Common sense caves in fight with ‘God-given liberty’

Friday, March 5, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 10

They’re relatively rare, thank goodness, which makes them stand out even more: People in the grocery store, pharmacy or wherever who refuse to even pretend to wear masks.

I’m not talking about the folks with a mask below their nose, whether by ignorance or passive aggression. They occupy a separate, slightly lesser, category of human scourge.

No, I mean the man or woman whose brazenly bare face stands in defiance of both public health orders and common courtesy.

You can’t ask about their reasoning, lest you run the risk of igniting an unpleasant and potentially violent encounter.

But one fellow who has provided a safe peek into the anti-masker mindset is Gary Humble of Franklin.

There was a time when I would have been in full accord with Humble’s vocation. Back in 2014 he was brewing craft beer in Texas, and doing a fine job of it, by some reports. His Sir William’s English Brown Ale took the top spot in a “Best Beers in Dallas” issue of D Magazine.

He got out of that business, though, and out of Texas. He’s been through various businesses and locations since then, including building and selling interior sliding “barn” doors in Franklin, “political campaign management” in Lafayette, Louisiana, and then back in Franklin running an outfit whose purpose he stated as “to help defend religious liberty and God’s design for the family and promote biblical principles relative to the family on a state level.”

I gather that preacher also is among his former occupations.

Last year, he found his current calling, which is executive director of Tennessee Stands, “a social advocacy group focusing on issues related to limited government.”

Aside from backing some legislation I’ll have bad things to say about in weeks to come, his duties have included filing lawsuits left and right against Gov. Bill Lee, Williamson County Schools and Franklin Schools and their superintendents, and against Williamson County and its mayor.

His issue is masks. He doesn’t like them, as he made clear in an interview last year with Williamson Home Page. (It’s quite an interview, and I tip my hat here to the writer, Matt Masters.)

“Personally, I don’t think masks are a good thing,” Humble said. “That’s me personally, I don’t think our bodies were designed to wear masks.”

It would be tempting to suggest to him that he has the design sequence in reverse order, but never mind. His legal argument is that the governor, et al., do not have the authority to issue mask mandates.

He is not a COVID-denier, he said, nor is he blind to its impact.

“People have died from this disease, that is tragic, loss of life is tragic, but I’m not being callous when I say this: People die,” Humble added.

It appears he has a different definition of “callous” than I do. He also said this of the human toll:

“I have zero personal conflict about that whatsoever because I 100% down to the marrow of my bones buy into the argument that we hold a God-given liberty that shall not be infringed upon by our government.”

I find myself wondering if he believes that God-given liberty extends to all things: Choosing which side of the road to drive on, say, or whether to pay income tax. But on the topic of masks, the best insight into his thinking was this quote:

“I’m confident in the fact that I’m not willing to give up my liberty because you think you need to keep me safe, period.” Humble said. “I don’t care what the consequences are of that, I really don’t.”

Here’s the thing Humble and his kind seem unable or unwilling to process: The purpose of a mask mandate isn’t just to keep the wearer safe. It is also, and primarily, to keep others around the wearer safe.

Refusing to wear a mask when in public and around other people sends a clear message: I don’t care about you.

All in all, I have to say I wish Humble had stuck with brewing beer rather than promoting his version of God’s design. Though, in true anti-masker fashion, he seemed to have a short fuse as a brewer, too.

When a reviewer with a different Dallas publication took issue with the No. 1 rating given to Sir William’s English Brown Ale – calling it “brown, boring” and “nothing remarkable” – Humble lit into him in a public letter preaching about how hard brewers work and how much they care, and concluding with the admonishment “don’t be an ***hole.”

Which is pretty much my advice to Humble. And all the other anti-maskers.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at