This Over the Top Individualism BS Has Got to Stop
Pandemic Diary Entry # 47
June 22, 2020
Not too long ago a friend of mine was lamenting the fact that she found herself in Orange County, California for the weekend and masks were not required in any establishments she dined in.
That conversation followed on the heels of someone asking why I thought Ray Ciccarelli very publically quit NASCAR because the organization banned the confederate flag at all events.
I tend to think these two things are related. Not that NASCAR fans refuse to wear masks, but the mentality of those that feel they have a right to do what they damn well want and the hell with everyone else.
In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal and independent”
I truly don’t think that Jefferson was advocating “here’s to me and the hell with you” as a way to live, but American’s independent streak got a start right there in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
Then we have the concept of the “rugged individual” which has become a phrase that touts the virtue of self-sufficiency and dismisses any sense of responsibility to society and the greater good.
This term was given to us in 1928, after World War I, by Herbert Hoover, in a campaign speech.
“We were challenged with a peace-time choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines — doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. The acceptance of these ideas would have meant the destruction of self-government through centralization of government. It would have meant the undermining of the individual initiative and enterprise through which our people have grown to unparalleled greatness.”
In this instance Hoover was defining rugged individualism as freedom from government intervention, focus on individual entrepreneurship, enterprise, and volunteerism.
As America grew we learned to avoid language or behavior that seemed to marginalize or insult certain groups of people. In the 1980s conservatives used this term “political correctness” in a pejorative way to discount the views of liberals that were trying to introduce tolerance into the debate. Tolerance for people unlike themselves flies in the face of many people that take their rugged individualism very seriously.
The term Political Correctness did not just pop up in the 1980s as a political weapon, it has a long history with an ever changing meaning.
Its earliest usage in the US was the 1793 supreme court case Chisholm v. Georgia. The court wrote “Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? ‘The United States,’ instead of the ‘People of the United States,’ is the toast given. This is not politically correct.” In this sense political correctness was merely a social convention for the privileged.
It was also used in Marxism “Political correctness” is “cultural Marxism”. In this sense it came from the Frankfurt School in Germany. “The role of the Frankfurt School is creating the victim groups that constitutes the politically correct coalition.”
This all helps form the thinking of many American’s.
I have already written my reasoning for the tearing down of Confederate symbols in America but I would like to take it a few steps farther. To help me in my understanding of this point of view I visited the ecumene of Confederate websites, in particular, “Virginia Flaggers”.
Their Mission Statement is: Our weapon is the Confederate Battle Flag. Our enemies are those who worship ignorance, historical revisionism and Political Correctness.
I don’t even know where to start with that. If I remember my history correctly the South lost. 750,000 people were killed in the Civil War. It was a failed armed rebellion against our budding nation by people who considered people of color, chattel. Importantly, the Confederacy only lasted 4 years.
As I dug deeper I found the argument “the flag is honoring our ancestors”. Well, I am rather sure that there are citizens in Germany that had Nazi ancestors and yet they aren’t celebrating their ancestors by placing Nazi flags on their lawns. In Germany, the law defines swastikas and SS sig runes as the “symbols of anti-constitutional organizations” and they are pretty much outlawed. There is no honor in celebrating either of these past periods in history ancestors or not.
Then there are the anti-maskers. The hell with you attitude is showing across this country as we open up and people flaunt their unmasked faces. Some people have also made it clear they believe that being made to wear a mask is unconstitutional. It is not.
While not specifcally about masks, the health of the community as a whole was the subject of the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts, brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Henning Jacobson refused a smallpox vaccine and maintained he had the legal right to do so. The Court ruled in favor of the state, saying “a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”
It really just comes down to respect. Not respect for individualism, but respect for each other. That is not an easy thing for many “rugged individuals” to swallow.
If you display a confederate flag you are saying I do not value you unless you are white. You are saying this directly to people whose ancestors were nothing more than property.
In countering the “flaggers” mission statement, this isn’t about political correctness it is about respect for others. The ignorance here is yours and if anyone is guilty of historical revisionism it is you.
Wearing a mask not only shows respect for others it is the right and smart thing to do. If I am the only one wearing a mask, it is worthless. If everyone is wearing a mask we have a better than fighting chance of not catching the virus. For heaven’s sake numerous studies point to the fact that if 80% of people wear a mask in public, then COVID-19 transmission could be halted. I am sure the same people refusing to wear masks also vilipended helmets for motorcyclists, seat belts in cars, and the ban on smoking in restaurants. Wear a mask and stop thinking only of yourself.
Now I understand where some of this comes from. In The Federalist, a conservative on-line publication, Molly McCann a right wing columnist claimed that mandating masks was “anti-American” and signaled “indefinite government expansion.” “Mandatory masks are a critical predicate conditioning us to accept abuses of our liberty.”
Molly, your individual liberty gives you the right to go out catch the virus and suffer months of the debilitating disease or death, but when you don’t wear a mask you are trampling all over my right to protect myself.
It is 2020, a year that will live in infamy (sorry FDR). It also means we are in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Our country is 244 years old. It seems to me it is time to grow up America.
Since the public school system was founded Americans have lived with white washed history books in our educational systems. These books have been indoctrinating us with images of an America that is fair and free for all. It is not, it never has been. But it could be. A good first step? Survive this pandemic and rid our country of symbols of oppression and genocide.
My Horoscope for today: Take yourself out of the equation and give people time to get over hurt feelings. They’re more resilient and forgiving than you think.
San Francisco weather: 62 degrees and partly cloudy
NYSE DOW opened at: 25865
NYSE DOW one year ago: 26726
Foreign word of the day: island
OED word of the day: satisdiction: The action of saying enough
Days since Shelter In Place began:101
Reading: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Studying Nicolló Machiavelli’s The Prince and his biography Nicolló’s Smile
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet:
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