When a Supreme Court Justice acknowledges that coronavirus restrictions have led to an unprecedented infringement on Americans’ civil rights, it’s time to worry. We are, unfortunately, occupying a time when it is not possible to debate or even discuss the advisability of various pandemic restrictions because so many people are enforcing orthodoxy on the matter. You either agree with the entire set of their value judgments on the pandemic, or you’re a murderous sociopath who wants grandma to die and who doesn’t believe the virus is real.
Every reaction to the pandemic is entirely understandable. One of the greatest killers in any emergency is cognitive dissonance — the conflict between what is true and what we wish to believe. In our unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of a threat, we often rationalize in order to justify doing what we want to do rather than what we should do.
But even if a few hold-outs still insist that our current predicament isn’t real, that it’s the product of some nefarious conspiracy, or that it is an attempt by the New World Order to circumvent the aluminum foil we all have firmly wrapped around our heads, I think the vast majority of Americans acknowledge that the virus is dangerous. Nobody wants it, everybody is concerned about it, and we’re all coping in our own ways.
Before you attempt to enforce orthodoxy on so powerful a topic, however, understand this first: People are contradictory. It’s possible for human beings to hold conflicting — and especially seemingly conflicting — opinions. We can be concerned about a virus… yet disturbed by the infringements on our civil liberties that have occurred in the name of fighting that virus. We can be concerned about the well-being of our loved ones… yet just as worried about the legacy of government infringement we are leaving for subsequent generations. We can be afraid of getting sick… yet believe it is way over the line for a politician to try to “cancel Thanksgiving” or tell us how many guests we may have for Christmas in a private home.
I’ll use myself as an example. I was an early adopter of masks. When the CDC and the Surgeon General were still issuing condescending statements essentially calling you a moron for buying and wearing masks (because they were trying to discourage those purchases to preserve the supply for first responders), I wore one when shopping. I got more than a few looks; one old lady even muttered, “Get a load of him.” I wore the mask because I reasoned that Asian countries have long had a mask culture for those who are sick, or living among those who are. It simply made sense that this was one step I could take to protect myself.
Fast forward a few months and masks have become the most politicized symbol of the pandemic. The only problem is that mask wearing does not seem to have made a significant difference in the overall spread of the disease. Lockdowns have not stopped the disease, either; states with comparable populations have seen similar surges regardless of lockdown policies. Why, it’s almost as if the only way to prevent yourself from getting a virus is to avoid other people entirely… and in the presence of human beings, a virus is going to spread no matter what we do. Meanwhile, our lockdowns have crippled the economy and produced harmful unintended consequences.
Regardless of what is popular, regardless of what hypocrite politicians demand, I will still wear a mask when I’m around others because I’ve judged that this will protect me. I’m unconcerned with the risks others take. I’m worried about the fact that in many cases, people still get sick while wearing masks. I’m doing the best I can for me and for my loved ones… and I will continue to do so. But here is where something of a paradox occurs.
While I’m concerned about coronavirus, I also resent like hell the little tin-dictator governors and mayors who have seized unconstitutional control over their populations. They do this while repeatedly violating their own restrictions, exempting themselves from their own rules and behaving as if they don’t believe there is a threat.
We saw it when the governor of California attended a close-knit meal in a crowded restaurant. We’ve seen it as the gangster governor of New York repeatedly appears in public without a mask, even as he’s bleating to others, “Science! Wear a mask! I’m not at fault for the coronavirus deaths in my state!” We’ve seen it when Mayor Beatlejuice in Chicago danced in the street while people passed shared champagne bottles to celebrate Biden’s victory… then imposed yet more lockdowns on the people of her city. And we’ve seen it when Joe Biden, that senile infant, croaks about “science” while wearing his mask below his nose or hanging from his shriveled ear.
People concerned about the virus, but outraged by the hypocrisy of these petty dictators, are upset about that double standard. They’re upset about the “rules for thee, but not for me” mentality that drives so many of our “leaders.” They’re upset about the near-total economic devastation being wrought, both on our nation and on its citizens individually, by arbitrary shut-downs that don’t seem to be changing anything. As the saying goes, if they worked before, why are we doing it again? And if they didn’t work before, why are we doing it again?
That’s the root of the seeming contradiction, which isn’t a contradiction at all. It’s perfectly reasonable to be upset about restrictions that seem to be making things worse. It’s perfectly understandable to resent hypocrite politicians who demand we comply while refusing to follow their own rules. And it’s completely consistent to take steps to protect yourself, voluntarily, from a serious and harmful virus… while working to protect a nation whose ideals of individual liberty matter to future generations.