Complaints and threatening demonstrations about new safety measures designed to save lives from the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) are on the rise — and they have taken an ominous turn.
A security guard was shot and killed after asking someone to wear a mask in a Family Dollar store. This was the most disturbing of a series of reported outbursts against wearing masks by people in various states. The main argument by those who are opposed to wearing masks is that it violates their freedom.
It seems people are confused about what freedom is.
What these people are asking for is lawlessness, not freedom. Most of the freedoms awarded in the constitution are related to freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and the dissemination of information. Being "free" does not mean that you can do anything you want whenever you want. That is called lawlessness.
The United States was founded on civility, the rule of law, common decency, and respect for others. Having to wear a mask to protect yourself or others is no more an encroachment on our freedom as are the laws forcing us to stop at red lights, follow street signs, or preventing us from walking naked in public. If we are following these laws then we should also wear masks when we are required to. It's not only for the wearer's safety but for the safety of the people they come in contact with.
When a fairly well known talk-show host complains that the U.S. is being "destroyed" because people are being required to wear masks and follow safety rules, you know our country is in trouble. This would have been laughably absurd if he was not serious, but it's disturbing that this kind of petty ignorance is reaching the mainstream.
People are free to think what they want — but they are not free to harm others by acting on their unfounded beliefs.
There will always be the flat-earthers and the moon landing deniers who will create a conspiracy theory around any fact, and they have the right to do that. But to violently lash out or kill those who disagree with them is unacceptable.
The problem seems to be bigger than COVID-19. It will require a concerted effort from everyone to avoid a resurgence of the virus as various places are starting to ease social distancing measures. But if more people do not cooperate with safety measures, I'm afraid we will see many more people needlessly die.
If we are able to learn from history and our past mistakes we should be able to avoid a repeat of what happened a century ago, during the Spanish flu. In 1918, during the Spanish flu outbreak in the U.S. people protested safety measures, similar to what happened this time, and pressured the government to re-open prematurely causing many more deaths to occur.
I really hope we do not repeat the mistakes of a century ago, and everyone follows the guidelines aimed at shortening the suffering. I hope everyone can understand the difference between freedom and lawlessness. We want to be free law-abiding citizens, who do not harm our neighbors or anyone else.