There is a big, gaping hole in the center of the belief that refusing to wear a mask or get vaccinated is a patriotic expression of the personal freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
Sure, you're free to do as you wish, but the fastest way for people to invite tyranny into their lives is to forget that freedom is predicated on responsibility and accountability.
Refusing to wear a mask in a place where COVID-19 is likely to spread puts yourself and others at risk. Refusing to get vaccinated only promotes the spread of the virus. The longer this pandemic goes on, the more likely it is that freedom-loving people will be subjected to punitive restrictions from lawmakers and businesses seeking to crack down on those who aren't being accountable.
Freedom must be accompanied by accountability or society quickly becomes uncivilized and that's a fertile breeding ground for authoritarianism.
Actor and former Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger perfectly explained this delicate balance on Monday in an interview with CNN's Bianna Golodryga and former National Security Council staffer Alexander Vindman.
He blamed the continuation of the pandemic on those who are living in denial.
"A year and a half later, we are still in a mess and there are still people living in denial," Schwarzenegger said. "There are still people that don't believe in masks, there are still people out there who say, 'Well, we don't have to do social distancing,' and all this kind of stuff."
He explained that a big problem is that people have an immature grasp of what freedom really means.
"The only way we prevent it is we get vaccinated, we wear masks, we do social distancing, washing your hands all of the time, and not just to think about, 'Well, my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.' No, screw your freedom. Because with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities," he said.
The "Terminator" star used an analogy involving stoplights that everyone can understand.
"You cannot just say, 'I have the right to do x, y, and z,' when you affect other people. That is when it gets serious. It's like, no different than a traffic light. They put the traffic light in the intersection so someone doesn't kill someone else by accident. You cannot say, 'No one is going to tell me that I'm going to stop here, I'm going to go right through it.' Yeah, then you kill someone else, and it is your doing. It is the same thing with the virus. You cannot go and not put the mask on because when you breathe you can infect someone else, and you can infect someone that then gets sick and may die."
Those who doubt that freedom without responsibility leads to authoritarianism should look no further than recent history. Over the past year and a half, Americans have had to sacrifice a lot of their personal freedom because of a virus that thrives on a lack of accountability.
Those who truly love liberty should realize that we're at a tipping point where the best way to persevere it is to fight back with accountability instead of defiance.
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