I thought I knew how I was supposed to feel about mask and vaccine mandates. Scientists had overwhelmingly embraced them. Vaccine mandates looked like the most effective way to stop the pandemic from stretching on another five to ten years and killing millions more Trump supporters.
Most telling, archconservatives hated the mandates. That’s always a good sign that you are on the side of the angels.
But while many on the far right oppose the mandates for idiotic reasons (whacky conspiracy theories, quack science) and a few have gone so far as to plot the assassination of a German governor, more and more people on the far left are objecting to vaccine mandates out of ideological concerns, i.e., how far government power can be exercised.
Among those on the left who are now in league with the far right in their opposition to mandates/passports is British Labor leader Jeremy Corbin. Corbin believes “it is immoral and profoundly anti-worker to fire health care front-line workers and other workers for refusing a vaccine they have not been convinced is safe and effective.”
You know what else is anti-worker? Giving a deadly virus to your co-worker.
Of course no amount of science will convince some folks that the vaccines are safe and effective. So we are supposed to accept the idea of a never-ending pandemic because some people are fact resistant?
America’s answer to Jeremy Corbin are civil libertarians Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal.
Greenwald has been all over FOX News and Twitter protesting mask mandates, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, calling the latter “a highly coercive measure designed to restrict the freedom of law-abiding citizens who fail to submit to state preferences about their own bodies.”
Blumenthal meanwhile went full-on COVID denier when he tweeted that “Julian Assange is responsible for as many American deaths as Omicron: zero.”
Even the U.S. Green Party Black Caucus has stated that vaccine mandates/passports are “among the most vile, unconstitutional, immoral, unscientific, discriminatory and outright criminal policies ever enforced upon the population and goes against everything the Green Party stands for under Social Justice.”
Apparently social justice now means allowing a pandemic that has killed nearly a million Americans to kill even more poor people, including a disproportionate percentage of people of color. That is some twisty Orwellian logic the Black Greens got going there.
The far right likes to pretend it is continuing its decades-long campaign against mandates of any kind, which is patently absurd. The far right loves mandates when said mandates force women to carry babies to term. Or when they can mandate what can and cannot be taught in public school history class. Or what books are available in your local high school library. Or when they attempt to mandate that teachers carry guns, etc., etc.
So what’s really going on here?
Scientists are in agreement that vaccine mandates work, and will shorten the pandemic. But shortening the pandemic and saving lives—i.e., creating policies that benefit the Common Good—always takes a back seat to the American mania for “being left the hell alone.”
Today, more than 810,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Yet Greenwald and company continue to insist the “risks are small.” At which point do the risks become, say, moderate? A million deaths? Two million?
Shortening the pandemic and saving lives simply is not a priority for the right as well as the Corbins/Blumenthals on the left. For these idealogues some vague idea of liberty and freedom and Don’t Tread on Me civil libertarianism takes precedence.
This is not the old rugged individualism ethos, which was in itself the ethos of the spoiled four-year-old, and the animating principle that has made America a land with lots of guns, lots of inequality, unaffordable healthcare, and lots and lots of COVID-19. Rather this is a more sinister form of toxic individualism which dismisses the fact that we are all part of something larger than ourselves and that our selfish actions impact others, sometimes fatally.
Usually in trying times (The Great Depression, World War II) the Common Good trumps toxic individualism. But in these days of rampant inequality, attacks on American democracy, climate crisis and a seemingly never-ending pandemic, toxic individualism is giving the Common Good a run for its money. And that can’t be good for any of us.