Gary Adkisson: No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service

Gary Adkisson: No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service


I’m not a big fan of the latest fashion accessory, the mask. But as my wife says, "it's not about you,” and she is right.

As we’ve heard many times, wearing a mask doesn’t necessarily protect you, it helps protect the people around you.

The reaction of some folks around the country to masked men and women is quite disturbing; none more so than in Michigan, where the governor ordered people to wear masks in public places.

A security guard at a retail store instructed a female shopper that her child needed to wear a mask to enter the store. Witnesses said she yelled and spit on the security guard before leaving. Her husband and son returned roughly 20 minutes later and fatally shot the security guard in the head.

In Austin, Texas, a state park ranger was shoved off a pier when he asked visitors who were gathered in a large group to abide by mandated social distancing guidelines.

I began to ponder this over-the-top reaction and remembered a common sign that once was prominent in the window of most stores.

From the time I could read, I remember seeing signs that said “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service.” I don’t ever recall anyone balking at entering an establishment, and certainly not making a scene over it.

In fact, I remember leaving my grandfather's and uncles' soybean fields where we were either pulling or chopping weeds, or running spray rigs, to get some lunch at the nearby country store. You know the store, the ones where they make your sandwich at the meat counter.

We arrived, usually sweaty and covered with a pretty good layer of dirt, or mud, really, as the dirt and sweat mixed.

There were rarely any other shoppers there, but my grandfather or uncles would not let us go inside shirtless or shoeless. It didn’t matter that no one else was there, or that the shirts were no cleaner than our skin, or that we would take them off as soon as we left. We wore them because that’s what the proprietor required. It was a matter of respect.

I imagine for some store owners it may have been a 1960s sense of modesty, but I suspect that for most it was a matter of sanitation. As dirty as our shirts or shoes may have been, I’m certain they provided some level of protection for other customers and the goods on the shelf that we might come in contact with.

Donning a mask is even more important given the ability of the virus to travel 6 feet or more in the air. But setting the virus aside for the moment, why are people so bothered by this temporary situation if a store, like the one in Michigan, enforces the governor's order? We don’t see this kind of open hostility to other government mandates that may be far more limiting of our civil rights.

And if people feel the need to protest, fine, it is their right to do so; but as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said a few days ago, protest the governor who gave the order, not the media, the state health officer, and certainly not the security guard at the store who has absolutely no control or even input into the issue.

What has become clear is that the issue isn’t the mask any more than it is a shirt or shoes. And I’m not convinced it is a civil rights issue, any more than the shirt or the shoes. No. The issue is politics.

The sad conclusion is that upholding a political view that supports a candidate or a party, trumps love, trumps decency, trumps respect, trumps kindness. With far too many people, devotion to politics trumps all.

Gary Adkisson is publisher of The Bismarck Tribune.


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