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Jeff Whitten: The new 40
editor's notes

I usually try to avoid spouting off what might be considered political opinion in these columns.

That’s partly because I don’t like people fussing at me for no reason other than to tell me they don’t think very highly of what I think. It’s also because I’m not all that smart. Or smart at all, really.

But mostly, I try to avoid bogging folks down with this political nonsense because there are plenty of other people out there more than happy to give you their two cents worth.

As a result I sometimes have to remind myself opinion is not fact, and instead is like a certain part of the human anatomy – in that everyone has one or else they’d stop up and explode and get you-know-what all over the walls at school board meetings.

Anyhow, I am going to make an exception this week in honor of my having turned 60 yesterday (or Wednesday, if you’re reading this later in the week), a milestone I think officially turns me into an old fart who either wears his pants pulled up to his armpits or goes out and buys a Harley Davidson. I have decided to weigh in on a local matter of interest whether anyone wants me to or not.

It’s one I’m told gets a good chunk of traction on social media, which I don’t look at: The recently ended mask mandate in Bryan County Schools.

First, I was torn on the mandate. I am convinced its intent was honorable, and it was put in place to protect all students and staff in the midst of a pandemic that, at last count, has killed at least 58 people in this county since the pandemic began and made more than a few people I know pretty sick.

And I italicized “all” because, well, when you have to worry about the entire village, decisions get bigger as well. Or should, though in our day and time who should be first and who’s No. 1 seems to be at the center of everything.

Was the mandate necessary? The CDC thought it was the right thing to do, and you might make a pretty good argument one reason people got to stand up at school board meetings and fuss about the mask mandate was because the mandate was there in the first place. But I don’t know that for a fact.

That said, this fairly recent “I will not let government co-parent my child” idea floating around is interesting in a lot of ways, not least of which it may well make school board meetings a lot less boring down the road. Which is a good thing.

But still, one wonders just how far that sentiment will go given government already co-parents all of us – adults too – a lot more than we give it credit for and is why we pay taxes. After all, government picks up our garbage after us, protects our streets and neighborhoods if we’re lucky and provides places for us to put our boats in the water, among a lot of other things.

It also seeks to look out for our water, our food, our air and our mental and physical well being through regulation and enforcement. That’s why it’s illegal to sell or use crack, for example. Or flush your toilet straight into the Ogeechee River.

So anyway, you wonder where it ends, this movement afoot among some mothers who mostly seem very mad.

Will the no-co-parenting crowd now up in arms over masks splinter, with protests targeting state education department immunization requirements for various diseases such as diphtheria?

Will folks someday kick up a fuss about requirements their kids be in car seats, or buckled in as they grow older? Will they demand their children not have to get a permit to learn to drive a car? And why should a child even be required to go to school if they don’t want to? Too much education is as bad as not enough, so not learning anything except what a parent wants their child to know might be the way to go.

Heck, why should a child be required to wear clothes at all? If a kid wants to go around in his birthday suit and it’s OK with his mom, what business is it of some bunch of government do-gooders with better retirement benefits than the rest of us to make those sort of parenting decisions?

I ask not because I know the answers, which any good lawyer will tell you is the first rule of asking a question, but because I have no clue what’s going on anymore.

Except that in the U.S. it seems 60 is the new 40, which we all know is the new 20, and 20 is the new middle school where all the grownups have left the building.

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