This week, a federal judge in Florida finally struck down a federal mask mandate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An extensive number of executive branch agencies have acted in an authoritarian manner throughout the COVID-19 era: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration infamously attempted to cram down a vaccine mandate on every private employer in America, a policy struck down by the Supreme Court; the CDC blocked evictions for over a year based on the premise that millions would be thrown from their homes if they didn’t take action. But the CDC’s travel mask mandate has been particularly annoying for Americans, given the fact that all over the country, Americans have either been vaccinated or acquired natural immunity, and there is no evidence whatsoever that cloth or surgical masks do anything against the omicron variant of COVID-19.
Nonetheless, the CDC pressed forward this month with a new extension to its mask mandate, despite the fact that the CDC simultaneously argued that beginning in late May, it would relieve Title 42, a regulation designed to allow Border Patrol to turn away likely illegal immigrants at the border. That regulation was rooted in the premise that a COVID-19 emergency negated the legal requirement to process asylum seekers. The White House provided zero justification for the CDC’s extension; instead, White House press secretary Jen Psaki struggled to explain why toddlers on planes should remain masked, but attendees at the White House press room didn’t have to. “I’m not a doctor,” she spat.
Of course, Psaki’s lack of medical background hasn’t prevented her from announcing that the best standard of medical care requires minors who are gender-confused to receive puberty blockers on the path toward genital-mutilating surgery. But Americans shouldn’t expect consistency from their moral betters in the White House.
Upon the announcement of the judge’s ruling striking down the CDC mask mandate on the grounds that the CDC hadn’t actually bothered to follow its own regulatory procedures, the Left went into spasms of apoplexy. Public figures began posting pictures of themselves donning masks on planes: former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted, “Wearing my mask no matter what non-scientists tell me I can do”; Roland Martin tweeted, “I don’t give a damn what some grossly unqualified Donald Trump judge said. I’m double-masked and wearing goggles on this Nashville to DC flight. I had COVID in December. Y’all can KISS MY ASS about me not wanting it again. And any fool saying they don’t matter is a damn liar.”
Now, it should be said that nobody has actively (SET ITAL) banned anyone from wearing a mask. (END ITAL) It is your choice to don one, as epidemiologically useless as such a gesture may be. But those on the Left seem to be under the wild misimpression that anything not prohibited is now mandatory — an act of pure intellectual projection springing from the Left’s insistence on collective rulemaking. For those on the Left, individual freedom represents a threat to everyone; to allow individuals the ability to choose therefore undermines the entire scheme. Those on the Left simply project this mindset onto everyone else. Thus, they believe that anyone who opposes mask mandates wants to force everyone to unmask.
This is untenable but predictable: for those on the Left, the collective is the irreducible unit of politics. There are no individuals. And anyone who disagrees is, in the words of Robin Givhan of The Washington Post, “childish and selfish.”
Or perhaps — just perhaps — the most childish and selfish among us are those who beg government agencies to exceed their statutory authority in order to ensure that we all mirror their favored priorities. Perhaps those who have spent two years declaring their authority over every aspect of Americans’ lives ought to consider the possibility that we’re happy to let them ruin their own, but that we would prefer they leave us alone. And most of all, perhaps the COVID-19 paranoiacs ought to spend just a moment considering whether there is a space between mandatory and prohibited where others might be granted a smidgen of liberty.
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