Commentary A nation of individuals recognizing no responsibilities towards others is on its way to collapse. Protesters wave signs and honk their horns near the Virginia State Capitol, during a “Reopen Virginia Rally” in Richmond, Va., April 22, 2020. Parker Michels-Boyce for the Virginia Mercury The politicization of coronavirus vaccines and mask-wearing has been a depressing reminder of the downside of American individualism. The successful functioning of a free republic depends on people taking personal responsibility for their actions. Too often now that translates into a disregard for the rights of others, coupled with an insistence that our own opinions, even if they are founded on the shifting sands of rumor, must be given as much respect as any expert’s. In the case of COVID-19, the results have been catastrophic: the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives, hospital stays for millions more and lingering disability for a number we can’t yet calculate. They are as much victims of the ideology of personal freedom as of the virus itself. Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers (usually but not always the same people) could choose to stay home so as not to endanger others by their choices, and perhaps some do. But many claim a right to go where they please, be served in whatever businesses they wish to frequent and send their children unmasked to schools that they insist must be open. Confronted with some version of the maxim that your right to swing your arm ends where the other guy’s […]
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