The American impulse toward individualism, free agency and bucking the rules is imprinted in our national DNA, and that independent spirit has made us innovators, achievers and champions of human rights. But it is also an impulse that can skew us toward being selfish and stupid now and then.

Take, for a current example, the resistance among some people to wearing masks to keep ourselves and the people around us safe and healthy. The usual numskulls on the right have decided that wearing a mask in public is such an affront to their personal liberty that they have rebelled against what they perceive as unchecked tyranny. It seems as if every other day since the coronavirus has been with us some self-proclaimed freedom fighter has ripped into a store clerk or shopping mall cop because they had the gall to request that the person don a mask. People have been punched, slapped and even shot.

If these perturbed patriots feel the jackboot of oppression on their necks when asked to wear a mask, they should also be freaking out about laws requiring them to buckle their seat belts or stop for red lights, or wear shoes and a shirt in restaurants. Probably there are a few who do resent all of that, but it seems it is only the COVID-19 masks that really bring out the loony libertarian in so many people.

We are now in the deadliest phase of the pandemic with a slow, inefficient rollout of the vaccine making it look like it will be summer at the earliest before we might be able to see an end to social distancing and other precautions. Pretty much every expert — by which I mean actual experts, not wingnuts on Fox News and Infowars — says the simplest and most effective thing we can do to avoid getting sick before getting vaccinated is to wear a mask. It is absurd that there are still so many folks who are provoked by that suggestion.

Someone should tell them they can’t kill a virus with their assault rifles.

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