Letter to the Editor: Maskless Americans Choose Freedom Over Health, Risking Family and Friends

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Photo courtesy of Jernej Furman.

Ender Mills , Guest writer

Fhe ideology of American individualism has always been fundamentally flawed. However, it has never been more dangerous as our country and the world face the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, assessing why certain countries have been hit harder than others by the virus is complicated. But some things are clear: countries where individuals are more willing to wear protective masks have much lower infection rates. Unfortunately, being compelled to wear masks is seen by many Americans a major affront to their freedom.

Although wearing a mask reduces the risk of infection by 65%, according to University of California, Davis, only 73% of American adults surveyed by BBC said they wore masks in public. Another study, by Brookings, asked Americans their reasoning behind going maskless. A whopping 40% stated that they felt it was their right as an American to not wear one.

Within this resistance to masks lies the fundamental issue with our society, which values individual freedom over all else. The commonality of seeing masks, which can prevent infections, as an infringement on personal rights is deeply concerning.

There are other factors at play in the United States’ disastrous response to COVID-19, such as President Trump’s repeated downplay of COVID-19. He actively encouraged his followers to adopt conspiracy theories regarding the virus. Many far-right U.S. citizens, already prone to xenophobia and science denial, have been riled beyond any reasoning by the president.

Many of these ludicrous anti-science sentiments stem from a knee-jerk resistance to any information that is perceived as “oppressive” to absolute freedom. Autonomy and independence are incredible privileges, which individuals across the country enjoy. However, is wearing a mask truly a threat to American freedom? Is self-expression of freedom worth killing and dying over?

Ender Mills is a Butte College student participating in journalism/communications.