Last week, in support of her governor Ron DeSantis’s stand against mask mandates, a Florida woman said that compelling people to mask up is tyranny.
I looked up tyranny.
It’s not tyranny.
It’s actually governing, a fact that may come as a surprise to the Florida woman since DeSantis spends most of his time kissing up to #45 and planning his own presidential run. He has probably been too occupied to realize that last Thursday in Tallahassee, his state’s capital, there was one ICU bed available. One. The others are filled with Covid-19 patients, many of them children and young adults.
His state, where that woman and others feel no compunction spouting off about tyranny (and other words they don’t understand), has been averaging an astounding 24,000 cases a day, and nearly 140 deaths. Just over the border in Alabama, all the state’s ICU beds are filled. Their governor, Kay Ivey, has taken action promoting vaccines, but that’s the easy way out. Her opposition to masks will not help the majority of Alabamans who have already eschewed the vaccine. Maybe she’s avoiding the charge of tyranny.
It’s not tyranny.
The defining factor in tyrannical behavior—the component that converts simple authoritarianism into tyranny—is cruelty. In that respect, the Florida woman is half right—there’s tyranny for sure, though not in any mask mandate whose intent is to safeguard citizens’ wellbeing. The tyranny is evident in any law that purposely increases a child’s chances—anyone’s chances—of contracting a deadly disease.
We know what would happen if governors began to assess fines for wearing a seatbelt in violation of their anti—seatbelt order, or began fining people for not smoking in public places. They’d all be facing that Trumpian “person,” “woman,” “man,” “camera,” “TV,” test to assess their cognitive skills. Maybe it’s time for some non-Covid testing.
Of course, irresponsible politicians could not survive without an equally irresponsible citizenry. At a recent public meeting, a woman demanded to know how the government can know more about the safety of her child than she does; after all, she was the one giving birth. In the animal kingdom, that claim would be difficult to dispute. We know that bears don’t like outsiders interfering with their “child”-rearing. But in the world of humans—where we trust others to feed, educate, and protect our children and base that trust on scientific data and shared humanity—her argument makes no logical sense.
Admittedly these days logic holds a very humble position in the exchange of ideas, a bow to the murky world of social media where claims require no defense and “facts” need no corroboration. Still, making Facebook the scapegoat for our own ignorance simply shifts the blame. Was there anything more hypocritical than legislators in committee grilling Mark Zuckerberg, then going off and reposting and retweeting spurious stories of election fraud, microchips in vaccines, and fake epidemics?
And it’s more than social media. It’s old-time media too. Conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine, who strongly opposed masks and said that hospitals were never in danger of being overrun with Covid patients, has died after weeks in a Nashville area hospital battling Covid-19. His family has subsequently received messages of support, and quite a few claiming he got what he deserved from those whose life revolves around schadenfreude and comeuppance...and cruelty.
Mr. Valentine made a choice and paid for it. Though he may have influenced others, in the end the choice was theirs. But I can muster much less sympathy for a governor like Ron DeSantis—with far more authority than a talk-show host—trying to dissuade people from a conscientious choice by making it illegal.
And for the Florida woman eager to find tyranny, look to the statehouse.