By Kristy Koehler, February 15 2021—
Are masks awesome? Nope, they sure aren’t. Are they an infringement on your rights and freedoms? Nope, they sure aren’t.
Coronavirus cases are surging and the debate is still raging about the use of masks. It’s become a political hot button issue — and needlessly so.
Sadly, much of the anti-mask fervour is coming from the right, from so-called Libertarians and “freedom-loving patriots.” Quite frankly, I’m tired of the mental gymnastics being done by Covid-convenient Libertarians to justify their anti-mask stance. There’s a real Libertarian case to be made for just putting that piece of material over your face and sucking it up for a little while.
Libertarians — and many conservatives in general — espouse personal rights and freedoms over all else. If you truly believe in freedom, you should know that your freedom to do whatever the hell you want ends when it begins to infringe upon the freedoms of another.
No one has the right to enter your home without an invitation. You have the right to your private property. These things don’t change because someone has convinced themselves they can kick down your door or take your car because “freedom.” You have a right to put your own health at risk, but not the health of others. Thus, your right to not wear a mask doesn’t trump the right of others to live and move safely within society. If your behaviour is a danger to public health or to the life and liberty of another, it’s no longer your right.
I’ve also seen plenty of lunacy about how being banned from a private business because you’re refusing to wear a mask is an infringement on your human rights. Actual Libertarians understand that private businesses have the right to do as they wish. Want to ban people from entry because they’re not wearing blue on a Thursday? That’s your right as a private business owner. Want to ban people because they aren’t wearing masks? That’s your right as a private business owner too.
I don’t see too many “freedom-loving patriots” arguing about their right to whip out the ol’ willy in a grocery store. Why not? Well, because there are some societal norms and standards that need to be followed should we wish to live near other people instead of in the woods on our own. My right not to be subjected to staring at your meat and two veggies in the cereal aisle tops your right to let it all hang out.
I’ll concede that you probably have a case if you’re being barred from accessing a necessary public service for not wearing a mask. We can talk about that. But do you really think you have a bona fide right under law to go to Sloppy Pete’s Greasy Spoon for Wednesday Wings? Tell me more … actually, don’t. You’re wrong.
Recently, in the bowels of the comment sections on various social media platforms, I’ve seen the argument that imposing restrictions on liquor service hours or capacity as a result of COVID-19 is a violation of peoples’ rights. I don’t see these same people arguing for bookstores to be open 24/7.
I don’t see these same supposed freedom-fighters protesting outside of covid-infested prisons, arguing that those incarcerated for ridiculous things like drug convictions be released immediately rather than have the conditions they’re subjected to wreak havoc on their health.
Faux Libertarians seem to believe that the right to access dance clubs and get hammered in public at all hours of the day are comparable to the right of freedom of association, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. You don’t have a right to be provided with services, but you certainly have a right to life and liberty, and sometimes, minor alterations to your conduct are necessary in order to protect those things for everyone in the long-term.
One thing Libertarians hate more than almost anything else is government restriction and oversight. More government is never the answer. But, guess what’s going to happen if we can’t all just behave for a little while and flatten the curve. More government oversight. More restrictions. More lockdowns. Less freedom.
Libertarians like to believe that people are rational actors who behave in their own best interest. Covid-convenient Libertarians need to stop trying their damndest to prove this wrong. In this case, it’s in your best interest to wear a mask. The short term, minor inconvenience of wearing a mask has benefits that far outweigh the long-term impacts of imposed lockdowns and government intervention. Take rational, reasonable steps in order to protect the economy, liberty and your neighbours.
Emotion and irrationality are what’s behind the belief that masks are actually causing harm. Beliefs grounded in emotion rather than reason are antithetical to Libertarianism.
Masks are actually dangerous? No, they aren’t. My mother worked in healthcare and wore a mask for eight hours every day for thirty years with no adverse impacts to her health, just like hundreds of thousands of others. Masks impact your ability to take in oxygen and perform daily functions? No, they don’t. If you go for brain surgery, your surgeon will be wearing a mask the entire time, with absolutely no impediment to performing the incredible hand eye coordination necessary for such a task.
And let’s not get into the medical exemption argument — if you have one of the very, very few diseases that would make mask-wearing an issue, you probably shouldn’t be venturing too far outside the home during a global pandemic.
Wearing a mask any time you’re sick — even once COVID-19 is a distant memory —makes rational sense to me. The less people wandering around sick, the less they’re infecting others. That means fewer people staying home from work, more people going out and participating in the economy and less healthcare spending for avoidable illness.
We all need to take the very minor, and very necessary steps, to get the government out of the way sooner rather than later. Freedom-loving friends, slap that mask over your talking hole and let’s flatten this curve.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.