Remember when the government said your family could only buy 3 gallons of gas a week? When top tax rates on the rich jumped to as much as 80 to 90 percent? When you could buy meat, cheese, butter and sugar only with a government card?

Unless you’re in your mid-80s or older, you sure don’t. Because after the hardships of World War II, our nation — then unquestionably the most powerful and wealthiest in the world — began a period of unparalleled ease and comfort. There have been wars since, but not to preserve our own nation, and not requiring much personal sacrifice to most of us — beyond the very obvious toll on soldiers and their families.

So it’s pretty easy to forget what’s required in a free society to maintain that freedom. It’s not just the willingness of the few to go to war when called upon. We each must be willing to make shared sacrifices to survive as a collective.

And if not enough people are willing to hold up their end of that bargain, the government has not only the right, but also the obligation, to step in and mandate compliance. Was being limited to driving 20 to 25 miles a week a hardship in 1944? You bet it was for some. And make no mistake, the wealthy griped mightily about those extra taxes (and by the way, everyone paid more in taxes; even those who hadn’t previously had to pay were called upon). Yet they did it because it was what was needed to win.

Which brings us to the present.

No foreign government has sent soldiers to overtake us. But we are very much at war — the costliest in human life in our history. The U.S. death toll from COVID so far stands at more than 806,000 thus far. The previous record for American “war” deaths was during the Civil War, at 655,000. Of course, in that particular conflict, deaths on both sides were counted. Only half as many died in World War II as have via COVID.

Then-President Trump deemed the current pandemic a war in the spring of 2020, and while some might take that as a bid to be viewed as a “war president,” he was correct.

In that context, whining that being told to don a mask to protect others in closed spaces is somehow a rights infringement or worse rings hollow.

During the 2020 election, we lauded Gov. Sununu for his handling, to that point, of the pandemic. Sununu had quickly shut down much commercial and social interaction in the state when the pandemic struck, later mandated masking and other precautions in various settings and urged residents to take the appropriate actions throughout. That came at a price to the state’s businesses, but we think it was the right move and saved the state from a worse fate.

Since being re-elected, however, Sununu has talked the talk but not walked the walk, meekly ceding the authority to municipalities to protect their citizens, even as hospital ICUs and emergency rooms swell with COVID patients and his state is leading the nation the per capita rate of cases. Worse, he’s fought others’ efforts to implement vaccine mandates while knowing it’s the most effective weapon against the virus and its variants.

Thus, Keene’s City Council was right to reinstate its indoor mask mandate. Clearly, it’s not favored by local business owners, but faced with a crisis at area hospitals and the arrival of a new, more contagious variant, this was the only real choice responsible officials could make.

Interestingly, the councilors opted this time to make clear the city’s police will be charged with enforcing the mandate. In the first go-around, business owners and employees had the primary duty of telling people they had to mask.

This alleviates that burden somewhat, though the businesses will still have to report those who flout the ordinance. It also places a heavier burden on the city police. That might lead some to believe the police won’t bother, having bigger things to worry about.

Thus, it falls to Chief Steven Russo and his department to make very clear right away that this is something they intend to take seriously. Already, at least one department leader has spoken out not only against the mandate, but also advising people to ignore it, saying it’s not “law.”

The state and the courts have stated in no uncertain terms that municipalities have the authority to enact such mandates. The mandate, issued by the council as an ordinance, has all the legal force of any other ordinance, and we expect members of the city’s police have all taken an oath to uphold city ordinances. There should be no doubt the city intends to enforce it.

Recommended for you