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Today when I leave my office at work, I will get in my car and drive home. Before I even start my car, however, it is my habit to click my seat belt into place.

Actually, to be totally transparent, I feel naked without my seat belt on while driving. I can hardly drive without the feeling of the shoulder belt over my chest. I am a classic car enthusiast and own classic cars. They do not have shoulder belts. When I drive them with only a lap belt, it just doesn’t feel right.

I, like you, have trained myself to wear a seat belt at all times when driving. I have trained myself to do that to the point of being uncomfortable when I don’t do it — not for my own personal safety, unfortunately it is so I don’t get a ticket while driving. We have TV commercials that say, “Click It, or Ticket.” Public service announcements declare that, without a seat belt you, will surely die every time you drive.

Similar parallels could be drawn to the laws requiring helmets for ATVs or motorcycles, and now even bicycles require helmets in many states. These are not the marks of a free society. Freedom, by its very definition, allows people to do dangerous things that could actually harm themselves. I would argue that we should be free to drive our vehicles and at any moment be thrust into the next life by being thrown through our windshield.

The reason I even bring this up today is because the real discussion in our society today is about masks. Should you wear a mask or should you not? Unfortunately this has become a political issue. Those who advocate for mask wearing cite numerous examples and diagrams of what the health benefits are of wearing the mask. I am a health care provider and wear a mask all day every day. It is no big deal to me. I have trained myself to function in multiple masks, just like the seat belt, you could say. I see the health benefits of a mask, recommend we comply with the new request to wear masks, and I encourage all to do so as their free choice.

Those who advocate against the mask have their experts, as well, and they are in line with what our surgeon general and other health officials were saying just a short two to three months ago — that most people, at that time, did not need to wear a mask.

There is one caveat of those who are advocating “no masks” — our personal freedoms are being infringed upon and our government does not have the right to force us to wear masks. I would agree, if we were truly free. There are certain risks of living in a free society. The risk of living in a society where people are free to wear their seat belt if they choose was just too risky for all of us a few years back.

Whether you are in the wear-the-mask camp or on the other side does not matter at this point. The government does have the right to make us wear masks now. We gave it to them when we decided we were OK with them making us wear seat belts. Being thrust into the next life via your windshield at your own free will was just too much for us to bear as a society, so we gave up our freedoms.

Wear your mask. It is no longer your choice.

Dr. Mitri Ghareeb is a resident of Kanawha County and is an owner of Ghareeb Dental Group.