We’ve been fighting for some time now; over masks, vaccines, shutdowns and social distancing requirements. This pandemic has super-charged our polarized America into an eternal cage-match. Our past year has been engulfed in “debates” around public health guidances and their supposed infringement on freedom and liberty.
The Right is to blame of course. They have been radicalized beyond recognition over the last decade. The Trump Administration—predominantly Trump himself—at best sent mixed messages on masks early on, arguing adherence to masks should be on the individual. Without strong federal guidance, it was left to the states to enforce mask mandates with varying degrees of success. In purple states like Michigan, push back to these “acts of tyranny” were so severe, they lead to armed protests against the Democratic governor who instituted them. The protestors, of course, cited liberty as their primary justification.
But is it really a love of liberty that compels the Right to “resist” mask mandates? I don’t think so; the armed rallies in Michigan prove that. They just want to fight. That’s why their most prominent personalities—Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder and many others—are “fighters”.
But lets take the Right’s invocations of liberty seriously for a second and apply it to another example. They abhor masks because they see them as infringing on their freedom. But why then—if the Right truly detests “acts of tyranny” such as these—do they not organize similar protests against seat belt laws. Those are public mandates—like mask wearing—that everyone must adhere to when driving a car. They protect not just the driver, but passengers as well; similar to how mask mandates protect the wearer (if they have a good mask) and those around them. And why stop at seat belts. All traffic laws by the Right’s own definition on masks could be the slippery slope to tyranny they’re so afraid of.
What is the difference between mundane traffic laws and wearing a mask? First and most obvious: seat belts have been around longer and are more ubiquitous. But another key distinction is masks are now a signal to the Right of who you are and who you listen to. If you wear a mask you are a sheep blindly following the advice of liberal public health officials. You are against Trump and for Anthony Fauci. You are against individual liberty. Most importantly, you agree with Democrats—or worse…you are one.
A few weeks ago, it was revealed in the New York Times that Donald Trump’s aides had drafted a proclamation over the summer of 2020. This proclamation would have invoked the Insurrection Act, allowing Trump to send active military into American cities and violently put down protestors during the demonstrations against the murder of George Floyd. The aides wrote this preemptive act of totalitarianism because in several meetings President Trump argued aggressively for sending troops into American cities to quell protests. They were anticipating his desire to play dictator for a day.
Unless I’ve missed it (and please leave me a comment below if I have) I have yet to see any significant liberty loving right-wing commentator or politician speak out as strongly against Trump’s flirtation with violently suppressing the 1st amendment as they have against masks and other public health mandates.
The Right’s definition of liberty is shallow. It’s less about actual individual freedom than it is about selfishness and fighting with liberals. Individual liberty as a value is quickly abandoned if it conflicts with their reactionary social conservatism. When it comes to the liberty of say transgendered Americans or people of color, then their crusade for freedom quickly dissolves. They will burn their masks in the name of freedom but when it comes to protecting gay marriage or violence against trans Americans, they are more than happy to substitute their zealous defense of liberty with silence or active resistance.
I’m sick of hearing how much the Right loves liberty. They don’t. They just love to fight.