going back to normal, because COVID-19 numbers have reached (and went beyond) 2,000 cases a day. And let us refrain from talking about life when so many lives are lost because somebody claimed their Constitutional rights were being "infringed on" … but of course that person's life matters more than their neighbor's. People will take a bullet for their country yet will not take a shot or wear a mask for their own neighbor. Mask mandates, or the prohibition of mask mandates, are both fair game under the Constitution. But the argument that mask mandates violate the Constitution is not one that relevant history and legal precedence supports.

Political gain and the mass disruption of the political divide has turned this pandemic into a political playground. We find ourselves wondering if perhaps we will see an end to this pandemic when we see an end to the two-party system. I bid to all of you as not only a student, but a citizen of the United States of America: If we do not wear masks and continue this false reality, our reality will be an utmost pain of giving into "the passions of the people." James Madison told of these passions without ever knowing what reality these passions would bring. I encourage you to think of not only yourselves, but the countless lives you're endangering by falling prey to the passions of now the state, and inevitably the passions of Gov. McMaster and Trump and every other political figure that works to gain for themselves, not working for the gain of the state of our nation. Again, we formerly elected a businessman, not a politician who devoted their life to working toward the people, not the finances or popularity. In this new age, with the pandemic being the tester, we see a rise of pure ignorance for the common good of our nation. Now, we see businessmen rise. Now, we see the side of America awakened by personal gain. And they're taking the Republican politicians down with them.

Mask mandates have not become about the fact that we're in a pandemic and it's necessary for keeping people healthy and safe while navigating through everyday life. It's become about greed and the ongoing political divide. I persuade the reader: Look deeper than the facade of politicians prancing around the facts … look at the actual facts. South Carolina has over 2,000 cases a day of COVID-19, the death rate is booming again with the delta variant, and less than half of all South Carolinians are fully vaccinated.

Gov. McMaster has stated that we should "talk to our doctors" about getting the vaccine. Maybe he should talk to doctors about coming to his press conferences instead of having no DHEC or public health workers present … but why would they come anyway for fake news?