Defying Mask Mandates

Someone I respect took the position that mask mandates by governors are government overreach.

Trouble is, he’s not wrong. Technically.

The role of an executive is to make on-the-spot decisions within certain boundaries. If there’s an immediate emergency, the president can send the Marines; he’s got thirty days before Congress has to step in. If a governor needs to activate the Guard, it’s the same thing. And mask mandates are only justifiable under emergency conditions, same as a “police action”; the legislature needs to get involved if it’s going to be broadly enforced long-term. That’s their job.

What’s happening in our country right now is that our Congress isn’t interested in the political fallout that would ensue if they step up and do the responsible thing, which is to pass a law about mask mandates. Our problems here stem from different states having different procedures; this is something that’s within the purview of Congress to solve — and they won’t, so a hundred thousand people are going to die who otherwise wouldn’t.

In response to what’s technically an illegal set of mandates, a lot of people who otherwise are peaceable and law-abiding are reacting with hostility. They see what they perceive as tyranny, and they resist; they can imagine what’s next: Someone’s coming with a mandatory vaccine. Right after that, someone’s going to declare guns a disease and come for those. And before you say “They’re not coming for your guns”, understand: They already did in New York, using this very same mechanism to get around laws and legislatures.

So, in a sense, folks are right to resist.

In another, rather more important sense, this is a really really stupid place to resist, because masks actually help people. Pick your hill to die on, sure, but at least make it a hill; this here is awfully slippery terrain, people. There’s moral high ground all over the place and you’re dying in a bog.

Our country routinely does horribly illegal and immoral things in the name of safety, security, and fighting crime. Law enforcement officers abuse their trust and it gets covered up; intelligence agencies spy on citizens domestically; we carry out drone assassinations. We’ve run revolutions, we meddle consistently in foreign elections, and we fight wars for Wall Street interests. Agencies bypass regulations for expediency, officers seize property without cause or warrant, and criminal prosecutions are made for political reasons.

Face it, people: We live in a moral and ethical cesspit that’s on the verge of becoming a tyrannical police state.

We can back it down. We can move away from that fate, staving off tyranny for another generation, maybe even two.

I put it to you that civil disobedience against masks is a tactically unsound target, for the same reason protests at abortion clinics aren’t terribly successful: One of the keys to winning battles is choosing the right ground, and this ground is a morass; there’s no place to dig in.

If you believe life begins at conception, the single most effective way to reduce abortions is to fund, enable, and encourage single parents. Immediately behind that is across the board pre-natal support. Universal access to child care. Education. Removing the stigma of bastardy. What sort of person could oppose any of that on moral grounds? Before it’s a political problem, it’s a social and cultural one. Fight your battle on the social and cultural level from a position where there can exist no moral ambiguity, and you can win.

If you want to fight gun violence, figure out what’s causing the problems. Here’s a hint: It’s not the guns. It’s endemic poverty, lives without hope, inner cities with no way out. Most gun deaths are suicides; most of those have financial causes. Most gang battles are over drugs; the single best thing we can do there is to legalize, regulate, and treat addiction and its causes. We lost the War On Drugs years ago; let’s fight the problem on better ground, and let’s demilitarize our police while we’re at it.

Government tyranny over masks, quarantines, and diseases? Forget civil disobedience. Instead, encourage voluntary cooperation –where it’s reasonable– and suddenly there are no excuses for a mandate. Can’t wear a mask, wear a face shield maybe. Goggles are a visible badge, and unlike masks they effectively protect the wearer. The vaccines work, and have a very low rate of side effects.

There are tens of millions of people who are incensed against government tyranny right now. Some of them march under the BLM banner, some under the 3%, some under a rainbow flag, and some behind a cross.

I figure in this cause, just like so many others, let’s march together. We’re all on the same side. Some of you just haven’t noticed.

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