American pride has been perverted to fuel the anti-mask movement

Staff Editorial

With more than 7.45 million reported coronavirus cases in the United States as of early October, the world has been watching to see how the country with the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases has been dealing with the pandemic.

Anyone who is watching closely can see how much of a mess things here really are. Part of the problem has been a refusal by some to wear masks.

An incident that happened in July featured a woman now nicknamed the “Costco Karen” in Hillsboro, Oregon at a Costco where the woman refused to wear a mask in the store and in turn, threw a fit by sitting and staying on the floor.

“I’m an American,” she said. “I have rights.”

The media is no stranger to these incidents, where people will purposefully not wear their mask out in public just to disrupt the peace. These misguided people are calling the mandate unconstitutional, oppressive, and controlling because it infringes on one’s rights as an American citizen.

But what does being an American citizen have anything to do with a person being exempt from displaying human decency toward others by wearing a mask?

Many Americans have displayed anti-mask sentiment and have created forums and organized protests to voice out their opposition towards wearing masks, and the very existence of their activism and what it is founded upon is baffling. In most of the reported incidents with these protesters, their argument against masks always goes back to their identity of being American citizens.

Since the time of its founding, Americans have always felt deep pride in the fact that their country fought to establish and keep the many kinds of freedom that it gave to its citizens.

This emphasis on freedom has left some people feeling entitled to having a choice on mandates that are meant to protect citizens, such as wearing masks during a pandemic. Any sentiment that tells them otherwise is seen as oppressive and communistic.

Anti-mask activists believe that wearing a mask infringes on their bodily autonomy, and one of the outcries that could be heard during protests is “My body, my choice”, which is a feminist slogan used to advocate for bodily autonomy and women’s reproductive rights.

It is pitiful that some people equate the harmless measure of wearing personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of a disease with the fight for gender equality.

Proud anti-mask activists have also adopted the term ‘sheep’ when referring to a person compliant with the law by wearing a mask. Individuality is a value that many Americans embrace, and instead of following what the rest of the world is doing to eradicate and control the spread of a deadly virus, many of these activists have deemed compliant people as unoriginal and blind.

The idea of individuality, which manifested itself in the hopes of immigrants in years past and present coming to America for a better life, has been ingrained into how anti-mask activists view themselves as better than other people. It has allowed them to romanticize the idea of not wearing a mask.

Diverging from normalcy, which has also been widely romanticized, has been presented to American society as an ideal in some respects. Anti-maskers think that being different will earn them respect and admiration, when in reality it clearly does not.

America was founded on the principle of human rights and individual freedoms: the right to free speech, the right to practice any religion (or no religion), the right to have a fair and speedy trial, the right to protest and assemble. These are rights that benefit all individual Americans.

Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States of America does it say that wearing a mask to prevent people from catching a virus and potentially dying is forbidden. What would the Founding Fathers think if they saw Karens appropriating the foundational idea of America for their own agenda?

The argument that the federal government could not enforce a mask mandate because of the 10th Amendment is irrelevant to the current discussion: these anti-maskers are protesting state mandates, and mandates by private firms, which are completely compliant with the Constitution and the 10th Amendment.

American individualism is rebelling against taxation without representation and creating the first independent republic in the New World. American individualism is going through Ellis Island as a teenager, not knowing a lick of English, and working your way up to being a small business owner. American individualism is the right to have whatever opinion you want.

But instead of using individual freedom to help others, anti-maskers are using their activism to infringe on the rights and beliefs of others.

These people are the ones contributing to the spread of coronavirus in the United States. With their misinterpretation of American pride and values, they are the face of the resistance that shows that masks don’t work to stop a disease, and that is because people like them don’t care to display human decency and stop to listen to the facts.

We must use our country’s individuality to help each other, not to divide each other.