Pandemics bring clarity. This one has clarified that people who refuse to wear a mask because “We’re not the boss of them” have a five-year-old’s idea of “freedom”. They think freedom is getting to do whatever they want, wherever they want, however they want. If it bothers you or interferes with your rights — or infects you with their disease? That’s not their problem — and anything you do to affirm YOUR rights automatically steps all over theirs. They have plenty of rights. The rest of us? Not so much. Sounds like Libertarians, doesn’t it? And Tea Partiers? And Republicans in general.
My dad was a captain in the Air Force. He was fond of saying “Rank has its privileges and its obligations”. Everyone loves the sugar coating. But that coating’s on a Brussel sprout. And you have to eat that too.
Every freedom — whether to say what you like or love who you like — comes with exceptions. You are NOT free to threaten people with your words. You are NOT free to love people who aren’t old enough to judge whether or not to love you back. You are NOT free to take your legally owned weapon and discharge it at will in public. Without those exceptions to complete and total freedom, we’d have complete and total chaos. It’s the “responsibilities” that make freedom workable. But only if everyone agrees to meet those responsibilities.
As we’re now learning the hard way, if too few Americans don’t take their responsibility to vote seriously, that very right gets eroded — by people who don’t want them to vote period. Voting shouldn’t be a “use it or lose it” proposition. It should be more “use it because it fills you with PRIDE to use it”. Or “use it because that’s how a representative democracy like ours works”. Use it because it’s your responsibility.
People who take their rights for granted are setting themselves up for failure. That would be us — right about now. Freedom, it turns out, is a muscle that must be warmed up, stretched and worked out like any other. It needs to be looked after so it can look after us.
By the same token — the rule of law is just an idea we invented. It cannot and will not enforce itself. That’s entirely up to us. If we want to live under the rule of law — and Donald Trump has demonstrated what the alternative would be — then we have to live by it We have to enforce it.
And we have to make sure that everyone who violates it — regardless of who — gets treated exactly the same.
That includes the punishment part.