My Turn: Faux Freedom Patriots need full picture

For the Monitor
Published: 1/3/2021 11:01:06 AM

During these Shakespearean times, political intrigue, narcissism and a destructive pandemic have ignited a combustible debate: “to mask or not to mask, that is the question?”

There are many who argue that masking is a simple and effective step to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. The science and medical advice are clear: the wearing of a mask prevents the spread of the virus. By wearing a mask you protect your neighbor and the act is consistent with our social compact where individual sacrifices are made for the greater good.

The Faux Freedom Patriots reject this social compact and stridently proclaim that requiring citizens to wear a mask during a pandemic is an abusive breach of our broad band of constitutional protections. These “constitutionalists” demonstrate against mask mandates while wearing side arms or carrying assault weapons, linking the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms with the right to be free of mask mandates.

Our constitution does not stop at the 2nd Amendment. The next amendment, or part 3 to the NH Constitution passed in 1784, specifically sets forth the guiding constitutional principle governing “Society, Its Organization and Purposes.” The article states, “When men enter into a state of society, they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society, in order to ensure the protection of others; and, without such an equivalent, the surrender is void.”

This ruling principle springs from the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and others who argued that in forming a society there is an implicit agreement among its members that in order for the society to provide protection to the many, some individual freedoms must be sacrificed. We witness this governing construct everyday in OSHA rules and regulations, zoning laws, the requirement to wear seat belts, speed limits, laws against drunk driving and, most recently, women going topless.

In 1973 protesters demonstrating against the Vietnam War were arrested for blocking the roadway leading to Pease Air Force Base. In upholding their convictions, the New Hampshire Supreme Court cited Part 1, Article 3 of the NH Constitution noting, “There are two equally critical halves to the rubric ‘ordered liberty;’ the maintenance of order and a respect for the freedoms of others are essential to a society dedicated to preserving freedom for all.” In that case, the laws of the roadway and the safety of public travel, trumped the individuals’ right to protest by interfering with traffic.

Our civil laws apply the same principle. Based upon the common law, an individual’s action may be enjoined if it creates a private or public nuisance. If the behavior unreasonably interferes with the health, safety, peace, comfort or convenience of the general community, the behavior may be restricted. Think of a factory discharging effluent into a town pond creating unsanitary conditions; the public’s well-being overrides the individual’s freedom to discharge. Think of an asymptomatic person with COVID-19 shopping next to you without a mask – does society have a compelling interest in preventing the spread of the disease? Do you have a personal right to be protected from another’s disease?

Can the state enforce a mask mandate? Yes. A mask is simply a covering of the face. Our laws have numerous statutes that govern “nudity” and the state’s right to insist that persons wear apparel that cover their flesh. If Republican freedom fighters believe there is a right to be free of mask mandates, why not pant mandates? If real patriots, these freedom fighters should strip down to their undies, strap on their pistols and embrace their freedoms for all to see. This action would be safer than refusing to wear mask. No one dies from exposure to bare legs; they do from COVID-19.

(Steven Gordon lives in Hopkinton.)

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