“No shirt, no shoes, no masks – no service”

The above sign, without the mask requirement, is commonly found posted at the entrance to many business establishments in the US and has been so for a long time. As far as I am aware, it has not caused any controversy and shirtless or shoeless people have not threatened the businesses with lawsuits. And yet, because mask wearing has been made into a culture war issue by Donald Trump, we now have the bizarre spectacle of people doing just that. Take this case:

Hugo’s Tacos, a beloved LA chain, announced Sunday that it was temporarily closing both its taco stands after its employees reported increasing harassment from customers who refused to wear masks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The harassment – ranging from racial slurs to food and objects being thrown at employees – “has taken a toll” on staff, CEO and part-owner Bill Kohne told BuzzFeed News. Kohne said he wants to give his employees a break as the company works toward solutions to better protect them.

Republican congresspeople have followed Trump’s lead and are also behaving childishly.

Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis are threatening to bar Republican members from participating future meetings in-person after they showed up to a hearing on Friday without masks.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, also chimed in to note that dozens of members of Congress have quarantined because they’ve either tested positive or come into contact with others who have, even pointing to the death of Rep. Maxine Waters’ sister who died from the coronavirus.

“Why is it some kind of macho thing, like, ‘if I don’t wear a mask, I’m tough”? If you want to be tough, go spend the day with the nurses and doctors in the hospitals,” Raskin told members during the committee hearing Friday morning.

That this has become a partisan issue can be seen by this poll that shows that Republicans are the least likely to say that they wear masks when they leave the house.

Retiring Republican senator from Tennessee Lamar Alexander has implored Trump to wear a mask so that his supporters will follow suit but that will not happen. Trump has vested too much into his macho image to now begin to wear one even as the number of coronavirus cases have started surging. This Republican refusal to follow the minimal precautions comes even when a report from Goldman Sachs (Goldman Sachs!) said that a national face mask mandate would provide an economic a benefit of about $1 trillion when compared to a possible lockdown.

We now have people arguing that the mask requirement is an unconstitutional violation of their personal freedoms and that we are seeing the further growth of the ‘nanny state’.

This seems a blatant violation of an individual’s right to choose – of an individual’s right to self-govern. America, after all, isn’t a nation founded on collectivism, but rather individualism – on the right of individuals to exercise their God-given authorities, absent government tinkering and intrusion. What gives government the authority to order citizens to cover their faces?

What gives businesses the authority to serve as government’s enforcer on this same face masking matter?

It appears that the government has the right to mandate things like wearing face masks, especially during a public health emergency. This is because you not wearing a mask threatens the health of others, the same rationale used for smoking bans.

But can private businesses enact such bans so on their own? It would appear that they can as in the case of shoes and shirts, but some businesses are asking at least their local governments to mandate the requirement to wear masks so that they can tell protestors that they are simply following the law and that if they don’t like it, to take up the issue with the government. This is because some mask opponents are telling businesses that they have a disability that prevents them from earing a mask and businesses do not have the ability to adjudicate such matters.

Some mask opponents even argue that wearing a mask reduces your oxygen intake and increases your carbon dioxide retention. This nurse shows that that is not the case, even if you wear three masks.

What is the matter with these people that they are willing to elevate a perfectly trivial and minor inconvenience that protects public health into a major constitutional issue? And it is a battle that they will surely lose since the courts have ruled repeatedly that the need to protect public health allows governments to take reasonable measures. And what can be more reasonable than wearing a mask?

Oddly enough, it used to be that laws prohibiting the wearing of masks were challenged on the grounds that people had the right to be anonymous in public.

(Ruben Bolling)


  1. anat says

    … And then there are the business owners who require patrons to remove their masks. Though in this case they walked it back and apologized.

  2. jrkrideau says

    minor inconvenience that protects public health into a major constitutional issue

    And the USA is the country that requires every 18 year-old male to register for conscription and requires citizens who have not been in the USA in 20 years and have no income from there to pay income tax?

  3. blf says

    Here in France, I’ve been making it a point careful to only go to restaurants / bars that I’m confident will be following the rules (staff must wear masks, tables at least one metre apart, and so on, all very sensible). The most common problem I’ve seen is customers not putting on their masks to go to the toilet (or anything else inside the restaurant except eating / drinking). That used to be the minority, but it now looks like — at least in the S.France Mediterranean seaside village where I live — it’s tipped over to a (small?) majority of customers… just as as tourist / summer season is starting, bringing visitors from elsewhere. (Shudders…)

    The local village council has helped by closing the main esplanade in the evenings, allowing resturants / bars to expand their otherwise-limited outdoor seating into the street. There have been some live bands (in fact, it sounds like there might be one tonight?), but I’ve no idea how well that’s been working… to-date, I’ve avoided venturing out on those evenings. When I have ventured out in the evening, I haven’t seen much mask-wearing. During the daytime it seems to better, albeit at yesterday morning’s outdoors market, the situation was appalling: Very few masks, essentially no social distancing, and no obvious hand-sanitising stations (except at the cafes & bars).

  4. says

    I believe the government has powers granted to it, citizens have rights.
    The whiners I encounter on facebook try to make it an issue of a violation of their rights and I ask for the specific basis that the government is using to make the mask requirement. If they can’t answer I lable them failed fellow citizens who can’t make a constitutional argument against a reasonable pandemic response.

  5. Jean says

    So if I decide to go 100 mph in a city street, I’m just exercising my freedom and not being a reckless driver? If you can understand the logic of having speed limits to protect others, you should understand the logic of wearing a mask in a pandemic. But I know this is too much for the idiots and it’s not about logic. It’s the reverse of virtue signaling.

  6. seachange says

    I can comment on shirts. The rest of your post I leave to others.

    The no-shirt requirement is not logical for “health reasons”, seriously who is wiping their armpits on things? Fully clothed nasty folk, sometimes homeless-sometimes not, are allowed and can sue if a store doesn’t allow.

    It is possible to understand shirts in the context of suppressing workers. That is to say, factories required you to have a uniform, and if say, their thug pinkerton scabs attacked you while you were striking and damaged your shirt, you could be fined or sent home without pay. They would also know you were one of the strikers next day and would discriminate against you in other ways. So strikers started not wearing shirts in public, because it never used to be a thing for men whether or not they wore a shirt was a class thing not a decency or health thing. They were paid so poorly they really didn’t want to ruin any of their shirts, so demonstrators went shirtless.

    Well the US government, why would it protect the people? So laws proclaiming you couldn’t wear a shirt in public were passed for “reasons”, but mainly to make strikes harder. This is the reason many jobs for workers that are or werre unionized have a uniform allowance. The health reasons in food shops are a relict of this.

    During the sixties and seventies not wearing a shirt was the same thing as wearing dungarees/bluejeans. They were solidarity with the workers and against The Man. If you wore anything above the waist it was love beads around your neck and flowers in your hair. Since you were also judged on your shoes and sandals would get you excoriated and ejected, bell bottom trousers and a scuffling walk were also adopted.

    California was one of the last states to have its you can’t be shirtless in public laws nullified on free speech grounds. This is when no shirt no shoes signs started appearing. Before then, you could go into many but not all shops shirtless without being thrown out, more so in beach towns. A store insisting you do wear clothes was selling that they were hoity-toity and would kick you out for wearing a t-shirt or sneakers. Hardly anyone did care previously if you were barefoot or wore flipflops or sandals (shocking in those days!), even though barefoot does transmit disease.

  7. says

    The kicker — my bare feet present no threat of harm, but they’re still frowned on. Living in a college town that’s also something of a hippie holdout, bare feet are usually tolerated around here unless they’re, like, super dirty and gross (but it doesn’t take much to clean ’em, so…)

  8. machintelligence says

    “Warts are a type of skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The infection causes rough, skin-colored bumps to form on the skin. The virus is contagious. You can get warts from touching someone who has them. Warts most commonly appear on the hands, but they can also affect the feet, face, genitals and knees.”
    After years of dance lessons, my daughter had to have warts removed from her feet. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I wonder if the new HPV vaccine will prevent them. (Possibly for future generations).

  9. publicola says

    People refuse to wear masks because they’re selfish and stupid. They think they have the right to do whatever they want, regardless of the harm it causes. By that logic, I have the right to shit in their stew and piss in their drinking water-- just exercising my right of free expression.

  10. says

    I’m a diabetic, and therefore protected by the ADA. I’m almost tempted to ask stores I shop at to require people to wear masks to protect me. I think we’ve now gone to mandatory mask wearing fortunately.

  11. says

    One interesting thing to show how seriously hospitals are taking things: I was recently in the hospital for intestinal bleeding and had a room all to myself.

  12. BotFux says

    There was a sign in a tavern when I was growing up: No shirt, No shoes, No beer, No booze 😂😂😂

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