By Will Bunch
The videos are now showing up in your social media feed every hour or two, each one more over-the-top than the one before — viral missives from a world that seems to have gone mad, and yet somehow exists right in our backyard. These “forgotten Americans” are at the lectern at your county commission meeting, if they’re not yelling at you in the produce aisle — screaming that the elected officials and their so-called scientific experts demanding they wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are really part of a vast conspiracy to take away their freedoms.
“I would also like to know where do you get the authority to reduce my oxygen,” one woman in a white “Trump Girl” shirt demanded of the Palm Beach County, Fla., commissioners as they met to issue a mandatory-mask-in-public order to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State. Her rant was not as remarkable as the fact she was just one of a stream of citizens with different variations on the same theme — that masks are a plot to subdue the masses in the name of Bill Gates or Hillary Clinton or whatever other Antichrist just popped up in their Facebook feed.
“You see that flag, I would die for that flag,” a man who called himself “an American Patriot” told the commissioners. “The Constitution that you were supposed to uphold, I would die for that! None of you are holding that up.” Others said masks were either the devil’s work or shielding sexual predators or else provided unintentional comic relief, like the woman who insisted: “I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear. … Things gotta breathe.”
Similar sentiments echoed across Florida — “I will not be muzzled like a mad dog!” screamed one St. Lucie County man, sounding very much like a mad dog — and the United States, where residents of Huntington Beach, Calif., waved American flags and a large sign reading “NO MASKS” at motorists. But as the United States watched coronavirus cases spiral out of control in a manner that’s happened almost nowhere else in the world, the problem seemed deeper than the usual suspects of Trumpist QAnon believers. Even in “blue states,” young people packed bars and beaches and then brought COVID-19 home for Father’s Day. In Santa Cruz County, Calif., commissioners who’d tried to keep beaches closed simply gave up. “People,” a spokesperson said, “are not willing to be governed in that regard.”
It was another great day for liberty — and yet a horrible one for tens of thousands of Americans who now may die needlessly because so many cling to a warped idea of freedom that apparently means not caring whether others in your community get sick. The reality is that those devil-worshipping elected officials and their mad scientists are trying to mandate masks in public for the same reasons they don’t let 12-year-olds drive and they close bars at 2 a.m.: They actually want to keep their constituents alive.
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