Robert Kirby: Why are Utahns shouting down masking up?

Robert Kirby

First, my qualifications (or the lack thereof). I am not a scientist, doctor, epidemiologist, professor, biologist, or anything else that requires a prolonged degree of formal training in a medical field.

What I am is an old newspaper columnist with more pins, staples and screws in me than a hardware store, and just wary enough to remain married to the same woman for 45 years. That is the sum of my bona fides.

Having said that — and despite the fact that I’m not a Republican — I fully support Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s decision to mandate the wearing of masks in schools.

Negative reactions to this announcement will, of course, range from simple eye-rolling to the twisting of butts into outraged knots. I base this on Wednesday’s Utah County Commission meeting that was essentially an anti-mask rant.

A Salt Lake Tribune reporter covered the gathering and quoted some protesters uttering deeply philosophical points of view against wearing masks — at least one of them from a surprising source.

“I don’t like government mandates,” said Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, which is funny, considering that he’s in the business of making them and seeing that they’re enforced.

Others in the meeting — held in a form of social distancing known as “pressed ham” — denounced the governor’s mandate as a strike against individual freedoms.

The conditions in the room were so bad that Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge — arguably the smartest person in the room — got up and left.

Here’s a medical question: How full of crap does a person have to be to believe that government mandates are prima-facie anti-freedom?

Hell, there’s a government mandate that allows you the right to shout what’s on your mind, and another government ruling intended to keep you from being punched in the face for doing it.

“[Mask wearing is] an act of submission,” protesters cried. “Jesus gives us a choice,” they added. “And mandates are against freedom.”

Jesus? What’s he got to do with masks? Oh, wait, I forgot — the Utah Area Presidency and other top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have instructed members to follow mask mandates and other government guidelines as a way (if nothing else) of showing the compassion for others that the Lord instructed.

Christ commanded his followers “to love one’s neighbor as oneself,” stated an interfaith letter signed by a Latter-day Saint general authority Seventy who is in that area presidency, and “one cannot claim to love one’s neighbor while deliberately putting them at risk.”

Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf put it bluntly: “Mask your face.”

So, if you’re a believing Latter-day Saint (and what are the odds in Utah County?) and mindful of the counsel of your spiritual leaders, you should be masking up.

I wear a mask wherever it’s required. Yes, they’re hot, uncomfortable, and they fog up my sunglasses, but people around me deserve to feel safe and comfortable in an increasingly unpredictable time.

And I’ve reached that stage in life when if I’m going to die, I don’t want it to be slow, painful and on a ventilator. I want it to be fast and loud while I’m doing something I enjoy and probably against an ATF mandate of some kind.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.