Let’s talk about freedom and liberty, shall we? Over the last few days, I’ve heard many newscasters, reporters, concerned citizens, and Texans and Mississippians claim that opening Texas and Mississippi completely with no mask mandates protects individuals’ freedom and liberty. If you don’t want to return to work, don’t. If you want to wear a mask, you can. It’s all about individual freedom and liberty.
Get serious. While you’re being free to do as you please, you are endangering others if you are not wearing a mask. When the CDC, competent medical doctors, the Biden administration say, “hang tight, not yet–we’re almost there,” it’s crazy to throw caution to the winds and let the freedom flag fly. Why are these two state governors making this move? To earn points with their constituents by opening the economy and appealing to their Republican bases, especially restaurants and other small businesses. I might also add that according to The Washington Post, both Texas and Mississippi have experienced a rise in cases in recent days. Plus, Mississippi is 47th and Texas is 49th in comparison to other states for the number of people per capita who have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
These so-called freedom and liberty zealots are the same people who want to be free to carry arms and concealed weapons. Do they also want to be free to pollute streams, rivers and oceans? Free to drink and drive? Free to drive cars that will not pass proper emission standards? Free to incite an insurrection at the Capitol, endangering lives of many and causing death to others?
There is such a thing called empathy–worrying about others besides yourselves. Your failure to wear a mask endangers others. We’ve all witnessed the devastating effect of super-spreader events, causing many people—some very young–to die. To believe you are free, you have rights, you must also believe you have the responsibility to protect others. Freedom without responsibility just doesn’t work. You are free to use public spaces, hike in national parks, but you must use them responsibly. You must not endanger others.
We all want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. That means we all need to follow rules. Be responsible. So that the quality of our air and waters improves—a subject near and dear to most Eastern Shore residents’ hearts.
All institutions have rules that must be obeyed. When you choose to work at a particular job, you must follow the rules—they’re called conditions of employment. When you decide to live in a particular community, you may have neighborhood or HOA requirements. Our government has rules too. And in times of strong turmoil or duress, it is even more important that we follow those rules—the rules that try to keep as many Americans as safe as possible and protect as many people as we can. No rules doesn’t mean more freedom. It means chaos, anarchy, and impairs the rights of others, including, in some cases, the right to live.
The ironic part of this whole “freedom” business is that the very people who are preaching freedom and liberty to the rafters are the same people who claim that women should not have the freedom to have control over their bodies—to make personal decisions that work for them.
The hypocrisy of the whole freedom argument is mind boggling. I agree that kids need to get back in school. That we need to get back to business as usual. But let’s do it responsibly. Let’s not get almost to the goal line and then cave. That’s a losing strategy—not a winning one. When you undermine good-faith guidance that helps all Americans, you are undermining democracy, liberty and freedom.
Bob Dylan once said, “I think of a hero as someone who understands the responsibility that comes with freedom.” Well said Bob. And a special shout out to the many who are acting responsibly and protecting their fellow Americans. Thanks.
Maria Grant served as Principal-in-Charge of the Federal Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting. Since her retirement, she has focused on writing, piano, reading, biking, kayaking, gardening, and travel.