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Letters, May 21

Whose freedom?

Sunday’s Local section of the Mail Tribune ran an article headlined, “Free’s a Crowd,” covering a large demonstration of people opposed to Gov. Kate Brown’s public health requirements. One of the photos shows a man wearing a Donald Trump mask carrying a sign with the following wording: “I do not consent to Masks, Social Distance, Contact Tracing: My Body, My Choice.”

That last part sounds a bit familiar. Do you suppose that applies to women’s bodies (and reproductive rights) as well? And what about that Trump mask? Like it’s OK to cover your whole face with a portrait of your dear leader when objecting to other kinds of masks.

One thing that’s noticeable in these kinds of rallies is the complete absence of black and brown bodies, the ones most affected by COVID-19, indicating that these kinds of “liberty” demonstrations smack of white nationalism. The other obvious component is ignorance of the reciprocity involved in wearing a mask.

“Dude,” I would like to say, “Do whatever you want with your body, but your mask is there to protect others even more than you. You could easily have the virus without knowing it and go around in a crowd of American Patriots infecting people who will then go home and pass it on to their families and into the wider community. You know the process.

“While it may seem that respecting other people’s social distance feels like an infringement of your freedom, disrespecting it is an infringement of my freedom, the freedom from sickness and possibly death. And by the way, this has nothing to do with First Amendment rights (freedom of speech). You can shout your baloney as loud as you’d like, but please do it at a distance of least 6 feet.”

To most of us, the experience of this pandemic has been a graphic reminder of how we are connected more than we are separated. We breathe the air that we all share, use the common water (as opposed to others who don’t have that privilege, even in this nation), we move in common space on a common Earth, and we share the advantages of the internet to communicate with friends and family, to learn, and to read the news. Many of us have heard from old friends, reestablishing connections from years past.

Now more than ever we need to work together for a common purpose. While our president would have us all in chaos, we need to unite to protect each other and respect the need for physical distancing. This is how we can prevent another shut-down and start to rebuild our economy.

Alice Hardesty


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