No mask, no service

Cropped version of an image from the Staten Island Advance, by Jason Paderon

“No mask, no service” is only controversial because the people affected by it are used to being on the giving end of such restrictions, not the receiving end.

You’d think we haven’t been here before.

Back in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, hippies were turned away from stores and restaurants by conservative business owners who disliked the hippies’ unkempt appearance, smell, and opinions on free love, drug use, opposition to the Vietnam War, or anything else the owner disliked. The hippies were usually turned away with a sign on the door that read something along the lines of “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” These policies largely remain legal because they don’t run afoul of state or federal anti-discrimination laws – they’re not targeting a particular protected group like women, minorities, or the disabled.

The hippies complained, of course, but differences of opinion and unkempt appearance are not protected groups. And so in this case, the right of the business owner to deny service is given higher priority than the right of the customer to demand it. And conservatives applauded, and continue to applaud to this day, their freedom to be jerks to potential customers.

Today, business owners are turning away conservatives and libertarians with signs that say “No mask, no service.” The business owner may be complying with state or local emergency rules to reduce the spread of COVID-19 or the business owner may be exercising professional responsibility and implementing anti-COVID-19 policies on their own. As like last time, the policies don’t target any particular protected group, and so they’re completely legal.

But this time, since the conservatives are on the receiving end of similar policies, suddenly people are loudly up in arms about how their freedom is being trampled. And since some of the policies are a result of state and local public health orders, people are loudly up in arms (sometimes literally) about how “no masks, no service” is government tyranny. Gone are the arguments that the business owner is allowed to associate with and sell to – or not – whomever they choose. Suddenly, after the tables were unexpectedly turned, conservatives and libertarians have stopped applauding the rights of the business owner that they used to champion.

It’s almost like “no shirt, no shoes, no service” wasn’t ever about the rights or freedoms of the business owners at all. It was about conservatives elevating their social/political/moral values over the hippies’ values. It was about their (usually white) privilege and wealth and power.

Just like how the protests of conservatives and libertarians today are not about the rights and and freedoms of individuals to buy whatever they want from whomever they want to. They’re about conservatives and libertarians demanding that their values be elevated over all other values and even over public health and safety. The protests are about how their (usually white) privilege and wealth and power are under threat from the public health responses to a global pandemic.

It’s hypocrisy, through and through. And it’s selfishness. And childishness. And it shows everyone just how too many conservatives and libertarians only give lip service to the Constitution when it suits their own selfish desires.

No mask? No respect. No trust.

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