It is beyond difficult for some of my European and Australian and that lovely island near them called New Zealand to understand, comprehend and (far less so) accept how many Americans don’t think the Federal Government or State Government should be telling them to wear a mask. So, for an example, Italy:
ROME (AP) — The United States’ failure to contain the spread of the coronavirus has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe, as the world’s most powerful country edges closer to a global record of 5 million confirmed infections.
Perhaps nowhere outside the U.S. is America’s bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was ground zero of Europe’s epidemic. Italians were unprepared when the outbreak exploded in February and the country still has one of the world’s highest official death tolls at 35,000.
But after a strict nationwide 10-week lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has become a model of virus containment.
“Don’t they care about their health?” a mask-clad Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the banks of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome. “They need to take our precautions ... They need a real lockdown.”
An attempt at an explanation.
Inherent to the American worldview, you see, and to the American Dream, is something the good ol’ French in their Revolution gave to us through Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and our Constitution: namely, the combination of individual freedom and small government and its separation of powers. The Federal Government was designed to provide opportunity for the individual person to pursue his or her own livelihood. It was to keep its nose out of the individual’s home and job and life.
So, we have what is not so common in those other countries: libertarianism and the libertarian impulse. The libertarian thinks he or she can do what he or she wants. Cutting to the bone it looks like this: the Government is not to tell the (libertarian) person what to do, and if it does the person chooses to listen or not to listen. The Government is designed to protect the individual so he or she can do what he or she wants. (Within reason of course.) [I’m calling this the libertarian impulse and I’m not describing the Libertarian Party or any sophisticated statement of it. The impulse is the topic at hand.]
So this person in the USA from the article linked above:
“There’s no reason to fear any sickness that’s out there,” said Julia Ferjo, a mother of three in Alpine, Texas, who says she is “vehemently” against wearing a mask. Ferjo, 35, teaches fitness classes in a large gym with open doors, where she doesn’t allow participants to wear masks.
“When you’re breathing that hard, I would pass out,” she said. “I do not want people just dropping like flies.”
Add into this libertarian impulse the reality that many don’t trust science at all, which feeds their libertarianism.
The implication of this condition is profound: Collectivity or group consciousness is just not natural for some Americans, especially the one of a more libertarian disposition and impulse. (The French, of course, have a strong collective sense.) Again from the same article:
Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who is leading a team seeking treatments for COVID-19, decried such behavior, as well as the country’s handling of the virus.
“There’s no national strategy, no national leadership and there’s no urging for the public to act in unison and carry out the measures together,” he said. “That’s what it takes and we have completely abandoned that as a nation.”
Put differently, the impulse is what is good for me is good for others.
This is diametrically resistant of the “what is good for all of us is good for me.”
I’m not saying this distinguishes and divides the GOP from the Dems but there’s a solid group within the GOP that thinks like this and this explain why they think the Federal or State Government has no business telling us to wear a mask.
What I am saying is that libertarianism’s freedom-at-all-costs mentality and impulse during this pandemic is profoundly selfish and Christians ought to be the first in line to think of others first. That’s neither socialism nor social democracy, it’s love. Love for one another. Call it individual voluntarism for the good of others, then, but by any measure it is a collective sense.
Those who designed the libertarian impulse in America were also the ones most insistent that it would require virtue.
Something America lacks today.
Something America needs today.
If my friends in other countries want to read a book that puts this all into a tight bundle of consistent thinking, they could no better than to read George Will, The Conservative Sensibility.