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We take our shoes off, we go through metal detectors, we do so many things that “infringe” upon our previously understood everyday freedoms. But we agreed to them, bought into them and accepted them as necessary, for safety.

Yet, anti-maskers can’t put on a mask because it infringes on their right to walk around without a piece of fabric over their face. Guess what?

The longer the coronavirus is untraceable (that’s right, we aren’t asking for eradication, no one thought we would get eradication), the longer we alter vulnerable people’s lives. The longer it is untraceable, not trackable, running rampant, these anti-maskers are infringing on my, and so many others who are similarly situated, rights to leave our houses safely, to go to the doctor, to get blood work done, to go to the grocery store, to even go to a park without being scared.

“If you are vulnerable, just stay home, let the rest of us live our lives.”

OK, I’ll play their game. Let’s pretend that the fact that I got an autoimmune disease, as a reaction to mono, at 19 years old, and am immune suppressed, through no fault of my own, means that I am expendable and should lose my right to freely be out in the world so that the anti-maskers can refuse to put a piece of fabric over their face. I’ll continue to stay home. I’ve only left my “bubble” (meaning risking exposure outside of my immediate household) once as of writing this. And that was with minimal risk for a walk at a park with wide open space. We only encountered a few people, social distanced and we wore masks. Until then we’d stayed home, in our yard and driveway; only even venturing out of the yard a total of three or four times but never leaving our immediate neighborhood.

I have a 14-year-old and a husband. What about their freedom to live their lives outside of the home? If they leave the house and come home, they jeopardize me. We can’t afford to get me separate housing until there is a vaccine. Besides, is it in the American lists of freedoms that autoimmune disease, which has already robbed our family of so much, also means I should have to give up watching my child grow up, in person, so that anti-maskers can refuse to wear a piece of cloth?

Neither of them, my husband or daughter, asked for me to be sick, either. Are they also expendable? Did they do something wrong to deserve for their rights to be abridged because they have a sick family member? Do they not have the same rights, as the rest of America, to freedom of movement? Is someone else’s freedom to potentially spread germs while asymptomatic more American than my daughter’s right to leave her house? Than my husband’s right to go take a licensing exam required by his job?

Is your right to go party at the Lake of the Ozarks more important than my blood work (which my doctors have deemed unsafe to do at this point)?

Are the “privacy” rights of the Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to hide that they are quarantining because of an exposure — or their refusal to wear masks day after day in meetings after the known exposures — more important than their colleagues’ rights to protect their families, including one legislator who donated a kidney mere months ago?

Myositis patients, ask family and friends to donate plasma

In how many households across America is this being played out where a vulnerable family member’s health is dictating a lack of engagement (or lowered engagement) with the world, to protect against the virus, because some Americans have decided masking is the new unpatriotic, conspiracy plot? It’s unpatriotic to be selfish. “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” — JFK

*Yes, I know a very small percentage of people have legitimate medical reasons to not wear a mask, why is the “stay at home if you are vulnerable or uncomfortable” reasoning not applying to these vocally loud people for their safety? Hmmm. Oh yeah, mostly, the people with real medical reasons are not the ones raising hell over the masks. If the people who legitimately can’t wear masks were the only ones not wearing them in public we would still lower transmission rates drastically. Drastically. Side note, HIPAA does not prevent you from giving a medical reason to a grocery store clerk or a home improvement store greeter as to why you refuse to mask. HIPAA only applies to your medical providers and insurance companies. The ADA also doesn’t apply to your situation if you are making up a bogus disability or medical condition to avoid wearing a mask; and the ADA law only requires “reasonable accommodations.” Meaning: if they offer to shop for you, it suffices. The Facebook posts claiming to have the answer to get out of wearing a mask, by claiming a fake medical reason, are bullshit and spit in the face of people living with disability and illness every day.*

I remember many reopeners, now, anti-maskers saying that the government should back off and open the country because people would be respectful and caring. The argument was Americans would be responsible for each other and wouldn’t endanger each other because people care about fellow citizens. In fact, my own governor used this as his reason, over and over, for delaying closing the state and later, as part of his reasoning reopening the state. If only the government would stop over-stepping; businesses should be able to open; free capitalism and good people would police this themselves.

Except that’s not what has come to fruition. The reopener movement turned into the “boycott Costco” movement. Businesses who are opening and requiring masks are being told it’s not their place. Greeters trying to enforce the mask rules have been shot by angry anti-maskers. Fights have broken out. The conservative sentiment that capitalism will allow for the safety of our fellow Americans without a nanny state has failed.

So ”if you are vulnerable stay home” doesn’t work. But masking does. But from what I’ve seen, America is not the land of the “free” it is the land of the “me.”

This article was first published on The Mighty


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Emily Filmore

Founding Director of Myositis Support and Understanding, current Board Advisor.

Author of multiple books about conscious living, including The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease.  

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