Amy Roberts: Unmasking the crazy
At some point in the future, “2020” is going to be used as a term for someone who is legit off their rocker. Example:
“Why did you two break up?”
“He’s completely 2020.”
“What did he do?”
“He licked the floor of a public bus, snorted Wasabi, and ate a used Band-Aid.”
“Wow, he’s totally 2020.”
Depending on what side of the mask-wearing mandate you fall on, it’s likely you assume “the other side” will one day be considered 2020 crazy. There doesn’t seem to be much gray area with this particular issue: You’re either in favor of wearing a mask in public, or you’ve convinced yourself a minor inconvenience and tyranny are the same thing.
Last week, when Summit and Salt Lake County leaders issued county-wide mask mandates, an alarming number of people quickly exchanged their Google-earned degrees in epidemiology for one in constitutional law, and claimed the mask requirement was a violation of their God-given rights. Which is easy to debunk, but only if you aren’t talking to someone who is certifiably 2020.
In a case that is often regarded as the most important judicial decision regarding public health, more than a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that, “Community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.” Further, the Court recognized, “Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect to his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.” In short, the Court’s decision gave power to the state to require citizens follow laws established to ensure the health of the community, and in doing so it put a big fat asterisk next to the concept of individual liberty.
Since Jacobson was decided in 1905, the case has been cited as a benchmark ruling close to 100 times. Constitutional interpretation and doctrine have evolved considerably over the past century, yet this verdict has proven to be a steadfast decision regarding authority on public health, with the greater good consistently beating out individual freedoms. It’s why you can no longer smoke on airplanes, why restaurants are regularly inspected and also the reason we have fire codes limiting the number of people in a building at any one time — because these regulations protect the public, which is the government’s essential reason for existing. So, you can pound your chest and yell about your freedom all the way to the Supreme Court, but it would be wise to remember no one has won that argument for 115 years.
I’ve also heard people claim mandating a face covering is a “slippery slope” of some sort. I’m not sure what kind of slope one must be standing on to believe wearing a face covering while inside a public space for a few weeks is the final step towards a totalitarianism regime, but I’m pretty certain if the entire foundation for a concern rests on the same principle as the children’s book “If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” this might not be the most logical argument.
For the “Big Brother can’t force me to buy something” crew, well, this isn’t entirely true either. No one is being forced to buy a mask considering the mandate is limited to indoor public spaces. If you stay inside your home, no purchase necessary. But if you’d like to exercise the privilege of entering a public space, then yes, you can be forced. In the same way you are required to purchase shoes to walk into a theater, or buy a license to own a business, drive a car, or hunt. If you choose not to participate in those activities, there’s no expectation of a monetary exchange. Aside from this, free masks are being offered to every resident of the state.
While the lack of expertise in Constitutional law and political science can be amusing, the outrage and refusal from some Utahns is what’s really next level 2020. This is a state where the vast majority of citizens already wear an extra layer of clothing because they believe it to have magical and protective powers. Further, we live in a place where lawmakers are obsessed with public health. After all, public health and safety were the reasons cited when our state legislators voted to have the lowest legal driving limit in the country for blood-alcohol levels, they’re the reason we’re required to purchase alcohol and wine only from state-owned stores, and the reason our governor agreed pornography sold in the state must come with a warning label. Yet we aren’t thumbing our noses at these restrictions by looking at porn while driving drunk off bootlegged wine. Because doing so would be 2020 crazy.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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Columnist Amy Roberts asks whether we are so far removed from reality and the natural world that filing a police report seems like an acceptable course of action after spotting a moose in the mountains.