A group of people protesting state mask mandates and shut downs has gathered every Sunday for about two months on the corner of High and Main streets in downtown Belfast -- what is known locally as "Resistance Corner." Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

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Don Hoenig of Belfast is the retired state veterinarian for Maine.

During the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by Trump-inspired insurrectionists, members of Congress came within minutes of being physically attacked and possibly harmed. Fortunately, in the nick of time, they were taken to secure locations in the building where they waited out the domestic terrorists and ultimately carried out their Constitutionally required duty by confirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Several days later, it was reported that several Republican members of Congress had refused to wear masks while in hiding, even after being pointedly being asked to do so. Several news outlets subsequently reported that at least four members of Congress (who were exposed to the recalcitrant Republican House members) had since tested positive for COVID-19. This included lung cancer survivor, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-New Jersey. When asked about these maskless House members on Jan. 15, then-President-elect Joe Biden caustically remarked, “It’s time for them to grow up.” I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

That is, until I saw something yesterday that really got my attention. I was on my way home, driving east on Route 3 through South China, when I came upon a stopped school bus, red lights flashing. As I waited behind the bus as the eight to 10 kids filed off, I noticed that they were all wearing masks and seemed to be rubbing their hands as if they’d just applied hand sanitizer. The last child off the bus brought tears to my eyes (guess I’m getting soft in my advanced age). She couldn’t have been more than six or seven and she, too, was wearing a mask. She happily ran to hug her waiting mother and they got in the car. I continued on my way to Belfast but that poignant, everyday interaction stuck with me.

Mask wearing has also been on my mind lately because my hometown has been invaded over the past couple months by people protesting the governor’s executive order on mask wearing. The district attorney and Belfast Police have so far shown restraint in confronting these folks, but last Sunday their numbers had increased, and one protester carried an obscene sign.

I don’t need to go through the many compelling reasons why mask wearing is important, but it infuriates me that these people, many of whom don’t even live in Belfast, would put our lives at risk and disrupt our downtown with their misguided nonsense.

To go back to Biden’s comment, here’s my message to these and others who irresponsibly refuse to wear masks to protect their fellow citizens, family members and neighbors from a deadly virus (which killed two of my close friends last April): You obviously do not need to grow up. You are already an adult. You need to grow down and copy the amazing example of Maine’s school kids (some of whom may be your kids or grandkids) who think nothing of wearing a mask all day. All they want to do is go to school, be with their friends and classmates and enjoy their day.

Or put more succinctly as my Dad, a World War II veteran, used to say, “Do the right thing.”