By Father Eugene Hemrick
“Mandating face masks is unconstitutional and an affront to my freedom.”
Despite the scientific wisdom of this mandate, some citizens vociferously reject it.
In the book, “Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life,” researchers found, “Freedom is perhaps the most resonant, deeply held American value.”
They further pointed out, “In some ways, it defines the good in both personal and political life. Yet freedom turns out to mean being left alone by others, not having other peoples’ values, ideas or styles of life forced upon one, being free of arbitrary authority in work, family and political life. What it is that one might do with freedom is much more difficult for Americans to define.”
What then are we doing with it?
If it is viewed from the standpoint of self-concentration, this leads to self-imprisonment, the opposite of being free. We are social beings meant to encounter others. If people center specifically on self-rights to the detriment of others’ rights and are dismissive of those others, their genuine self is damaged.
On the contrary, when genuine people assume an importance greater than their own affairs, I-thou relationships, the basis of true love, happen, creating respectful attentiveness to one another. The best way to beat COVID-19 is to unify. The motto “In unity there is strength” reminds us of this. Rugged individuals going their own way reminds us of another saying: “And divided we fall.”
Protesting mandates raises the questions, Does this reflect a lack of in-depth thinking? Do those protesting free themselves from their surrounding environment and go deeply within themselves to learn what their conscience dictates?
Granted, it is difficult to possess an interior life in our chaotic times. The pandemic, however, will be conquered
only by thoughtful people with a moral conscience.
Morality is the sum of what ought to be done, the good. The good ought to be done, not because the alternative would be unpleasant or harmful, but on account of its own worth.
Do masks have a worth of their own? Where is the worth in rejecting them? Freedom’s worth is the good it produces for the common good.
Father Hemrick is Director of the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood.