To the editor:

The title of this letter to the editor is the second, less-known part of the state’s motto as a toast by Gen. Stark following the Revolutionary War. “Live Free or Die” is the official New Hampshire motto adopted by the state in 1945. It is possibly the best-known of all state mottoes, partly because it conveys an assertive independence historically found in American political philosophy and partly because of its contrast to the milder sentiments found in other state mottoes.

In 1971 the state of New Hampshire legislated that that the motto must be displayed on the state’s license plates. However, in 1977, a legal battle began when a Jehovah’s Witness, Mr. George Maynard covered up the “Or Die” part of the plate’s motto. The Jehovah’s Witness religion believes in everlasting life. The court ruled in his favor hence, citizens of New Hampshire are “Free” to cover up part, or all of the state motto on their license plates.

Today, the “Live Free or Die” motto still means a great deal to New Hampshire residents. New Hampshire residents take pride in the state’s motto and live by its words. Our state is among the freest states in the United States and we constantly struggle to maintain that freedom. For better or worse the state’s motto is often brought up in political debates when some politicians try to take away our freedoms.

Of late, I have encountered citizens in the middle of a heated debate about wearing or not wearing a protective mask during this epidemic. Some believe that is their right to so and that right is accorded to them by the United States Constitution and the New Hampshire state motto. Others disagree.

We have all seen on television such debates between people who are offended by others who do not fully understand the implication and possible harm that that of not wearing a mask.

Granted, it is an individual right accorded by the state Legislature. The motto has had a big influence on New Hampshire’s legislation. For instance, not wearing a protective helmet while riding a motorcycle is a risk that the cyclist is willing to accept. Cyclists know fully well that a serious accident may lead to death. The same is true for those among us who do not wish to wear a seat belt, which is not mandatory in New Hampshire, the only state without a seatbelt law.

However, there are those among us may be COVID-19 asymptomatic. For the latter, not wearing a protective mask during a worldwide epidemic may lead to the death of others. It may be true that, “death is not the worst of evils,” but being the cause or source of spreading the COVID-19 virus, resulting in the death of family members, friends and, others is in fact is “the worst of evils.” Personally, I would err on the side of caution and hope that you would feel the same. I would rather stay 6 feet apart then be 6 feet under. State safe!

Hon. Robert L. Theberge


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