Masks up, for freedom!

Posted at 1:31 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 13:33:21-05

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re the type of guy or gal who loves football, classic rock and the way Old Glory paints the sky red, white and blue on a bright and sunny day. Maybe you think America is the best idea anyone in wigs, loose linen shirts and short-length pants ever had. Maybe you’re proud to be American. I know I am.

I’m proud to be an American because this is a free country. Not cocaine in vending machines free. But more or less free. We are lobsters in vending machines free.

Freedom is the greatest. Only you can make the best choices for you. Have you met most middle managers? My point exactly. Freedom is what happens when a government realizes that a true performance review comes from within.

Well, as you may imagine, we freedom-loving guys don’t like being told what to do, and there’s a lot of that nowadays. That’s the thing with freedom lovers. We usually know what to do because we’ve been free to screw it up enough times already. I know how to do my job because I have messed up in every forgivable fashion and then figured it out. No one has to tell me now. The only time we freedom guys tend to submit is when we’re acquiring skills and learning something cool and difficult and hopefully dangerous. Like bulldozing or the rules to Cards Against Humanity.

That’s why, reflexively, when politicians and health experts give us advice these days, I want to say to them, “Nope. You’re the ones who steered us deeper into this mess.” But then, as a freedom guy, I remember that we all need a little room to mess up until we get it right because that’s what freedom allows us to do – figure it out. So, me, I’m cutting the suits and coats some slack in the midst of a deadly pandemic that I still can’t believe is happening at a time when we as a planet are launching sports cars into space.

“But masks take away my freedom to not wear a mask,” you say. Study your history. You will see that freedom has always come with restrictions. The Constitution – a document that sets the foundation for our freedoms – has rules in it. For example, you can’t just get wrecked on tallboys, go to France and sign a treaty on the nation’s behalf, as fun as that may be. The U.S. Senate gets a say. But I really, really, really want to sign a treaty with France, you insist, or at the very least, Luxembourg. Well, too bad for you. There are sensible rules about ratified agreements among nation-states.

The mask is a restriction that allows us to remain free, which sounds like a paradox, but restrictions are all around us, keeping us free. For example, you can’t punch someone on the street and expect to stay free for very long. You can’t walk around naked and expect to remain free, particularly in our nation’s less-attractive states. You can’t climb out of the stands at a Browns game and run on the field and not expect linebacker Mack Wilson to pick you up and throw you into The Flats. You are only as free as the rules you follow.

The rules for this pandemic are new to all of us, and because the skills we need to navigate it involve something new and dangerous, I’m listening. Masks? Sure. Protects others and me. Besides, I don’t have a great face, so this is no great loss to the world. Social distancing? Not a problem – I spent the entirety of my teenage years playing video games. I got this. Wash my hands? I always did this because I’m not 3. I still can’t believe we have to tell people to wash their hands, but I also can’t believe cauliflower is now an entrée. The world is filled with mystery.

The thing is, if we as a people do not mask up and follow these new rules, I fear that the freedoms we hold so dear will go away. The government will react to all the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations and deaths because the government always has to “do something,” and it will close this and that, and it will tell us where we can and can’t be (and we're already seeing more of that), it will all seem arbitrary and unfair, and at the end of the day, our world will be a lot less free. It’ll also put people out of work and place even more burdens on parents, kids, business owners and countless others. Not good at all. We’ve got to look out for each other.

So, masks up, for freedom.

Joe Donatelli is the digital director at News 5 Cleveland. You may know him from such other articles as If masks work, why are cases rising? and Don't pass that school bus, you maniac! Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Email: