I always enjoy Paul Krugman even — sometimes especially — at his wonkiest. This morning’s column is one of the best: ‘Freedom,’ Florida and the Delta Variant Disaster

In case you’ve been puzzled by the Ridiculous Right’s cries of “Freedom!” whenever they’re told they need to wear a mask or get vaccinated, Krugman has a cogent explanation.

My answer is that when people on the right talk about “freedom” what they actually mean is closer to “defense of privilege” — specifically the right of certain people (generally white male Christians) to do whatever they want.

White male Christian privilege means “incels” are entitled to have sex, that women aren’t equal, that Blacks should know their place and “Jews will not replace us,” that the LGBTQ+ belong in the closet, in jail, or in the cemetery. And it means no one can tell them to get protection from a disease that doesn’t care what race, gender, or religion they are.

Why, for example, are conservatives so insistent on the right of businesses to make their own decisions, free from regulation — but quick to stop them from denying service to customers who refuse to wear masks or show proof of vaccination? Why is the autonomy of local school districts a fundamental principle — unless they want to require masks or teach America’s racial history? It’s all about whose privilege is being protected. [emphasis added]

I’ll go a bit further than Krugman went. Masks are a visible symbol of the concept that the individual has a responsibility to the community and that freedom is not absolute. No wonder some people find them offensive — they remind them that freedom comes with responsibilities attached.

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