The lesson anti-maskers and socialists must study
When you speak to them, you think they were anti-maskers, anti-social distancers, and anti-vaxxers, no doubt. You can bet that they would claim the Covid-19 restrictions stole their freedoms, that the government caught up with the crisis for more power, that everything is a scam imposed by the "elites".
And yet: you are not. They support the health efforts and can be found on Facebook defending them and even reprimanding friends who give the anti-mask / distance / vax line. It's like finding a Yankees fan to cheer for the Red Sox and tell other Yankee fans to cheer too. (In English Liverpool and Manchester United.) The reversal needs some explanation.
The explanation is that they are vulnerable or they love someone who is vulnerable. I say this both because I know some of them and because they often mention their loved one. You may be fine, they will say, but he is in danger.
I don't blame people for reversing their policies when they see the impact on the people they care about. It is natural and right to be careful and conservative in serving those you love and for whom you are responsible. Each of us do the same. The man who takes risks with his sick child's life because he doesn't like socialized medical care is a monster, not a man of principle.
In the same way, some anti-Covid vaxxers are now claiming that the drug companies are manipulating the data and exaggerating the risk of making more money selling their vaccines. Big Pharma lies to kill. A few months ago you would have discovered that they were sharing anti-socialist memes. They found that they were cheering for the dismantling of the regulatory system and giving companies more freedom to do business as they wanted. It was Trump who "drained the swamp".
This second is much less justified than the first, as they are not asking for caution in caring for their loved ones, but rather they take every argument to support the position they take, no matter what. I'm not going to blame them much. Again, each of us could do the same. And who knows, maybe some of them have learned a more nuanced view of corporate capitalism.
On the other hand, many leftists, who automatically prefer regulation, high taxes, and a very activist state in general, suddenly see the values of economic freedom when running a business or having to pay more taxes than they think is fair. In the university town where I grew up, you could find the most passionate socialist professor who scolded angrily for not getting permission to build a shed on his lawn or move to another town to escape taxes.
Theorize their obligations
Of course, it's about whose ox is bored. None of them have come independently to see a truth that they have not seen before. They saw it only with the help of selfishness. Even so, it is or should be a teachable moment. All three groups should theorize their break with their ideological obligations. See how what you now know should change your thinking, what new assumptions to make, and what new ideas to build on those assumptions.
Most people don't, of course. They violate their beliefs to serve their self-interest and then return to their beliefs. It's hard to do and I won't make any claim to be good at it. But that's the only way we learn. And the only way to reduce political divisions.
The first group, for example. If you are careful because you care about someone and don't refuse instructions that you would otherwise refuse, you will fit this new experience and insight into your political thinking. Experience tells you something you didn't know. This makes your political thinking difficult as the attitude that you thought was obvious and that you now know is not obvious.
You now know that the government may order measures to protect people who otherwise would not be protected. It could limit people's freedom because it only thinks about the impact on public facilities like intensive care units. And it alone has the authority to try to prevent mass victims. The freedom you once believed in turns out to be a kind of social Darwinism in this case – the case that interests you personally. You can keep your suspicions about the state, but not in such a simple and absolute way.
You need to think about what this means so that you know what to say and do if you encounter the same problem in the future. Especially when it arises when you are not personally committed enough to question your ideological commitments. That is, when it is easier to go back to your old ideology even though you now know that it is flawed.
David Mills is the Senior Editor (US) of The Catholic Herald. His previous article for Chapter House was Speaking of heretics, like Menno SimmonsAnd his previous article for the homepage was The Guardian Columnist without religion knows what he's missing. He is also the Last Things columnist for the New Oxford Review.