Starting Friday, full facial nudity will no longer be allowed in Kansas, at least for the duration of the coronavirus problem. Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered that as of Friday all Kansans must wear face masks when in public, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
The measure is in response to a worrisome increase in the state’s coronavirus infections, especially here in mostly urban Sedgwick County and the suburban Kansas City counties to the northeast, but it’s also happening in the rural counties, which are sparsely populated and as always socially-distanced but have an average age over 65 and scant medical care, so any outbreak would be disastrous. Despite such compelling public health arguments, however, we expect that Kelly will face some harsh criticism.
Kansans tend to have an instinctive sense of civic duty, and come together in a crisis and fill sandbags in times of flooding and refrain from tossing cigarettes out of a car window during times of drought and tak\e up arms in time of war, but otherwise they tend to follow Walt Whitman’s advice to “resist much, obey little,” and don’t care for being told what to do. Which Kansas instinct prevails remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be a unanimous decision around here.
Here, as everywhere else in America, people tend to disregard the arguments and choose sides based on their previous political affiliations. Our liberal Democratic friends all agree that wearing a face mask is the least you can do for your fellow citizens, and far less onerous than what previous generations of civic-minded Kansans have one, but when our President Donald Trump-loving conservative Republican friends complain that wearing a mask in public very much sucks they also make an undeniably damned good point.
To fully confess to any revolutionary cadres out there, we’ve rarely worn a mask when buying beer and other essential groceries over the past many interminable months. We wore one to a small town Church of Christ funeral, where about a third of the mourners wore masks, but only on a couple of other occasions. In our beer and grocery shopping and other occasional appearances in public at an outdoor coffee shop and a beer joint with a small client tell and spacious patio seating, we’ve noticed that only about a third of our fellow citizens have been wearing face masks. We expect that percentage will go up when it becomes mandatory, but don’t anticipate full compliance. It might turn out to be the most widely broken law around here since Prohibition or the 55 mile per hour speed limit.
There’s also a chance it will redound to those liberals’ benefit. This coronavirus problem is undeniably serious, even so serious that the Trump-loving Republican governors of Florida and Texas are bringing back economic restrictions in response to recent worrisome spikes, and the Vice President and Republican Senate majority are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. Even in this traditionally Republican state our Democratic governor won handily against and a very-very-Trump-loving Republican just two years ago and won’t have to run again for another two years, by which time she might look both courageous and smart, and Trump might be long gone. Trump moved the Republican convention from Asheville, N.C, because to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Asheville’s coronavirus regulations, Jacksonville is adopting stricter coronavirus restrictions, and that’s embarrassing.
At this point there’s really no telling how Kelly’s executive order will be enforced, and what legal authority counties have the rights to countermand it, and what the cops can do about it, although she promises explanations about that by Thursday. If the inevitable court battles result in the counties getting their way, the Sedgwick County Commission, mostly comprised of the Wichita metropolitan area, which is currently seeing a worrisome rise in coronavirus cases, would probably vote to damn the face masks and full go speed ahead. The lone hold-out against and pro-business consensus for ignoring the coronavirus is a tattooed folk-singing single mom who represents our inordinately homosexual and lesbian and atypically liberal district of the county.
Once again we’re sitting on the political sidelines with no rooting interest in any of the players. We recognize the dangers of the coronavirus, but damn how we hate wearing those damn masks, and instinctively hate bossy government, and miss enjoying full facial nudity. We don’t regret that we voted for that Democratic governor or that hippy-dippy County Commissioner, and starting Friday we’ll comply with the face mask rule, and hating every moment of it and wondering whom to blame, and keep hoping that curve i flattened and eventually the center will hold and something like normalcy will eventually be restored.
— Bud Norman