From the editor: Peacefully non-comply with Ballinger's mask stance

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Last Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that Arkansans will be required to wear masks in public places starting Monday, July 20. It didn’t take long for state Sen. Bob Ballinger to issue his own statement on the mask mandate, posting a video on Facebook in the midst of a vacation to Florida.

In the video, Ballinger says that he had planned to attend a conference in Florida but it was canceled. He doesn’t explain why it was canceled, but anybody who has been paying attention knows that Florida is a hotbed for COVID-19. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his lax management of the virus, allowing beaches and other public places to reopen way too early. Some would argue that he never really closed anything down at all. DeSantis is doing such a poor job that Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine said Ohio “could become Florida” without more restrictive measures.

So why did Ballinger travel to Florida anyway, knowing his conference was canceled because it’s not safe to visit the state? According to him, he couldn’t get his tickets refunded so he decided to take “a little bit of a vacation.” Ever the dedicated public servant, Ballinger took a six-minute break from his virus-laden vacation to reprimand the governor’s mask mandate.

Ballinger, who clearly aced science class in high school, describes how “the air you’re breathing out is being trapped in that mask, or at least some part of it is.” Wearing the mask for a prolonged period of time deems it ineffective, according to Ballinger. “It makes sense, right?” he asks, but he’s not really asking. He has clearly made up his mind on the issue, despite how much he waters down his stance by talking around it.

Ballinger insists that he’d wear the mask around someone to keep them safe. He’s not opposed to mask wearing, Ballinger says, but he sure doesn’t support masks being mandated by the state. He’s not trying to minimize the virus, Ballinger says, but he sure doesn’t want the governor to issue a mandate that could curb transmission. This is about essential liberties, he says.

“We should be smart about how we handle things,” Ballinger says. OK, that sounds reasonable. We can all get behind that.

He continues, “We will never regain essential liberties if we surrender essential liberties.” Hold up  – what essential liberties are being surrendered here? The right to infect others with a deadly disease? The right to force another shutdown as COVID-19 cases continue to surge? The right to kill my nana because you believe masks are ineffective?

I have a few questions for you, Sen. Ballinger. Is it a breach of essential liberties to require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts at all times? Should we start suing every business that requires us to wear a shirt and shoes to enter the premises? Do you really believe it is an essential liberty to get other people sick, or do you just want to make mouth sounds to appeal to the most ignorant of your constituents?

Ballinger encourages all of his representatives to contact Hutchinson’s office and express frustration with the mask mandate. When they’re done doing that, Ballinger asks them to resist the mandate. In his words: “We’re at a point now where peaceful non-compliance would be appropriate.”

To be clear, there is no such thing as “peaceful non-compliance” during a public health emergency. If you refuse to wear a mask to keep others safe, you are anything but peaceful.

Then there’s the mind-boggling concept of non-compliance, as if we can all decide to ignore the law when we don’t agree with it. Hey Sen. Ballinger, try driving 100 mph and citing “peaceful non-compliance” when an officer gives you a ticket. I’d love to know how that works out for you.

There is nothing peaceful about betraying public health. Violence can be passive. And encouraging others to practice “peaceful non-compliance” is just a coded way to encourage passive violence.

When you get back from your little vacation, Sen. Ballinger, I hope you quarantine yourself for 14 days. Take that time to think long and hard about what you said in your video. Make no mistake  – if anybody gives your video an ounce of credibility, you have incited violence against the citizens you vowed to protect.

Think about that, and wear a mask while you’re at it!

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.

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