As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, wearing a mask still seems to be a divisive issue in the United States. For some, wearing a mask is not a problem. For others, it is a “violation” of civil rights and freedom.
After Springfield initiated a mask ordinance a few weeks ago, a local woman and her attorney sued the city, claiming that the mask ordinance was unconstitutional, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Many have made the argument that mask requirements are an infringement on the rights of the American people, but exactly what rights are being violated?
Americans value their freedom greatly. The United States has been referred to as the “freest country in the world.” Our focus on individualism is what many people admire about our country, but is there a point when freedom goes too far?
Recently, Herman Cain, former presidential candidate and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, died due to complications of COVID-19, according to his website.
On June 20, Cain was pictured attending a Donald Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, surrounded by a group of people all not wearing masks, as seen on his Twitter. Although it was not clear where Cain contracted the virus, it does not appear he had much care for wearing a mask in public.
The United States has created a culture that values individual freedoms over the health and safety of the public. Individual liberty should not supersede the lives and freedom of all other people.
I have a right to my life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If people have a right to not wear a mask, then I also have a right to not live in a pandemic. There is a reason why laws exist. Complete freedom, where society exists with no rules or enforcements, is not as liberating as it may sound. The protection of our rights, afforded by the government, would cease to exist.
According to the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, any power not explicitly given to the federal government is reserved for the states. Since no federal law has been implemented in regards to masking, states have the power to enforce their own requirements. Constitutional precedent also indicates that governments have the right to protect themselves during health crises.
In 1905, the Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts upheld the power of the states to enforce vaccine requirements. The decision of this case set the precedent that individual liberty does not override the state’s power to enforce public health measures during a health emergency. Mask requirements are completely constitutional.
I have been told that I am “living in fear” because I choose to stay at home as much as I can, practice social distancing and wear a mask. I have been gaslighted for having legitimate concerns about schools, bars and restaurants reopening.
Our country has gone far enough in protecting the freedoms of individual people, even when it has shown to be harmful. It is time that we start recognizing the health and safety of our communities as a right that needs to exist above all else.
The United States seems to be an outlier when it comes masking. Many countries do not view wearing a mask as such a controversial issue. In the United States, there is a social stigma toward wearing a mask. It is seen as a sign of weakness and something that people should be ashamed of. However, in many Asian countries, mask-wearing has been the norm for many years and is viewed as a civic duty.
Although cultural differences exist around the world, the stigmatization of masking is not something that the U.S. should continue to perpetuate. Claims that mask enforcements are unconstitutional are not only false but harm the legitimacy of people that cannot wear a mask for genuine reasons, such as having a certain disability.
If we want to truly flatline this virus, we all have to start wearing masks. It is time that our government takes responsibility and enforces mask requirements, and it is time that people realize it is our civic responsibility to do so.