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Freedom is a wonderful thing. People who live with less freedom, or sometimes virtually none, long for the quality of freedom we enjoy. Many migrants to our borders are thinking about money, but the yearning for freedom has brought millions of people from all over the world to America. My father was one, eagerly sailing to America with nothing in his wallet to escape his loss of freedom in Austria in 1938.

Freedom for some was written into our laws, then extended to most, and now, theoretically at least, to all. When freedom is threatened by a part of the government that is supposed to protect it, we can use other parts to resist that loss. One marker of 2020 is the sudden increased public awareness of how freedom is doled out in America, more to some than to others, and how that needs changing now. We have the freedom to protest the deficiencies in American freedom and to demonstrate for their correction.

That freedom makes some Americans uncomfortable. Lawless destruction makes nearly everyone uncomfortable, but despite the conservative focus on “looting” and “burning”, that’s not what upsets them. The exercise of our lawful freedom to organize protests against existing discrimination in favor of white heterosexual Christian Americans bothers conservatives. They defend the freedoms they want for themselves, but are skeptical of the demands for freedom by those who have less.

Some of the freedoms that we theoretically enjoy are likely to upset people around us. I don’t think there are any legal penalties for talking loudly on a phone in a crowded space, bumping people out of the way, or cutting in line. So we are constitutionally free to behave that way. We see people do those things all the time. Selfish people, who assert their freedom to be anti-social. People who put their petty desires ahead of their neighbors’ well-being. A free society necessarily offers the freedom to be selfish.

Putting other people at risk for a deadly disease, or even just making other people who worry about the disease uncomfortable, in the name of personal freedom is pure and extreme selfishness.

In normal times, it’s the annoying behavior of selfish people that reveals their lack of concern for others. Today selfish people wear it on their faces. You can see it from afar. They don’t wear masks.

Not everyone who rejects masks is selfish. Some poor souls work for people so selfish they don’t let people who answer to them wear masks. They create their own maskless environment. Maybe they can then pretend that other bare-faced people prove that it’s not about their own selfishness.

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But it is. Putting other people at risk for a deadly disease, or even just making other people who worry about the disease uncomfortable, in the name of personal freedom is pure and extreme selfishness. I think it is notable that fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Jews both appear to reject mask-wearing. The distance between what self-proclaimed devout Christians and Jews say their religion is about and their collective behavior toward fellow humans is becoming unbridgeable. When “Do unto others” becomes a slogan for revenge against political opponents rather than an expression of love and virtue, selfishness reigns.

Let’s blame the Egotist-in-Chief, whose public performance of utter self-regard is profoundly disheartening. But he didn’t create selfish people, he only encourages their worst impulses.

We are now witnesses to Trump’s most dangerous act of selfishness. He knows the evidence for any form of election fraud or error is nonsense. His electoral deficits are far beyond challenging: nearly 5 million popular votes and counting, and probably 74 Electoral College votes.

Yet he attacks the legitimacy of American elections, the bedrock of any democracy. His personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tweeted yesterday that Real Clear Politics had called Pennsylvania for Biden and then rescinded the call. Online interest in “Biden loses Pennsylvania” surged. The lie could easily be checked: RCP never called Pennsylvania.

Trump’s power of persuasion over his supporters is immense: now that the election has been called, 7 in 10 Republicans say it was not free and fair.

steve hochstadt

Selfishness is an injury to others. Trump’s selfishness, the selfishness of mask rejecters, and the selfishness built into Republican politics are injuring millions of Americans. They are all free to continue their behavior. Long after the masks are put away, they will be marked by their selfish abuses of freedom.

Steve Hochstadt
Taking Back Our Lives