Dershowitz's Dystopia

Why the issue of face masks transcends considerations of convenience, efficacy, and compassion.


"Let me put it very clearly, you have no constitutional right to endanger the public and spread disease, even if you disagree. You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business...And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor's office and plunge a needle into your arm."

When I heard Alan Dershowitz, a nationally recognized constitutional law scholar, say this in an interview several weeks ago, my jaw dropped. If we don’t have a right to determine what goes into our bodies, what right can we even claim to possess?

Dershowitz’s statement presumes the existence of a sanitized public sphere that each American is obligated to maintain. In his vision, each citizen is at least partially responsible for the health of his fellow citizens. Dershowitz arrives at this view via the art of equivocation. He begins with the statement that no person has a right to endanger others and extracts the principle that each person is therefore responsible for the health of those around him. It is true that a person has no right toconsciously endanger people. However, risk is inherent to all human interaction.

The present concern with COVID-19 of course stems from the reality that it is a novel virus. But there is a concerning disparity between the responses of many governing officials and the responses of the people within their jurisdictions. Many Americans have been ready and willing to undertake the risks of exposure and to resume life as normal, yet emergency measures persist. Forced injections are also being put forward as a viable response to this threat. What can this possibly mean for our future?

Every person is inhabited by trillions of viruses and bacteria. And no person can gauge the degree to which his health is compromised at any given moment. Additionally, bacteria and viruses shift and mutate over time. Novel strains like COVID-19 appear, and old strains come back into circulation. The human immune system always has to be on its toes. For this reason, entering the public sphere willalways be a risky venture. If our governing officials have been overly-zealous in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, then should we be prepared to give up our pre-COVID-19 way of life entirely until all people are immunized against virtually every significant threat? This would, of course, mean the total marginalization of the unvaccinated from society.

The truth is that our freedoms can be restored under one condition: if each person takes responsibility for his own health choices rather than looking to the government or to his neighbors for protection. Certainly, a society whose core value is liberty should recognize its citizens’ basic right to assess risks and to choose to what degree and in what manner they will engage with that risk. As with pre-COVID society, you would not be responsible for my health and I would not be responsible for yours. If I were to see you in public, I would give you the judgment of charity and you would hopefully grant me the same in return.

If Americans are taught to view and treat each other as intrinsic threats to public health and safety, one day we may wake to find ourselves robbed of the warmth of human kindness. To love at all is to be vulnerable, and I pray that our future affords us the freedom to love well and love wisely.



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© 2020 by S.P. Clifton