“My liberty ends where yours begins.” There’s some dispute over who first said a variation of this, but do you really care? The point should be as obvious as, say, “Don’t ingest household disinfectants.”
The liberty-ends insight has been out of sight to the small crowds of Trump followers who have gathered to loudly demand that their freedom, uh, trumps the safety of everybody else. They say they should be allowed to ignore the COVID restrictions that have hobbled this country as we are trying to stave off this deadly invader. The problem with their thinking, or lack thereof, is that their freedom impinges on mine and that of everyone else who makes a priority of surviving.
Which includes most of our countrymen and -women. And certainly country kids.
The vast majority of Americans worry that we will lower our defenses far too low and allow the invisible killer organism to come roaring back just as it appears to have started its temporary demise. But the half vast minority has successfully intimidated many governors into beginning an abandonment of protective tactics that were admittedly draconian but all that really stood between relative safety and disaster.
Several polls show that by margins of 2 to 1, citizens prefer continuing the pain and disorientation of what amounts to house arrest to rushing into the good old days of unregulated commerce – the “good old days” defined as two months ago. Those who are agitating to abandon the tough but effective slog are caving when the going gets tough. In other words, they are quitters.
Nevertheless, many of the politicians have succumbed to this pressure to jump into the abyss and simply hope the fall is broken by some miracle. They are quitters too. That would include a certain president of the United States.
As for his vice president – you know, his vapid apologist who leads the famous task force assembled to combat the microscopic attacker – when he isn’t explaining away the boss’ latest ignorant absurdity, he sometimes just ignores his own task force’s guidance. So there he was at the famous Mayo Clinic, traipsing around the premises. He was easy to spot. He was the guy without a face mask on.
Back to the quitter governors in those states that are reopening. They’re not only endangering their own citizens by letting down their guard, they’re endangering all of us, even those of us where the governors are maintaining the brutal restrictions on workplace and school. Unfortunately, COVID doesn’t recognize borders. So weak governors from states that do away with some of the restrictions become weak links in our national chain. Even those within the boundaries of the sensible states are jeopardizing those of us who are hunkered down when they succumb to “quarantine fatigue” and decide to relax their social distancing. They don’t have that right to subsequently pass on whatever they’ve caught to me and mine.
That certainly includes the pious groups that have decided they have divine rights to worship as they wish. No, they don’t. Contagion has no religion. Then they have the gall to insist when authorities intervene that they are being singled out, scapegoated. Disgraceful. It’s worth stating again: The freedom to worship, like any other freedom, ends where I begin. Anything else is a destructive abuse of our liberty.
Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.